A BRIEF HISTORY OF WATTS

The Watts group has been around in some form for more than 160 years and it is the imagination, enterprise, planning, hard work and opportunism of its early founders that set the company on the road to success. See our Group heritage video

The very early years

The story of Watts began in the early 1800s in Devon with Joseph Watts, a carpenter, and his wife Prudence. Their son David, also a carpenter moved away from Devon to Lydney and it was here he met and married Elizabeth Stephens from Clearwell, Gloucestershire. Whilst It is with this couple that the very first Watts general store opened it is their son Josiah who set the foundation for the future.

Josiah Watts

In 1880, having completed an apprenticeship with an ironmonger in Bristol, Josiah was determined that he would operate his own business. He moved back to Lydney and with a £300 loan from his uncle bought the stock and goodwill from a local ironmonger and also took on the lease of the premises. These premises he later bought too. The business thrived and he quickly earned a reputation for being a hard worker and providing a good service. The variety of his wares increased and he had the ability to supply all sorts of businesses and by 1900 his business was described as a ‘Furnishing, Builders, Agricultural & General Ironmonger, Cutler and Tool Merchant’

The next generation

In 1905 Josiah’s son Arthur joined the business and 2 years later was followed by his brother Joh. This was at a time when the combustion engine was changing the face of transport and it was Arthur’s interest in all things mechanical and his experimental work on engines that can really be credited with much of the early growth of the Watts Group. Arthur himself owned a motorcycle and the brothers also bought a car in 1910. It was at this time that Arthur and John built their first garage in the garden behind the shop which gave Arthur more space and scope to work. So forward thinking was Arthur that he installed electricity in both the garage and store before it had arrived in Lydney as a whole.

By 1912 the Company were agents for both Triumph motorcycles and Ford vehicles.

Whilst Arthur’s interest in engines grew, John’s thoughts at this time had begun to turn to passenger vehicles.

The First World War

Arthur and John were both called up, along with many of their staff. The business was kept going by remaining family and those not yet called up for service. That war experience broadened Arthur and John’s experience of motors and engines with both of them working on engines during their war service. It also opened their eyes tgo the opportunities for the future. On returning from their service they continued with their complementary skills in the business; Arthur concentrating on engineering and John on transport. They had seen that war department vehicles were now beginning to be bought and converted in to buses and goods vehicles and it was this insight that led to the major change to dealing in commercial vehicles.

The Birth of Watts Garage Ltd

In 1920, spurred on by what was happening with war department vehicles, Arthur took a calculated risk. He took out a bank loan, went to Salonika in Greece and bought 200 vehicles, most of which were chain driven Albions that were now surplus to requirements following the war, along with tons of spare parts. This was all shipped back to Avonmouth and Newport in the UK and then driven or towed back to Lydney; a huge logistical undertaking. The vehicles were housed in an aircraft hangar that had been purchased from Salisbury, dismantled and then re-assembled in Lydney – another massive undertaking.

Over the next few years the vehicles were converted and repaired as necessary and sold across the country to all sorts of businesses; brewers, oil companies, dairies, transport, and haulage businesses to name but a few. Some chassis were also used to start the South Wales Valleys Bus Service.

At this time the building of the first commercial Watts garage was completed in Lydney. The purchase and conversion of the vehicles and the opening of the garage led to the development of Britain’s principal fitting works for the maintenance of diesel engines and the repair of commercial vehicles.

Watts became one of the first distributors of Albion vehicles when appointed in 1922 to South Wales, Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire. The association continues today as through mergers and acquisitions, a line can be drawn from Albion to DAF.

The Continued Growth of Watts

For the next 20 years the company continued to grow and thrive with Arthur and John still working together but in their own areas of interest. John set up a bus service that ran throughout the 20s and 30s. He was instrumental in forming companies that were later to become the Red and White Bus company which were the largest to operate out of South Wales.

Arthur continued his interest in engines, working to invent and improve wherever possible. The 20s saw him develop better efficiencies in diesel engines. He also invented an oil vaporiser for bus operations based on the Fordson tractors they sold.

In the early 30s Watts were instrumental in converting fleets of passenger vehicles and lorries from petrol to Gardner diesel and in 1935 became the sole Gardner dealer for Wales and the South West of England.

