Billy Wilson from Jas P Wilson squatting next to a large tyre

Jas P Wilson's innovation journey

Our support helped forestry firm Jas P Wilson establish a foothold in Scandinavian markets, streamline its processes and think more innovatively about business.

Success: it’s tricky to acquire, and difficult to maintain

For Jas P Wilson, the Dalbeattie-based forestry and firewood firm, our support helped them gain a fresh perspective – helping to strengthen and shape every area of business.

Formed in 1964, the company began life as a contracting business and has since grown into a national supplier of forestry equipment, machines and spare parts.

Billy Wilson, managing director, explains how we’ve supported the company at every stage of its journey.

Taking on an export manager

Through our international guidance and funding support, the company has broken new ground in export markets. 

“Last year, we opened up our market in southern Ireland when Scottish Enterprise helped us find an export manager. Now we’re reaping the rewards. 

“We have a full-time guy across there, selling all our equipment - both the equipment we manufacture and the equipment we import from Scandinavia. 

“This year, we hope to do something similar in Finland. We’ve already contacted a few companies there and we hope to achieve the same thing again. 

They've already found the right person to help manage their expansion, and hope by the end of the year to have machinery in Finland.  

Getting staff on board

Our “deeper innovation” workshops had a transformative effect on the company’s understanding of innovation – and saw them embed innovative thinking in every stage of their processes.

 “In the past, I’d thought that innovation was just about product development,” remembers Billy.

By attending the ‘deeper’ innovation workshops, he began to understand that innovation is "actually in every part of your business.”

This revelation saw problem-solving applied to previously unconsidered areas of the business.

“If there’s something that you’ve always done that doesn’t quite work properly, go back and look at it,” urges Billy. 

"Analyse it. Take it out of the box. Don’t just accept that it’s that way because it’s always been that way. Get your team together and go through it.

“Do it differently. You’ll be amazed at the results you’ll get out of it. And it’s quite contagious when you start doing it. Now I’m noticing that the staff are beginning to think bigger and differently, and they find it interesting. They’re motivated by it.”

Billy Wilson from Jas P Wilson in the foreground with Andrew Kirkpatrick and Michael Gibson in the background

Billy Wilson, managing director of Jas P Wilson

Practical changes

Inspired into action, the company began to build innovation mechanisms into its processes.

“We’ve totally changed the way we search for apprentices,” says Billy. "We’ve now formed a partnership with a school and the local colleges.”

By offering work experience to local school kids, they’re tapping into emerging young talent. And it’s paying off, big time. They’ve just taken on their fourth apprentice through this scheme.

“We’ve found young people who are interested in what we do, and they’ve realised this whilst they’re still at school. We’re now taking them on as full-time apprentices.”

“They’re the right kind of people, right on our doorstep. It’s a win-win situation, both for us and the students.”

Streamlining systems

Insight gleaned from the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service (SMAS) helped streamline operations and devise more efficient ways of working. 

“Initially, SMAS came in to help us make more use of the space in the factory and to look at our manufacturing processes” said Billy. 

“It quickly became apparent that we had a lot in the factory – not just tying up money, but taking up space. Within a couple of months, we’d actually saved a significant amount of money by not building batches.” 

“Before we would build maybe a dozen at a time but now, we just build them as we need them. 

“We’ve set up Kanban systems (a form of project management that originated in Japanese car manufacturing) and instead of being ‘managed’, the guys can manage themselves. We’ve saved £75,000 – it’s pretty good money.” 

Planning for the future

We’ve also encouraged the business to think further into the future.

“One of the things that Scottish Enterprise pointed out to us was that we didn’t have a succession plan,“ remembers Billy. 

“Really, it was only the main directors dealing with all of the employees. We’re all getting older and we didn’t have anything in place if one of the main players was to take ill.”

By thinking along these lines, they began to implement strategies to empower staff, involving employees in significant decisions and sharing the burden of workload.

According to Billy, “we interviewed the staff and, from there, we’ve been able to put middle-management in place.

“The place just keeps running when we’re not there. They all know what they’re doing and they aren’t relying on us to make minute-to-minute decisions.

"This has made our lives a lot easier, and the business’ future a lot more secure."

Next step

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