Norwich-based Walker Rubber and Plastics is looking to the future after investing in new plant machinery to help win new business.

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The family run firm, which is celebrating 70 years in business, specialises in a number of areas including automotive, marine, industrial, farming, food processing, equestrianism, construction and building protection, and bespoke products.

The new ‘autoclave’ machine, which was installed in December at its site on the Sweet Briar Industrial Estate, will allow it work with longer lengths of rubber and speed up production.

Founded by James Walker in 1941 when he bought Ralph’s Shoe Machining Co. Ltd. in Pitt St. Norwich where he had previously been the manager, the company specialised in the repair of shoe and printing machinery.

During this first year, the business had a turnover of £1026 and made a small profit.

Following the death of James in 1952, his son, Basil, took over the company and took the decision to diversify into Rubber and Plastics in 1962. Basil’s son, Keith Walker joined the company in the early 1960s and in 1985 it branched out into the manufacturing of both rubber extrusions and mouldings thus opening up a whole new area of potential business.

Keith became managing director in 1988, and in June 2002, the fourth generation of Walkers took over the running of the company when Keith’s daughter and son, Lorraine and Clive, became joint Managing Directors. Growth from 2002 has been impressive, turnover increasing from £1.2m in 2002 to almost £2m while in April its Ipswich division will also celebrate its 35th birthday in April.

Clive Walker, said: “Although we are well established as a company we still face a large number of challenges. One of the greatest in recent time has been the worldwide demand for raw materials which have pushed rubber and plastic prices up, often to record levels. Managing this situation, whilst trying to provide competitive prices to our customers has been very challenging at times.”

“We are very happy to have built on the legacy that our father left for us and are proud to be a manufacturing business based in East Anglia,” he said. We are currently working hard to take Walker Rubber forward for the future. This has meant a lot of changes during the last nine years and we would particularly like to thank our loyal staff for responding to this need for change.”

Lorraine Walker added, “We have always had a diverse customer base and the last decade has seen us branch out even further into a large number of specialist areas. We believe that our biggest strength is being able to solve problems that customers bring to us. We also aim to provide an excellent level of customer service.”

Joint Managing Directors, Lorraine and Clive Walker said, “We are delighted to be able to celebrate 70 years in business and would like to take this opportunity to thank our staff, customers and suppliers for the support they have given us during this time. The company has changed name over the years but it is effectively the same company that our Great Grandfather started in 1941 and we have traded continuously since that date.”

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