THE HISTORY OF BAKER PERKINS JAXONS LTD.
William Jack had handed over his executive responsibilities to his three sons and the Board of Management of the company - with William Jack (Junior) in charge of design, Richard Jack controlling sales and John Jack in charge of production and accountancy - was reconstituted with P.R. Edmunds as chairman.
It was clear even before the acquisition, that the modernisation and re-equipping of existing hospitals and the large hospital building programme planned for the next twenty years would provide a significant opportunity for the new company. BP Jaxons' first breakthrough came in August 1964 with a £156,000 order to equip a new 25,000 square feet laundry at Whitley Hospital, Coventry. This contract was completed in February 1966 and included the supply of two ironers, 15 rotary presses and a "Swiftlay" unit.
The "Swiftlay" unit, designed to press and fold coats at twice the speed of previous equipment, was introduced in 1965 and was based on the highly successful Jaxons cabinet shirt press. Produced to cope with a seemingly mundane task – the pressing of white overall coats – the "Swiftlay" was the answer to a common problem throughout the western world – the acute shortage of skilled, trained labour. Operatives could now produce finished coats at twice the speed – the "Swiftlay" took the skill out of the job. By 1968, sales of "swiftlays" had topped the 300 mark, including sales to the USA, Austria, Belgium and Germany, and a new development – the "Airlay" unit – was introduced. This used blown hot air to press the sleeves of coats, shirts, pyjama jackets, etc..
The Hillington Road factory had been considerably extended to cope with the expected level of orders for the new machines. At the same time, a new southern area office was opened in Harrow, Middlesex. BP Jaxons had previously occupied BP Export company's Stanhope Gate offices and the movement to Harrow allowed a stock of spare parts to be kept locally.
The acquisition presented the opportunity for Jaxons not only to act as a sales outlet for the ex-Baker Perkins range of laundry equipment but also to develop their own business internationally through the Baker Perkins world-wide sales network. Exports were however nothing new to Jaxons who had been supplying 20 Laymaker units a month to Germany in 1958. 1966 saw Baker Perkins (New Zealand) Ltd secure their largest ever, single order for laundry equipment – 20 rotary presses and three ironers for the Auckland Hospital Board. An agreement was signed in 1966 making Forgrove GmbH sole agents for the Baker Perkins Jaxons range of laundry equipment in Germany.
The USA was not only a key market but also the home of Jaxons' most serious competition. Despite this, Jaxons had installed 30 coat presses in the USA by 1968 and more were on order. In an effort to further increase Jaxons' share of the international market, Richard (Dick) Jack visited Russia in 1968 where he discovered that "Russian made equipment seemed roughly equivalent to machinery made in Germany or America, but not quite as sophisticated as our own".
They reached a milestone in July 1969 with the sale of the 500th "Swiftlay" unit. This total included exports to almost every European country and further afield to New Zealand, Australia, Japan and Fiji. In the same year, sales in the home market continued with a £60,000 contract for the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board.
Two new machines were announced in 1969. The first was a washing machine – the "Streamline" – with a capacity of 1,500 lbs of sheets and hand towels per hour. Effectively a long tube divided into seven sections, dirty washing was loaded from a conveyor into one end and, twenty-five minutes later, clean washing emerged from the other having gone through four wash stages and three rinses. Washing in the "Streamline was continuous whereas in conventional washers, water was drained away and the machines refilled several times before the operation was complete. The second machine was the "Autorack" which revolutionised the last stage of laundry work – racking and packing. Up to 1,200 articles could be packed per hour using only four operators. Another significant task at this time was the re-design of the original Baker Perkins Matchless Ironer that was still being made at Baker Perkins Ltd's Bedewell factory.
Orders for the "Streamline" washer reached 20 less than one year after its introduction with sales to customers in the USA, France, Holland and Germany. Also in 1970, Jaxons sold their first ironer in Japan – to process linen for the Japanese Railways. Another innovation appeared in the same year that recognised the rapidly increasing use of synthetics – nylon and polyester cotton – in making clothes and overall coats. The Rotablend was a development of the "Swiftlay" and could handle both synthetic and natural fabrics.
Ralph Batson – manager, group personnel services, Baker Perkins Holdings - was appointed a director and chairman of Baker Perkins Jaxons in early 1971.
A £half million contract from the Oxford Regional Hospital Board in 1974 was followed by one of over £100,000 for the North West Metropolitan Regional Hospital Board. A new mini version of the "Streamline" washer was introduced in 1975, aimed at food factories and allowed food machine operatives to hang their overall coat on a hanger at the front of the machine at the end of the shift and find a clean coat waiting for them in the morning.
BP Jaxons were consistently profitable, by 1973 achieving sales of £3.675m and a pre-tax profit of £300,000. However, in 1977, the hospital laundry market collapsed and the company made a significant loss. Against the background of the difficult business environment of the mid 70's and in line with Baker Perkins Holdings' policy of concentration on its core businesses and elimination of unprofitable activities, Baker Perkins Jaxons was sold to Neil and Spencer Ltd. in 1978. It was part of the disposal agreement that ironers should continue to be made at Baker Perkins' factory at Bedewell.
Despite the sale of Baker Perkins Jaxons, South Africa remained a significant laundry machinery market for Baker Perkins. In 1980 the Southern sub-group was formed to combine the Australasian sub-group and Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) Ltd and in that year the South African company's laundry division experienced a very buoyant year and this continued into the following two years. On the 18th March 1983 an agreement was signed between Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) and Laundraland (Pty) Ltd. under which it was agreed that the laundry and dry cleaning machinery and domestic appliance distribution business carried out by both companies would be merged in a new company to be known as Baker Perkins Laundraland (Pty) Ltd.
Following a series of losses the Baker Perkins directors decided to dispose of the group's investments in South Africa. In 1986, Baker Perkins Laundraland (Pty) Ltd, in which a 50% interest was held, and Baker Perkins South Africa (Pty) Ltd ceased to trade.
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