James Walker has the future sealed up
James Walker is one of the world’s leading fluid seal development and materials science companies, providing high-performance sealing solutions for a variety of demanding applications worldwide.
Over a history spanning 125 years, the company has earned a global reputation for solving fluid sealing problems with partners in a wide range of industries.
James Walker & Co.’s managing director Paul Myerscough says: “We’re very diverse because we have many high-performance sealing niches across a multitude of demanding industries including oil & gas, defence and air space, metallurgical, power generation across conventional, renewable and nuclear, pharmaceutical, chemical, valve, and marine.”
James Walker began when engineer James Walker introduced new compression packing. “The company dates back to 1882 when it started in the London Dockyards,” Paul continues. “We had one of the very early patents of compression packing, Lion Brand High Pressure Steam Packing, to help steam ships travel further and faster. We have expanded over the years to offer a multitude of high-performance sealing products from several manufacturing sites in the UK and distribute our products throughout the world through our 19 overseas companies.”
James Walker & Co manufactures over 200,000 different products and supplies a mix of standard and customised solutions for the purpose of ensuring safe and efficient operations in plants and machinery. The company can provide a seal for virtually every size and industry standard, with ten million items ready for immediate dispatch. It offers an attractive combination of practical expertise, considerable experience and cuttingedge innovative technology, which allows the solutions to provide optimum sealing solutions for every situation.
James Walker & Co is the largest member of the James Walker Group and based in Cockermouth, Cumbria, with a customer support centre in Crewe. It has 500 employees and a turnover of £35 million. The James Walker Group has 1400 employees in total and a turnover of £125 million. “Sealing and gaskets make up three quarters of the group and the other part is light rail track systems,” says Paul. “James Walker & Co covers specifically the manufacture of hydraulic seals, rotary seals, ‘O’ rings, compression packing, gaskets and extrusions, and we work with our sister companies who manufacture metallic gaskets, expansion joints, polyurethane seals, together with tension control fasteners, which link with sealing products to create a more effective jointing system.”
With the support of the Manufacturing Institute, James Walker & Co has reorganised manufacturing and customer support activities, as well as implementing individual improvement projects that have been hugely effective. “Over the past three years, we’ve implemented around 30 projects across the company to become more customer focused, productive and innovative, including lean manufacturing. It’s a massive undertaking because we’ve got six different products streams and 300,000 part numbers within those six, so there’s a lot of complexity. We’ve moved into a cellular operation and are reaping the benefits of far greater team ownership and involvement. We respond more quickly and consistently to customer needs and have increased sales by 25 per cent, improved delivery performance by 23 per cent, reduced quality defects by over 50 per cent, and reduced wastage by 50 per cent. Another massive project is the upgrade of our Oracle system, incorporating Lean principles into its design and we aim to go live with that in under a year.”
James Walker invests heavily in R&D to continuously develop new products such as HydroSele, an innovative cartridge seal that significantly reduces downtime, power losses and leakage in hydropower plants. “HydroSele is one of a whole series of new products. We’ve also launched world-leading compression packing for valves in chemical plants and refineries, which is the lowest emission control packing of its kind, plus several other high performance products across the pharmaceutical, oil & gas, metallurgical aerospace and power sectors. We’ve invested £4 million in state-of-the-art R&D and production equipment in the last three years.
“Material development is key and, uniquely, we have a compounding facility where we develop our own compounds with our own material engineers, meaning they’ll last longer in difficult environments. We provide total sealing solutions across all key industries.”
Many of the company’s products help prevent environmental pollution and it is also helping customers comply with the challenges presented by new EU Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control Directive regulations.
In February 2007, the company was rewarded for its continuous effort when it received the Manufacturing Institute’s Business Improvement Award and, shortly after, named the regional Best Apprentice Employer. Such success has encouraged the company to concentrate on further improvement, says Paul: “Now we have completed the first three years of our strategic plan, we are beginning another three-year goal deployment plan with a further 21 projects. As always, we are aiming for world-class products, world-class customer service and world-class manufacturing.”
Looking to the future, Paul concludes that focused growth and development is key: “The next three-year plan includes even more aggressive growth focusing on our three key strands of providing world-class customer service, manufacturing and products. Continuously improving quality and productivity is essential, and we will invest more in R&D, materials, products and development whilst becoming even more customer focused.”
James Walker & Co
Products: High-performance sealing technology
Sites: Cockermouth, Cumbria