The original company, Forward Metals Ltd., was incorporated in 1989 by Ian and Jackie Westwood, a husband and wife team who already had many years experience within the metals industry since the early 1970s. However, its offspring, Forward Metals Online, began strangely enough as a university degree project. The project was to create an ecommerce application for the existing and well established metals stockholding company. The remit to sell and deliver small quantities of metals essentially through the post seemed like an odd concept. But it was a good opportunity to try a new application on an existing, live business.
It was never intended to go live and merely to complete a dissertation project. But after creating bespoke software for the general running of an ecommerce business, it was thought a shame not to try it in a live setting. The orders were very slow at first. Hand sawn metal packed in bits of cardboard found lying round the warehouse. Daily trips to the post office carrying crudely packed metal like a set of badly packaged bagpipes. Unexpectedly, there appeared to be a need for lumps of mail-order metals. The one (now ex-university) person running the operation, found himself sawing, packing, sales calling, customer servicing and drowning in a sea of spreadsheets as the metal inventory and customer base expanded on demand. It was time to put down the stapler, brush off the swarf, and move to the next stage.
Thankfully, the days of frantically scrambling around in dark corners of the warehouse are behind us. We eventually invested in fancy new sawing machines and spent an inordinate (and probably unhealthy) amount of time thinking about new packaging. We moved to larger premises and new staff joined. We are still, nevertheless, a family run business and take a lot of pride in continuing to improve our service. Our main company ethos dwells on treating our customers with respect.
We place a huge emphasis on good, friendly and fair customer service. Our complete lack of quibble is our main strong point. This helps us enjoy our work as we create many close, working relationships with clients who always come back to us for their project needs. We are proud to supply an eclectic mix of long term customers including telescope makers, conceptual artists, Formula 1 drivers, rocket car makers, mole-catchers (don’t ask), dalek makers (don’t ask) and of course, plenty of shed-dwelling hobbyists.
We aim to expand our current metals menu, introducing more of the yellow metals to our inventory. Brass is one of our most requested alloys and we plan to introduce a greater product range in the coming months.
Saws, saws and more saws. We need to turn those big lumps of metal into small lumps of metal. As our business grows, investing in bigger and better cutting machines will allow us get those orders to your door quicker.
Continuing to improve our delivery packaging is essential. Our current packaging solutions have worked very well for us over the last few years but experience has taught us that as the ecommerce markets grow, there is a trend for courier service providers to become ever more chaotic with their package handling. Bolstering our delivery cartons for our more delicate stock such as fine wall tubes and thin sheet metals is therefore always an ongoing project.
We place great importance in technological innovation. The metals industry hasn’t always been one of the leading lights of IT advancement but we feel our innovation in the small quantity metals market is certainly one of our strong points. Constant improvements to our own ‘homemade’ system software will help us expand our inventory and market scope while maintaining our strong customer service standards.