Arthur also became involved in boiler-making. Initially he developed a conversion for existing boilers to improve performance, but in 1935 Watts went on to develop and manufacture their own gravity fed boiler and stockers. They began with just 4 models which increased to 23. By 1950 the factory were producing one thousand boilers a year. The boiler business continued to grow and it was eventually sold to Allied Ironfounders in 1960.

In the 30s Arthur, concerned by the expendability of tyres also turned his attention to the process of retreading and by 1938 had installed plant for the process at the back of the premises in Lydney. The tyre division had been born and in 1953 Watts Tyre and Rubber Co. Ltd was formed. The company became the manufacturer of Tyresole products for Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and South Wales. Watts began manufacturing industrial tyres in 1961 and became one of the largest suppliers of solid industrial tyres in the world. Watts sold its interest in its tyre manufacturing and servicing companies in 2008.

During the Second World War Watts were involved in the repair and overhaul of many types of military diesel vehicles but their commercial vehicle work continued. 

Modern Day Watts Garages

Today, Watts Garage Ltd is known as Watts Truck & Van Ltd and the business continues to thrive. Watts have 3 centres serving South Wales, based in Cardiff, Newport and Swansea. They supply and maintain vehicles and run 13 dedicated delivery vehicles for parts distribution. They are the current holders of the DAF Trucks UK Sword of Excellence for being the best Aftersales Dealer, as well as being Top Performing Sales Dealer and UK Parts Dealer of the Year. Investment continues with a new purpose built facility opening in Swansea in February, into which the current Swansea centre will relocate. Interestingly, it will be opening 100 years after the building of the first Watts garage commenced.

Watts Truck & Van Ltd are distributors of DAF commercial vehicles as well as providers of spare parts to the motor industry in general.

Watts Group Today

Watts Group is still a family-owned business and the head office remains in the Gloucestershire town of Lydney, where it was founded. There have been many changes in the business over the years resulting in the current 4 divisions which employ over 200 people in the UK.

  • Watts Truck & Van Ltd
  • Urethane: Producing castable polyurethane products for a large range of applications, from high speed motor sports components to durable street furniture.
  • Plysolene: A manufacturer of extruded thermoplastic sheet, the core products of which are; Plyform high impact polystyrene, Plysolene PIB (Polyisobutylene) membrane sheeting, and Plyload damp proof course.
  • Properties: Watts Properties owns and manages a varied portfolio of retail premises, trade counter properties and industrial units in the UK

Watts Group has a proud history and an enviable reputation built on more than a century of innovation and achievement. The group is passionate and dedicated to its people, businesses and community responsibilities.

DAF TRUCKS – READY FOR THE FUTURE

This was the DAF theme for their attendance at the IAA 2018 in Hannover at the end of September this year. Showcasing its innovation capabilities throughout its 90 year history, DAF Trucks exhibited its full industry leading product and service range incl

The IAA Commercial Vehicles Show takes place in Hannover every two years and is the world’s leading trade show for transport, logistics and mobility. At this year’s show there was an emphasis on the innovation path in the commercial sector. And as with many other areas of industry, hot topics of discussion were automation, connectivity, safety and security, environmental protection issues and electric mobility.

DAF Trucks has been a world leader in innovation and in its 90th anniversary year has grown to be the premier truck manufacturer in Europe. DAF’s heavy duty market share in Europe has grown in the first half of 2018 and DAF is the heavy duty market leader in the UK.

Trucks at the show included the new LF, CF and XF vehicles, all of which have received awards this year. The LF distribution truck was awarded ‘Fleet truck of the Year 2018’ and the CF and XF were voted ‘International Truck of the Year 2018’ thanks to a 7% fuel efficiency improvement achieved as a result of technical innovations. Also on show were a selection of lighter vocational vehicles which included the CF 8×4 mixer chassis and the unique 6×2 XF with BDF frame for demountable bodies.

With innovation, environmental issues and electric mobility being such a hot topic, there was much interest in the DAF electric innovation trucks. On show were the LF Electric and CF Electric for medium and heavy duty city distribution as well as the CF hybrid for mid-range distribution with zero emissions in urban areas.

Committed to strengthening its industry-leading positions in fuel efficiency and low emissions these vehicle solutions have been developed to champion the need for improving air quality in cities as well as reducing CO2 emissions whilst achieving the best overall efficiency.

