Member News Article

Manufacturer Gratnells turns 50 in fine form

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Hitting a 50th anniversary is a rare thing these days for a British manufacturer but one Essex firm is doing just that in 2021 and it has ambitious plans for the future. Gratnells is based in Harlow and is best known as the manufacturer of the iconic school storage tray that is used in most UK schools and exported to 68 other countries around the globe. It employs around 50 staff members between office and factory roles, most of whom are local to the Harlow plant. As well as the school trays, it also makes a wide range of storage furniture, popular not only in schools but in industry and healthcare settings too.

Gratnells is a family-run company that can trace its roots all the way back to 1890s Shoreditch though the current Gratnells Company was incorporated fifty years ago in 1971. It focused heavily on the schools market launching the slotted square tube storage frame, still in production today. The F type shallow plastic storage tray was launched in 1985 and is now used as the standard for the development of most school furniture worldwide. In 2017, Gratnells opened its first international subsidiary in the USA and it continues to grow internationally with staff now based locally in mainland Europe and in the Far East.

2020 saw a renewed focus on the healthcare range for obvious, pandemic related reasons and the company says it was proud to have been able to supply equipment to the NHS, including the NHS Nightingale London in record time. It also introduced an antimicrobial range for the schools market. This range uses the same technology as the healthcare products and can help to minimise the spread of surface contamination in the classroom. 2021 has already started with increased interest in its compact medical trolley as the vaccination programme is rolled out around the globe.

Gratnells predicts sustained interest in antimicrobial products well after 2021 and is continuing to invest in its engineering division with recent acquisitions of laser cutting, tube bending and injection moulding machinery. Gratnells Managing Director, Murray Hudson, commented “We’re proud to operate a modern manufacturing business here in Harlow. The strength of our products and the dedication of our people helped us obtain ISO 9001 accreditation and a prestigious Manufacturing Guild Mark from the Furniture Maker’s Company. We’re immensely proud of that and I firmly believe that continued investment in machinery, new products and people will prepare us well for the next 50 years and beyond.”

The company plans a series of events to mark its big 50 later this year and hopes that the vaccine rollout will be cause for double celebrations in 2021.