Rollem began life as a brass foundry in High Green, 84 years ago.
It’s founder, Joseph Mellor, gave the company his name – but in reverse – and started to build up a business making components for other firms.
Although Rollem continued to run a sub-contracting business for a number of years, it rapidly discovered where its future really lay when a local printer approached Joseph Mellor.
The printer needed to perforate some of his output and wondered whether Mellor could make a machine to do it. Joseph said ‘Yes’ and designed and made a machine.
By the late 1930s, perforating machines had become the company’s main line of business – to be joined later by slitting machines and punches.
Life had some downs for Rollem. The company’s first factory burnt to the ground in 1942 – not through enemy action, but because the cinema next door caught fire.
The company moved to Ecclesfield and by the 1950s had been acquired by Sheffield-based marking machinery manufacturers Edward Pryor.
With finances looking none too happy, Pryor’s sent in design engineer Jim Hill to see if he could turn around the company, which had just six employees at the time.
Hill made a start, but the company was still £10 million in the red in the mid-’50s when Pryor cut its losses and Hill demonstrated his confidence in Rollem’s future by acquiring the company.
Rollem’s fortunes did, indeed, improve. By the 1960s the company was well enough advanced and known to start protecting its inventions against imitators by taking out patents.
Then, in 2006 the company was acquired by its management team – managing director Stuart Murphy, who joined Rollem in 1999, and director Colin Pears, who started with Rollem straight from school in 1979.
Their acquisition has sparked a new drive for growth, backed by bankers HSBC.
The foundations for accelerated growth, at what is now a 30-employee firm with a £2 million turnover, were laid earlier this year when the company moved from what had become exceedingly cramped premises at Ecclesfield to Tankersley in a deal involving Aldi.
The German low cost supermarket group was keen to acquire a site in Ecclesfield and, with HSBC’s help, Rollem was able to move factory while retaining ownership of the Ecclesfield site and redeveloping it for Aldi to occupy.
“If we had remained in Ecclesfield, our turnover would have stayed at £2 million,” says Stuart Murphy.
“Moving to this factory will enable us to increase that to £10 million. Since we have moved, we have taken on two apprentices and our aspiration is to have near to 40 people here by the end of next year.”