DAF LF Electric Innovation Truck

The DAF LF Electric is a 19 tonne fully electric truck for zero emissions city distribution. Powered by a battery pack of up to 222 kWh, it provides a range of up to 220 km when the truck is fully laden. Battery packs are modular and so can be scaled to the range required by customers. The 220 km range is ideal fro city distribution.

DAF CF Electric Innovation truck

The DAF CF Electric is a 4×2 tractor unit for up to 37 tonne GCW applications making it ideal for urban distribution requiring higher payloads and volumes. Based on the award winning and versatile CF series, the vehicle uses VDL’s advanced E-Power Technology for fully electric operation. The centre of the intelligent powertrain is the 210kW/286 hp electric motor which draws energy from the 170 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. It has a range of 100 km, which is appropriate for high volume city distributions. A quick battery charge can be completed in 30 minutes and a full charge can be completed in 1.5 hours, which means loading and unloading times can be used to recharge batteries.

DAF CF Hybrid Innovation Truck

The DAF CF Hybrid has been developed for driving electrically with zero emissions in urban areas while offering a longer range to operate beyond those urban areas. Thanks to the latest, ultra clean diesel technology the combination of electric and diesel allows for the highest logistical efficiency. The electric motor is powered by an 85 kWh battery pack which allows a fully electric, zero emission range of 30 to 50 km.

The battery can be charged by the diesel engine during on-highway operations or by using a charger at a charging location. The vehicle has the ability to obtain a full fast charge in 30 minutes, but can obtain an 80% charge in just 20.

Outside of urban operations the vehicle is powered by the clean and efficient PACCAR MX-11 diesel engine, where the hybrid technology provides additional fuel savings thanks to smart energy management. Regenerative energy is captured when braking and also when using speed related controls. It is then used by the electric motor in conjunction with the diesel engine to reduce fuel consumption further.

All three trucks will be thoroughly tested to ensure that the developments provide value to DAF customers. The CF Electric will go into field test operations with customers this year and similar tests are planned for the LF Electric and CF Hybrid in 2019.

Positioned for the Future

“DAF has always provided and always will provide a complete range of excellent trucks that offer the industry’s lowest operating costs, best transport efficiency and highest driver comfort,” said Richard Zink, Director Marketing & Sales and member of the Board of Management of DAF Trucks. “We are building on a rich, 90 year heritage that has resulted in our market leading position. Our strong capabilities will enable us to create trucks and power trains which lead us into the future.”

For 90 years DAF have been innovative industry leaders with customer service, good value and reliability at the forefront of everything they do.

Watts Group, owner of DAF dealership Watts Truck & Van Ltd, has more than 100 years in the commercial vehicle industry and share those same values. Since the turn of the century Watts Group have continued to invest in and improve the business with a focus on customer service. That investment continues today with the relocation of the Watts Truck & Van Swansea depot in South Wales.

The work on the new purpose-built facility in the Enterprise Park in Swansea is going well and the relocation of the depot currently at Cwmdu Industrial Estate is scheduled to take place in Spring 2019.

NEW DAF XF TRACTOR UNITS PROVIDE MPG BONUS

“With the DAF, we are getting a premium truck at costs that make sense to us”

In August this year Knights of Old took delivery of the first DAF tractors to be added to their fleet. The 10 XF 530 FTG tractors join a fleet of 250 trucks and 400 trailers and are part of a significant business investment by the operator.

Scott Mason, Group Fleet Manager at Knights of Old, says, “Alongside this investment, we have been looking at managing operating costs, and the arrival of the New XF 6X2s is an example of that. Prices have been increasing steadily on everything from tyres to fuel, and truck prices have been no exception. With the DAF, we are getting a premium truck at costs that make sense to us. There has been a lot of talk around the industry about enhanced fuel consumption from the latest DAF models,” he says, “and we are already seeing fuel economies. We are getting well over 9mpg, and close to 11mpg, across the DAFs over a tough operating week. These are brand-new trucks, so the likelihood is that this will improve further as they settle in.”

When it comes to driver development, Knight Of Old are an industry front runner. The operator has apprenticeships, recruitment, and driver training operations under its Merlin Supply Chain Solutions business and driver acceptance of the DAF XFs was one of the major reasons quoted by Scott Mason for taking the 10 new vehicles. “We value our drivers highly and want to do everything sensible that we can to ensure they are happy in their work. They are enjoying both the space and comfort of the DAF big cab and the performance from the Paccar MX13 engine and TraXon gearbox. We’d heard good reports about the combination of this engine and gearbox long before we made our decision, and to date, we have only heard driver praise.”

