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Excludes some replacement parts
Hythe has become our home
When a newly built industrial unit in the seaside town of Hythe, Kent, became available in 1973, the company, now under the leadership of Managing Director John Fieldwick, moved in its entirety from a collection of ram-shackled rooms in a large private house just outside Canterbury, to a purpose-built single story unit. This move to Hythe enabled the manufacturing processes to be streamlined as demand for the lightweight folding table greatly increased.
For the last 50 years, the business has operated out of Range Road, Hythe. Currently, under the leadership of John's son, Andrew, the company is situated in an enviable position, just a few yards from Fisherman’s Beach and the busy Strait of Dover which forms part of the English Channel. Here we can enjoy fresh sea air and far-reaching views across to France and around the bay to Dungeness.
It’s certainly not your standard location to find a manufacturing company.
Our premises have expanded ten-fold over the years, with the acquisition of several neighbouring properties. This has included the redevelopment and improvement of the company's existing site, with extensive construction and extensions, plus the development of adjacent land. As the company has grown in turnover, we have been able to increase our manufacturing space and offices to ensure we can work effectively and efficiently, not only making our ever-increasing range of furniture but also servicing our customer’s requirements and expectations.
What we do
If there are three words that sum up Gopak these are simply LIGHTWEIGHT.. ALUMINIUM.. FOLDING
Folding tables with the same iconic twin-leg design that was conceived in the 1960s continue to be the mainstay of our manufacturing operations. But it is no longer only folding tables that leave our factory door.
Stacking benches complement our folding tables, making cost-effective and efficient seating for school dining halls and youth organisations. Trolleys have been specifically designed to store and transport folding tables, making them a great accessory for busy organisations that put up and take down tables on a daily basis.
Acquiring the design and goodwill for a lightweight staging system in 2006, known as "Ultralight", we have significantly grown and developed this product range, introducing improvements to the design and construction of the staging components.
Adding performance staging to our portfolio has created opportunities to promote this clever staging solution to markets not only in the UK but also further afield.
The beauty of this stage is its lightness of weight and simplicity of assembly and disassembly. Constructed from aluminium like all other Gopak products, the folding stage is ideal for any organisation needing a good quality, easy-to-use temporary stage that takes up minimum space for storage.
Having made furniture that folds for the last five decades, a new manufacturing technique was introduced in 2011 allowing the Gopak team to offer a more diverse range of furniture, that can still be shipped flat pack but once assembled becomes a fixed leg product. Called Enviro because of its great environmental credentials and recyclable attributes, we offer a vast array of choices within this range of tables and benches to appeal to an ever-broadening marketplace, including education, business and events for both inside and outdoor use. From Early Years to further education and beyond, you will find an Enviro product to meet your needs.
Manufacturing the vast majority of items to order, enables us to offer all ranges of tables and benches in an unrivalled choice of colour options and sizes. We work on short lead times and hold a small number of tables in stock for next day. We always do our best not to disappoint any customers and aim to despatch orders as quickly as possible.
|1954||P S Le Shepherd Limited was incorporated|
|1955||The company relocated to Canterbury, Kent|
|1959||A heavy folding table with a steel pin leg was designed|
|1966||The first lightweight folding tables were made and sold to schools|
|1968||The company name was changed to Gopak Limited|
|1972||John Fieldwick was appointed Managing Director|
|1973||The company relocated to the coastal town of Hythe Kent|
|1977||The premises were extended as sales grew|
|1978||Agreements were established to supply Local Authorities throughout the UK|
|1988||Achieved ISO9001 for Quality Management System accreditation|
|1990||Complementary UK-sourced furniture was added to our range|
|1993||A significant design update was introduced making the Contour folding table and bench range the go-to furniture for school dining|
|Andrew Fieldwick joined the company as Managing Director Designate|
|A polyurethane-edged folding table launched and named Premier|
|The development of table storage trolleys was completed|
|An alternative folding mechanism called posi-lock was designed|
|Demolished original unit purchased in 1973 and redeveloped to significantly increase m2|
|Achieved Investors in People accreditation|
|John Fieldwick retired and his son Andrew took over the role of Managing Director|
|Gopak acquired the goodwill of Ultralight Staging Systems|
|Purchased and demolished a neighbouring unit to create a large extension to our existing site|
|Unit 1 was completed to accommodate the new Enviro framing process and house two automated machine centres|
|Following a year of development and testing an ERP system was implemented|
|A celebration of our 60th birthday was held for all staff at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park|
|2017||An automated robot was installed to manipulate and produce table legs|
|2020||The COVID-19 pandemic struck and the company worked hard to retain all staff and offer support during this difficult period|
|2023||Now fully operating exceeding pre-pandemic levels, with a team of 37 employees|
|2024||This year will mark 70 years since our incorporation|
Sales & Marketing Director
Business Development Manager
Operations Support Manager
Even when we were a start-up business in the 1950s, the ethos and philosophy of the company was to make furniture that was built to last, provide value for money and answered the need for space-saving solutions. Nothing has changed decades on.
