Our next stop was Leicester, where we visited the bustling facilities of Ledwell Plastics. A family-run injection moulding company founded in the 1960s, Ledwell has become a beacon of innovation and quality in the plastics industry, with a proud history in the heart of Leicester.
We had the pleasure of meeting Peter Wilkinson, the Sales and Marketing Manager at Ledwell Plastics, who gave us an in-depth look into the key to sixty years of manufacturing success and how Ledwell Plastics has remained a leader in its field for many decades.
(Pictured above L-R, Dane Chaplin, Peter Wilkinson, Will Clarke)
Originally founded in a pigeon loft on Marfitt Street Leicester in 1968, Ledwell Plastics started life as a supplier to the local hosiery trade. During the 19th and 20th Century, Leicester was an important centre for the hosiery, knitwear and footwear industries, so entrepreneurial founder Paul Simms spotted an opportunity, and Ledwell Plastics started its journey as a successful manufacturer of machined components to the local trade.
Alongside his wife Carol, Paul Simms grew the business during the 1970s, surviving the ‘three-day week’ of the mid-70s energy crisis, working 24-hour shifts to keep the wheels of business turning. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, the company continued to grow and diversify, manufacturing ‘Boiling Point’ an instant boiling water tap, selling the units both publicly and wholesale.
Due to a growing customer base, the company moved to its current larger site on Cannock Street Leicester in 1994; the facility now consists of multiple units for manufacturing, warehousing and distribution.
Benn Simms, son of founder Paul, was appointed the company’s new Managing Director in 2006 after working his way through the business from the junior ranks. Benn runs the company today, bringing significant experience in product design, product development, mould making and injection moulding.
A Tale of Adaptability and Innovation
From beginning life producing hosiery components, boiler products and hot water taps to manufacturing tooling and mouldings for big names in the food and drink industry, including Tropicana and Nescafe, Ledwell’s journey is a story of continuous evolution and adaptability, whilst still maintaining its core family-run values.
Today, the company continues on its journey, with recent investments in modern and energy-efficient Haitian machinery and associated automation and ancillary equipment, reducing consumption and the company’s carbon footprint, which is essential for today’s manufacturers. Current specialities include vending machinery and components for its food and beverage customers, as well as products for the EV market, musical instrument components and even a range of its own sledges called ‘Reg the Sledge’ (which I was promised is the fastest sledge around!).
For this visit we met with Peter Wilkinson, Ledwell Plastics’ Sales and Marketing Manager, to discuss the company’s impressive history and its plans for the future. Coming from the diecasting and injection moulding industry, Peter has over forty years of experience in technical sales and marketing, so was perfectly placed to give the PlastikCity team a thorough tour of the premises before we sat down to discuss all things moulding and marketing.
To kick things off, we asked Peter – What are your key products and services? What is your target market?
Peter: “At Ledwell, we pride ourselves on catering to a diverse range of markets. Our manufacturing expertise extends to industrial applications, and we’re deeply involved in the food and drink sector, providing solutions like beverage dispensers for leading brands and food packaging for the takeaway industry.
“Our reach doesn’t stop there – we also serve the construction, chemical and agricultural sectors, amongst others, demonstrating our versatility and broad appeal and our technical ability to create solutions in a variety of applications.
“As well as our core injection moulding and toolmaking services, we’ve recently added a full-service offering for vacuum forming. This includes the design and production of jigs and fixtures, prototyping and 3D modelling, fabrication and full vacuum forming production. As with injection moulding, our in-house design engineers can assist with part design and best practices, and we regularly use this expertise to guide potential clients through the entire process.
“Finally, we offer a plastic fabrication and routing service and are specialists in supplying comprehensive fabrication services to a wide variety of clients, including many leading high-street brands.”
What sets Ledwell Plastics apart in the marketplace?
Peter: “Our services are multifaceted, with a strong focus on injection moulding, tooling assembly, and offering our own products like ‘Reg the Sledge‘ and ‘Jigfloor‘ rapid industrial flooring. We are particularly proud of our rapid prototyping capabilities, including 3D printing and aluminium tooling, tailored for low-volume or prototyping needs. Our technical abilities are all in-house, encompassing product and tooling design and, of course, injection moulding, vacuum forming and plastic fabrication.”
Peter: “What really sets us apart is our foundation as a family company. Even as we’ve grown, we’ve retained these core values and ‘feel’ in the company, under the leadership of the Simms family. This has fostered a workplace where staff retention is high, team spirits are high, and our team members grow and develop with the company. In a sector often struggling to find or retain high-quality staff members, this is a huge benefit to our business.
“Our technical ability is a point of pride; we often see jobs returning to us after clients have explored other avenues. Our in-house team is full of experienced design engineers, with seasoned toolmakers and moulding engineers available, meaning we can guide customers throughout the entire process – from design and development to 3D printing, prototyping, tooling and full-scale production. We even have our own warehousing and distribution facilities and fleet on-site, so we really can be considered a one-stop shop.
“We’re also known for our ‘can-do’ attitude, and our business is heavily relationship-driven, which our clients greatly appreciate, leading to strong and long-lasting partnerships with our customers.”
What are the company’s plans for the next 12 months?
Peter: “Looking ahead, we’ve recently incorporated Intouch software to enhance our operations and improve efficiencies. We’ll look to continue rolling out our plans for digitisation and have already seen significant benefits from using this system. We’re also planning more investments in machinery and robotics, ensuring we remain competitive and a leading supplier in the sector.”
Before we wrap up, does Ledwell have an official or unofficial company mantra?
Peter: “Our vision at Ledwell Plastics is to be recognised as the UK’s leading provider of world-class design and manufacturing solutions. Our mission is to nurture our customers’ projects, ensuring mutual success and prosperity. We aim to add value in every aspect, whether it’s through appraisal, re-engineering, or improving performance.
“Our ethos is built on forming long-term partnerships, understanding our clients’ visions, and delivering brilliant solutions. At the heart of our operations are our people, fostering relationships with those who share and appreciate our values.”
Not Your Average Moulding Company
One of the key factors that sets Ledwell apart from its competitors is its ability to offer “The Complete Solution” for plastic products. This means Ledwell can handle every stage of the process, from design to delivery, using its expertise in plastic injection moulding, mould toolmaking, vacuum forming, and plastic fabrication.
Ledwell Plastics is able to handle any of these services, giving customers more options and flexibility to meet their needs. Whether it’s a simple or complex product, Ledwell can deliver it with quality and efficiency.
As we wrapped up our visit, it was evident that Ledwell Plastics isn’t your average moulding company; its family and community values shone through during our short visit, with the teams’ passion to delivering excellence very evident. With their vision firmly set on innovation and customer success, Ledwell is undoubtedly a name to watch in the world of plastics manufacturing. After an impressive 60+ years in the industry, we look forward to following for decades to come!
Thank you to Peter, Ben and Paige for your warm hospitality during the visit, and the team at PlastikCity wishes the Simms family and the wider Ledwell Plastics team every success in the future.
Look out for the next edition of ‘PlastikCity on Tour’ to learn more about our excellent UK-based partners.
There are now well over 260 active partners represented on the PlastikCity site, many of which offer highly specialised products or services to our sector.
During our everyday course of business, we’ll be making a point of visiting as many of these partners as we can and using the time to better understand what they offer the market. We’ll then showcase them through this ongoing series of articles. Maybe you can benefit from their services!
Read more news from Ledwell Plastics here.