Newco Products is the latest version of an organisation that originated in 1922.
Under the Blind Persons Act of 1920, the London Society for Teaching and Training the Blind set up workshops. In 1932 the Society was terminated and the responsibility for the workshop was taken over by the County Borough of West Ham. The workforce comprised 5 Boot Repairers, 5 Mat-Makers, 8 Basket Makers and 7 Home Workers, including knitters and pianoforte tuners.
West Ham Lane
In 1932 the Council moved the workshops to one location in West Ham Lane and laid plans to erect a new workshop on the site. In 1938 the Municipal Workshops for the Blind was opened on 11th April, 1938 by the Minister of Health, the Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley Wood. The photograph shows him with the then Mayor, Councillor Esther Bock, J.P. at the official opening of the workshops.
During this decade the number of blind ex-service people declined and the workshop opened itself up to employing an increasing greater range of disabilities. A number of different products were tried during this period but the income generated was only marginal to the cost of the service.
In the early 1980s the workshop, now known as Newham Municipal Industries, introduced kitchen unit manufacture and gained the specified supplier status from the Council for kitchen units.
Bridge Road Depot
The decision was made to build a purpose designed factory at Bridge Road Depot to house the existing production of kitchen units, the proposed new window works and also to incorporate the DLO Mill & Joinery Works. This was officially opened in 1995 by William Hague, MP. Who was then Minister for Social Security and the Disabled and Leader of the Conservative Party.
The move to Bridge Road enabled a complete redesign of the old labour intensive assembly methods associated with the production of kitchen units whilst maintaining the traditional quality and high specification. Productive capacity was doubled and this freed workers to retrain to manufacture the pvcu windows. A new incentive scheme was introduced which increased basic pay by more than 20%.and reduced working hours from 39 to 37.
During this time Newco introduced modern computerised business systems to provide the information needed and the services demanded in a commercial environment, including computer aided design systems, computerised stock, purchasing, sales and financial management systems. These systems allow Newco to offer the same levels of quality, service and design as its competitors and provide management with the essential information to run a commercial business.
In 1996 Newco began to prepare to independently achieve Quality Assurance Accreditation across all three factories at the same time and was successful in November 1997. During this period Newco was also successful in achieving the ADLO award for innovation and was becoming recognised as a bench mark organisation in the industry. Since then it has achieved Investors in People and continues to be a leader in its innovative approach to supported employment.
Since then we have achieved further ISO quality standards for all of our products.
We continue to move with the times and are considering many "green" issues. These are not only for our existing product ranges, but also for new products that will see us into the future.
The Modern Homes programme has been the main stay of our work with LBN over recent years, and with this coming to an end in 2012, we need to ensure we have new customers and markets for our continued future. We currently have 100 staff, and 60% of these have a disability or health condition, so offer excellent Social Return as well as best value to our customers.
Having acted commercially for many years, we feel that we do have a real business and are seeking to prove that by externalising to become a Social Firm we can grow our customer base and products, whilst retaining the ethos of the organisation.
Newco has been no stranger to celebrities over the years: it has had numerous visits from politicians - both local and national and has attracted interest from customers such as Lord and Lady Rix, who have visited the factory.
Text and images for this series supplied by Newco Products.