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Thinking inside the box

Michael Whittaker, Chairman-Director of Nuttall Packaging, has overseen huge changes since he and his cousin took over the firm in 1972 - and he aims to help it stay competitive through the digital age and beyond. Nuttall Packaging traces its roots back more than 100 years and Michael’s family has run it, together with other partners, since his grandfather took ownership in 1920.

The earliest known site of the factory was in Knott Mill, Deansgate. Since then it has moved four times and now has between 30 and 40 employees, based in a 40,000 square foot facility in Trafford Park.

The business has evolved its product range considerably since Michael took over 44 years ago. At that time, half the factory was involved in making hand-made, and sometimes silk-lined, presentation boxes for customers such as Wedgwood and Royal Doulton. Since then, he has helped it move towards more cost-effective, automated products including printed corrugated cartons; ‘retail-ready’ packaging; and engineering packaging designed to protect delicate items. Nuttall Packaging also makes acid-free archive boxes for a wide range of public sector organisations, and ancillary packaging products using foam and polyethylene. It has even supplied archive boxes to 10 Downing Street.

One crucial development has been the introduction of a design department with the latest computer-aided design and sample making equipment. ‘The design function is increasingly important as customers require more innovative and protective products to promote their goods and ensure they arrive safely,’ says Michael.

Nuttall Packaging also takes a ‘continuous improvement’ approach to its machinery and process. For example, in recent years, it has purchased two case makers that manufacture up to 10,000 corrugated cartons an hour. It also has a fully automated conveyor system and pallet wrapper, and many other machines for different processes.

Investing for future generations

Nuttall Packaging’s longevity has not just been due to automation. The rise of internet shopping has been a boon for the firm, as people need more boxes to deliver goods bought online.We have embraced the internet for marketing as well, and get lots of business that way now,’ says Michael. ‘Social media is important, as is a good website and being able to deal quickly with internet enquiries.’

‘We have also been very cautious, perhaps too cautious, because we haven’t grown as quickly as we could have during good times. But we have paid ourselves modestly, and we never liked to borrow to expand, which has enabled us to ride out difficult times. The company believes in treating its employees, customers and suppliers well and fairly. A number of employees have been working for the company for many years.’

He adds that he loves going to work and being part of an enthusiastic, young management team led by fellow director Chris Bywater.

Michael is a long-standing Equilibrium client, and says he appreciates the total wealth management approach that it has brought to his finances. He believes that by having his personal planning managed means he can concentrate on his biggest concern, which is to future-proof Nuttall Packaging.

‘That is why we continuously reinvest,’ adds Michael. ‘Having purchased a new building, we are putting in the right sort of machines to secure our future. As we buy more machines, we will need more people to run them. I am happy to keep growing in this way because the investment is not wasted. I know that future generations will benefit.’

Find out more about Nuttall Packaging here.