Barnsley Business Works Round The Clock To Expand

A Barnsley workwear manufacturer which can dress people from head to toe is looking to double in size over the next three years.

Portwest has increased turnover 30 per cent to £75m in the last year, taken on 14 new staff and gone to a 24 hour operation at its Thurnscoe warehouse.

The company, which has strong ethical values, now employs 76 people and exports to 80 countries, including into parts of Africa, South America and the Middle East. The US and Canada are next on its list.

The expansion of the company, which set up in 1904 in Ireland and is still run by the same family, has been backed by business support programme Enterprising Barnsley.

Richard Jones Operations & Marketing Manager Portwest

Richard Jones, operations and marketing manager, said the plan was to double turnover in the next three years, take on many more staff and expand warehouse space. Staff at Thurnscoe are now able to process orders 24 hours a day from around the world via the website; soon a new paperless system in the warehouse will make the system even quicker.

“We have already gone through a massive expansion in a short space of time and with the lessons we have learned from that further expansion should be easier,” said Richard.

“Enterprising Barnsley has helped us considerably so far. The company is growing fast, but we need the infrastructure and the people to grow too. The Enterprising Barnsley coaches have helped us focus, and supported us with management training and improving procedures.”

Portwest supplies workwear ranging from chefs’ aprons and welders’ gloves to high-visibility jackets and over-trousers. They develop and manufacture their own fabrics, as well as using well-known brands such as Goretex.

The current brochure has 274 pages; the new one will have over 400, including 209 new products, particularly flame-resistant products for the oil and petrochemical industry.

The clothing is manufactured in the Far East, with the products finished at Thurnscoe, which is also home to the main warehousing and office hub. Research is carried out in Ireland.

All the factories are covered by strict guidelines, covering issues like hours of work, child labour and health and safety.

“We have strong ethical policies and apply European standards across all our manufacturing,” said Richard.

“We are also very conscious of environmental issues and adhere to rules around use of chemicals and have developed fabrics that can be washed at lower temperatures.”

Adrian Waite, from Enterprising Barnsley, said: “Portwest’s expansion so far has been very impressive and the future growth plans are built on a very solid base. When you grow a company rapidly you need the right foundations and that’s where expert advice really helps.”

The Enterprising Barnsley programme is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency (BDA) and Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre.

It is supported financially by the European Union and has attracted £2,259,511 investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development, through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.

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