As 2021 draws to a close, we’re reflecting on what a journey 2021 has been and feeling immensely proud of everything that team WJL has accomplished. Jamie Lovatt, our Managing Director has provided his thoughts on the whirlwind of a year below, and his perspective on what lies ahead for 2022:

The year started full of optimism that 2020 was one to forget and that things would be different this time around. Well, I guess they were different, but the impact of the combination of COVID, Brexit, stranded tankers, forest fires and the like have kept the challenges for the year fresh and new! Whilst project delivery has been challenging, the recovery through sales has been dramatic with lots of new work to be getting stuck into in the new year. We are already looking at new projects for the second half of the year and into 2023 with lots of repeat work and some new faces too. 

Winning new projects

Back in August, we were delighted to be appointed on the Kings Croft Gardens project where we are working alongside Gilbert-Ash. In particular, our Echofade acoustic panelling work was specified by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, off the back of the work we completed at Roehampton University. Alongside being recently appointed to work on the prestigious Shakespeare North Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, it’s clear that throughout 2022 we will continue to grow our reputation in designing, manufacturing and installing complex acoustic joinery schemes.

We were delighted to recently be awarded work for the new MA5 Data Centre in Manchester, where we’re working on a perfect blend of doorsets and bespoke joinery alongside Laing O’Rourke. We’re hoping to have things wrapped up here within the first quarter of the year. In addition, we continued our strong track record on the National Schools’ Framework, carrying out several projects for ISG, Kier, Morgan Sindall, Laing O’Rourke & Bowmer & Kirkland. Our most recent handover was with ISG at Chelveston Road School, a brand new school in Northamptonshire for 145 SEND pupils. 

Seamless project handovers

In November, we completed a project handover for the Bar & Block Steakhouse for Premier Inn in Paddington, London. McAleer & Rushe invited us to manufacture and install the front of house feature joinery and it was an absolute success with great reviews from the customer to finish. The scope of works included the design, manufacture and installation of the front of house reception and check-in area, the bar, restaurant area and the back office. Despite encountering a fair few challenges, our team were reactive and proactive, providing robust design solutions for our client before any significant delay could be incurred. 

Off the back of this, we were truly delighted to receive amazing feedback from Steve Morris, McAleer & Rushe Project Director:

A great review for WJL

Upcoming project handovers

The bespoke joinery workshop team have been busy creating a stunning elliptical ceiling, which is now ready to be installed over at Crawley Town Hall alongside other wall-panelling and doorset works. We’re also almost ready to hand over at the Hampton by Hilton Hotel in Bath in the first week of January, our bespoke joinery team really excelled themselves for this project, the standard of workmanship is incredibly impressive.

What else has been happening at WJL this year?

We’ve said goodbye to some old faces, and welcomed in many new ones throughout 2021, namely Craig, Lauren, Iain and Olivia both in the office and out on-site, with Steve, Ethan & Tom adding to our brilliant workshop workforce. Tim Davies was promoted to Assistant Production Manager after really going above and beyond, not just in the workshop but also for stepping up in the face of our mini Covid crisis earlier in the year. WJL royalty and ultimate power couple Melissa & Paul Nixon collectively celebrated working at WJL for 50 years.

In September, we ran the Potters ‘Arf Marathon, in memory of our beloved colleague and friend, Chris Birch, who very soon after diagnosis lost his life to Pancreatic cancer, leaving behind his beloved wife and their 2 young sons. We were proud to raise over £800 for Pancreatic Cancer UK and hope to raise more in 2022.  

We successfully renewed our FSC / PEFC certification status as well as achieved Constructionline Gold. Our development in fire door provision also moved forward with the full integration of our Golden Thread approach, called Needle. This combines our 3rd party accreditation with Q-Mark through BM Trada with app-based technology to register the installations of all fire doors, providing the end-user with an asset register ready for inspection and maintenance.

The workshop has seen some development where Karl Gerrity (Production Manager) has redesigned the layout to provide a greater level of efficiency and much more convenient tool storage. We’ve introduced additional racking into bay 3, partly a reflection of the general delay in contract delivery witnessed through 2021 but also in an attempt to smooth the delivery of materials to the site to a just in time approach. As we end the year we are also bringing together the design and production offices to aid communication between the two teams and further ensure our joinery is designed with all stakeholders in mind: to wow the client, to fully integrate with adjacent trades and to make light work of the installation – quite a few people to satisfy – communication is the key!

Our employee engagement has improved tremendously, with all members of our team actively contributing to promoting WJL as a brand. According to our website analytics, we’ve now got more eyes than ever before on WJL, and we expect this to continue long into 2022. Earlier this year, we also re-launched our employee of the quarter initiative following a careful return to the ‘new normal’. Our company ideas box was also re-introduced, along with more internal processes to streamline our workflows and allow our team to work more efficiently and productively.

A final word

I’d like to say a big thank you to the team for their continued hard work in the most difficult circumstances, for coming together when it felt like the world was falling apart, and for all playing a part in what continues to be an enviable company culture. Whilst 2021 has been challenging, it has brought with it a feeling of renewed confidence following a period of reflection, with everyone looking forward to a new year, full of slightly more predictable challenges!