Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 – a golden year for Peter Siddall


Looking back on 50 years in healthcare manufacturing

What a difference half a century makes! When Peter Siddall first joined Sidhil as an apprentice back in 1962, fifty years ago, the concept of community health was relatively unknown, the NHS was still in its infancy at only 14 years old and the price of a pint of beer was less than a shilling! (That’s just five pence to the younger ones amongst you!)

Sidhil presented a very different face to the healthcare market in those days, too. There was no product design department and the company was still engaged in a number of traditional manufacturing processes, including the production of ships’ berths. Although some product was exported, this was primarily to the old colonies where trading links were still in existence.

Interestingly enough, the company was already manufacturing some product lines which are still produced today such as cylinder trolleys and linen trolleys – albeit now using far more up to date manufacturing methods!

Peter joined Sidhil on the shop floor, learning the business from the ground up. In those days, the tube room operated on a piecework basis – a farthing per cut - so it was a tradition for the salaried apprentices to cut all the long lengths which were less lucrative for their co-workers!

In those days, Sidhil occupied a four storey mill in Sowerby Bridge. The company moved to modern premises in Boothtown in 1969, which represented a significant change enabling the introduction of more efficient working processes and conveying systems. These premises were eventually outgrown in 2001 when Sidhil moved to their current home on the Sidhil Business Park.

Sidhil still employs a maintenance engineer who began his career with Peter as an apprentice, and over the past 50 years he has worked with entire generations of the same family including grandfather, son in law and grandson. “Sidhil can trace its roots as far back as 1898 to the original Siddall & Hilton Ltd, and as a fourth generation family business, we are officially as rare as rocking horse droppings! We’re certainly one of the older family businesses in Yorkshire,” confirmed Peter.

He followed the traditional route of working his way through the business, spending time as a welder and also in the assembly department before moving into purchasing, where he became the buyer in 1966. “Back then, we didn’t even have fax machines, everything was done by telephone, by post and by telex for exports,” he remembers. “Some of today’s modern communications methods would certainly have been very useful!”  

During the late 1960s, the government commissioned the first modern hospital bed in the shape of the Kings Fund bed, a project which involved a group of manufacturers working with the Kings Fund charity. The bed designed by Sidhil was an innovative product which could be taken to pieces, forming an early version of the Solite which within less than two decades would eventually become Sidhil’s best selling community bed.

The continued success of the organisation is based on dramatic changes within the Group over the past 50 years – strategies where Peter has played a leading role. “The Group has changed dramatically in recent years, and is now focused on the healthcare market rather than on wire based products,” stated Peter. “Recognising where the business is heading and changing our focus accordingly has enabled us to keep our product base relevant and confirm our position as one of the leading players in the market.”

In 1983 Peter moved on from Sidhil, retaining responsibility not just for Sidhil but also for other Group companies. He became Chief Executive in the 1980s and Chairman in the 1990s, and continues to play an important role in devising strategies to support the ongoing success of the business.

Peter has served as Chairman of the BHTA (British Health Trades Association), as President of Calderdale Chamber of Commerce, President of the Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, Member of the Regional Council of the CBI and as President of the UK Steel Association. In 2004, he was awarded an MBE for his contribution to the healthcare industry – not his first visit to Buckingham Palace, as aged 14, he accompanied his father Denis Siddall when he collected his MBE for services to the Territorial Army.


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