The investment in the new DAF XFs is mirrored across the whole company with telematics packages running that allows Knights Of Old to monitor vehicle position and performance as well as driver behaviour. “The data we collect is turned into weekly league tables across our operating branches around the country, so that all drivers can see how they are performing as individuals and as operating centres,” said Scott Mason. If anyone is experiencing performance issues, their training academy steps in to help resolve any issues.

The DAF CF & XF range has won multiple awards this year, with both being voted International Truck of the Year.

DAF’s driver comfort, award winning design and excellent fuel economy backed by the Repair & Maintenance contracts at Watts Truck & Van Ltd Swansea, Cardiff and Newport has resulted in the XF Super Space Tractor being the most popular truck in the South Wales heavy truck market for the third consecutive year.

The team at Watts Truck & Van were also named Top Performing Sales and Aftersales Dealer of the Year at the DAF UK Annual awards in Manchester earlier this year.  Operating from three parts distribution centres and running its own dedicated delivery vehicle fleet, Watts Truck & Van Ltd have fully qualified staff who are trained to the highest standards. But it’s not just vehicles they supply – Watts Truck & Van Ltd can provide everything an operator needs to run their business.

For more information about the award-winning DAF truck range, please get in touch with our Truck Sales Team.

Swansea – Gareth Rees 07967 589105

Cardiff – Ben Adams 07966 007362

Newport – Kristian Seddon 07810 157060

LBS BUILDERS LLANELLI BRANCH TAKE DELIVERY

18 Tonne drop side with HIAB block grab

18 Tonne drop side with HIAB block grab

LBS Builders LLanelli branch take delivery of their first DAF LF FA 250 Bhp today, 18 Tonne drop side with HIAB block grab, another one added to their fleet.

STOCK SWEEPERS

Stock Sweepers has grown from humble beginnings into one of the market leading road sweeping manufacturers in the UK and it’s the hard work and entrepreneurial spirit of Managing Director Jeff Stock that has made it happen.

Sweepers were not the starting point in business for Jeff. He began his career as an owner driver of a JCB 3CX in Wrotham, Kent, working hard in the construction industry and it was whilst building crash barriers on the M20 that Jeff came into contact with the road sweepers. They came along after building work was completed to clear the carriageways, and it was seeing this that sparked his interest and resulted in a little more digging around into the world of sweepers.

Following some advice from a fellow contractor, Jeff decided there was an opportunity to be had and alongside his business partner, bought his first road sweeper.

“We had never had a road sweeper before” said Jeff “We didn’t even know how to put the brushes down”. But the problem was soon solved when the retired father of a friend offered to drive the sweeper for them if they found the work. And that’s how it went.

The fleet was added to over the years with vehicles being purchased second hand and refurbished and that heavy machinery knowledge and experience from previous years came in useful during this time. Eventually a further 11 vehicles were added to the fleet and Stocks Sweeper Hire was born. Once bought and reconditioned, the sweepers were hired out to local authorities and private sector companies.

It was this experience that has directly led to where Stock sweepers are now” said Jeff. “Doing all that maintenance, stripping the vehicles down, remounting them; it taught us everything we know about how sweepers are built, how they work and more importantly why they stop working.”

He goes on to say that things go beyond even that. Doing all that work also allowed them to see how the vehicles could be built better, how the maintenance could be made easier and how they could be engineered from the start to make them more efficient and robust with a longer life span.

Taking this information into account, the hire side of the business was sold and the business focused its efforts into refurbishing, refitting and supplying sweepers nationwide, eventually becoming one of the UK’s top companies for reconditioning used road sweeper equipment. However, after ten years, Jeff and the team became tired of accounting for the weaknesses in existing machines. Using all their experience to date they began to develop their own parts which were lasting longer than others available on the market. The parts side of the business soon grew and became a major focus turning over more than £100,000 per month.

The development of the business did not stop there. With their extensive knowledge of refurbishing and operating sweepers manufacturing sweepers was the next logical step.

“We were fully refurbishing and remounting vehicles and using our own in-house engineered parts – if you considered the whole machine, we were actually producing a high percentage of it ourselves,” said Jeff. “All we had to do now was engineer our own body shell and we could produce a 100% new machine, fully designed, engineered and manufactured by stock sweepers.”

