Worktop Fabricators Federation WFF Roadshow at Leamington Spa

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This Wednesday I was one of 30+ fabricators and stone industry suppliers who made their way to Leamington Spa in Warwickshire for a Worktop Fabricators Federation WFF Roadshow. It was my first experience of how useful it can be to meet a significant number of people in the same field and compare challenges and solutions to common problems – as well as to hear some of the problems that we don’t all share due to differences of scale.

Our hosts were Bellagio Stone, whose Sales Director, Ben Prole, is one of the WFF Directors. One of the UK’s larger worktop companies, Bellagio was founded by Rob and Catherine Wilkinson back in 2005. The factory, office suite and showroom are impressive, and Rob, Ben and their staff were friendly and helpful – great hosts for a WFF event.

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The day was very relaxed, with few formalities after proceedings were kicked off and run by the redoubtable WFF Administrator, Chris Pateman. Aside from his brief opening words to all present, there was no general session – the other presentations being short and repeated options in an upstairs meeting room.

Caesarstone UK gave a presentation on their Master of Stone training programme. This provides certification for a standard in the area of health and safety, specifically in the fight to eradicate silicosis from our industry. This is a global programme, with thousands of fabricators already participating all over the world. I enjoyed the presentation and the discussion which followed.

For more on the challenge of silica dust, please see our article from 2020.

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Image found online as I didn’t get a shot of Paul. Please alert me if any breach of copyright has occurred

One presentation that wasn’t repeated was a talk by Paul Johnstone of the Department of Education. I missed the talk as I was taking the factory tour, but caught up with him later in the event. Paul’s aim in coming to the Roadshow was to initiate a conversation on the new T-Levels. Can our industry work together with the DoE to provide the kind of hands-on industrial training opportunities that will dovetail with the new Technical Training initiative? Many fabricators have long-term issues finding staff, and training young people from scratch in that kind of partnership could be an attractive route to building skilled teams. We wrote a blog some years ago about the general challenges of finding generally competent school-leavers.

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Throughout the day, Stonegate and LPI were on hand to demo their respective Laser templating systems. Not every industry body gives you this kind of opportunity to see competing products in an informal atmosphere with the chance to ask any question you like. There was a bit of banter, but far more a sense of being in the same business and working together.

The best of the day, though, was to be found in the informal conversations. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the challenges and advantages of companies at very different sizes. Some issues are common to all of us, whether we do 5 kitchens a week or 300. Others are all about scale. Firms running a team of 25 templators are very different from firms where the MD is both sales force and chief fitter! I appreciated the friendliness and openness from everyone, and surprisingly little sense of “we are the big boys here” coming from… well… the big boys. The Worktop Fabricators Federation really is catalysiing a sense of togetherness in the quest for excellence in product quality and Health and Safety.

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Some images which give a flavour of a very useful day – thank you Chris Pateman (WFF) and Ben Prole (Bellagio Stone) for putting it together!

We are Affordable Granite, the leading installer of granite and quartz kitchen worktops in Surrey, Sussex and across the South East. We recognise that one it comes to improving standards in our industry, especially in Health and Safety matters, we are better off working together with other fabricators. We are proud to be founder members of the WFF. For samplesquotes and any questions connected with any aspect of worktop installation, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01293 863992 or by email on .

Images copyright Andrew King Photography / Affordable Granite. For further info on the cameras used here, see the blog.

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