In 2009, following a little reorganisation within the business the company launched their S6400 and S8400 models. Since then, Stock Sweepers has grown into one of the leading road sweeper manufacturers in the UK and are the only British, family owned manufacturer in the industry.

Their vehicles are reliable, robust and innovative and their mission is to build the best sweepers possible. A ‘build it tough’ philosophy underpins the Stock sweepers design, meaning their customers, whether they be in the construction, municipal or civil engineering industries are guaranteed long lasting solutions to their requirements. Stock Sweepers have a huge commitment to provide excellent customer service and product quality and as a result they have an excellent reputation in the marketplace.

“We work tirelessly to uphold our high personal and professional standards – early mornings and late nights are all part of our commitment to going the extra mile for our customers” said Jeff. With the majority of their equipment built on DAF Truck chassis supplied from Watts Truck & Van Newport, Stock Sweepers are able to call upon further support from the Watts team and the collaborative effort of the DAF Trucks dealer network when required.

Stock Sweepers are based in the village of Mitcheldean and have two manufacturing facilities. Their sweepers are available in many different countries in North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Stock Sweepers remain true to their vision, which is building quality machines that have the longest working life achievable and minimum down time for their customers.

Stock Sweepers are not concerned about being known for selling the most number of sweepers – they pride themselves on providing the best sweepers possible and are known for building quality machines with a long working life.

For more information about their products visit the Stock Sweepers website

HAPPY 30TH ANNIVERSARY CASTELL HOWELL FOODS

Family run business Castell Howell Foods in Wales celebrate their 30th year of business in 2018 and are about to take delivery of another 6 DAF LF230 12 tonne vehicles.

The nature of the business means that Castell Howell Foods runs a large and varied fleet of vehicles.  The whole commercial fleet consists of 160 vehicles ranging from 3.3 to 44 tonnes GVW. They have been running DAF trucks since 1995 and the DAF vehicles they have currently make up 50% of the heavy commercial vehicles they have.

Competitive pricing, acceptable life costs and the fact that they are well accepted by their drivers are just some of the reasons that Castell Howell Foods use DAF vehicles. Talking in more detail about the new LF230 12 tonners, Castell Howell Foods’ Director Martin Jones said “The vehicle performance is good. They are easy to drive with a good turning circle and are the right size to maintain the payload and have good manoeuvrability”

“The engine suits our territory in Wales where there are many hills needing frequent gear changes and the trucks appeal to the drivers with good dashboard layouts”

As they have such a large fleet and have been in business for many years, Castell Howell Foods know exactly what they need when they buy new vehicles. In some respect they make life a little easier for their DAF dealership, Watts Truck & Van in Swansea. They take the time to produce a detailed specification for the team at Watts Truck & Van who then price up the vehicles and arrange delivery. “They are a good dealer” said Martin. “They are easy to deal with, reliable, helpful and their parts availability is very good”.

“We’re looking forward to the arrival of the new vehicles in our anniversary year.”

About Castell Howell Foods

Castell Howell Foods originated back in 1973 as a family farm in West Wales with a food service business running alongside it. In 1988 the focus changed from farming to food and in June of that year Castell Howell Foods Ltd was officially incorporated. Now, in 2018 the food wholesaler has grown and has its main depot in Crosshands with 4 satellite depots in Avonmouth, Blaenau Ffestiniog, Chirk and Merthyr Tydfil. It supplies Wales, the border counties and South West England, offering a vast and varied product range.

The company currently has a staff count of 750 with a turnover of £150m.

Proud of its rural roots, the supply and promotion of local produce is high on the agenda for Castell Howell Foods, but new and innovative lines from the UK and beyond are also on offer to customers. Customer service is also high on the agenda and Castell Howell will go to great lengths for their customers – if a customer can’t find what they’re looking for Castell Howell are happy to source products on request.

The Environment is important to Castell Howell Foods and in addition to their commitment to provide secure, sustainable and fair supply chains, in 2012 Castell Howell Foods was one of the first companies in Wales to sign to the WRAP Hospitality and Foodservice commitment to reduce food and packaging waste. More recently they signed up to ‘The Courtauld Commitment 2025’

Castell Howell Foods aims to offer ‘The Complete Catering Solution’ and their team of account managers are based across Wales and the West Country, building strong relationships with their customers and providing a solution to all their needs