With the consistent and steady growth of the business, through the development of innovative products and continual investment, we have been able to achieve our goal of manufacturing excellence. From the outset, we have quietly embraced sustainability and have been practising, without realising it, circularity for years. (The term didn’t exist in 1954!)
By acting responsibly, making the right choices during product development and sensible decisions regarding production and operational processes, we have been able to provide positive outcomes for our customers, our employees and the wider community. Through our continuous improvement programme, we have implemented Quality, Environment and Social Responsibility systems and policies, with QMS and EMS being accredited to the relevant standard.
Most furniture produced around the world is manufactured using steel, wood or plastics which require “dirty” processes including welding, sawing, painting and plating. By utilising mill-finished aluminium as the core material in our product design, we are able to operate a clean working environment, limiting emissions and dust while ensuring safe and healthy conditions for our team.
As quoted in the UK’s Government 2021 consultation paper for Waste Prevention Programme “Waste prevention has huge potential; products and materials need not become waste. Products can be designed to support longer product lifetime and enable re-use, repair and remanufacture.”
Have you ever been guilty of buying an item of furniture that has a short shelf life? Think of the energy that goes into making that furniture which may well end up in a landfill a couple of years down the line. Making products that will last and have unrivalled longevity is built into the products we produce. If, at the end of their useful life, they need to be disposed of, many elements of the product are 100% recyclable; Aluminium, our key component, is an infinitely recyclable material. We believe in the phrase: Buy well, buy once. A Gopak table will last far longer than you would expect.
Gopak furniture is fit for purpose and covered by the relevant British Standards including BS EN 1729: Parts 1 & 2 for furniture used in education and BS EN 581 Parts 1 & 3 for outdoor furniture.
To keep control of our processes and reduce wastage while offering an unrivalled choice of permutations of product, we manufacture to order. This provides enormous efficiencies; no dead stock of raw materials that could end up being scrapped; no finished product that no one buys.
Our inventory is effectively managed, with materials where possible being sourced locally. Just in time is practiced on materials such as laminate which is only purchased when a specific colour is required to fulfil customer orders.
During our product development process, any potential product idea must be designed so it can be shipped either folded or flat-packed. This enables us to tap into a shared national carrier network which not only ensures deliveries are made promptly after completion, (in the main next day after despatch) but we do not have the complication, cost or potential delivery delay of having to manage our own fleet. With a national carrier, we do not need to concern ourselves with routing or geographical challenges and are therefore able to deliver goods efficiently and effectively with a minimised impact on carbon emissions.
It is nearly impossible to make something without there being an element of waste somewhere in the production cycle. Strict recycling waste streams have been adopted for a large proportion of our waste and we have successfully removed any instances of waste going to landfill. Packaging resulting from goods inward which includes cardboard and polythene, both of which are baled for transit are sent for recycling. Clean aluminium off-cuts are collected in a specific skip which is accumulated and then sent for recycling. All waste wood (pallets that cannot be recycled) is collated and collected by a wood recycling scheme. Changing the method for wood recycling has reduced the number of skips used for general waste dramatically which is collected by a waste carrier who guarantees zero waste to landfill.
For many years our staff drinks dispensing machine only issued plastic cups. Schemes for the recycling of plastic cups have come and gone illustrating the fragility of the UK's commitment to recycling. As soon as we were able, we switched to paper cups and these were sent for recycling through the National Cup Recycling Scheme. Unfortunately, this scheme failed and is no longer available. In 2023 we switched to a drinks vending machine which can dispense into your own cup. A cold water dispenser has also been provided to allow staff to fill up their own reusable water bottles. Since the introduction of the new drinks dispenser, our cup waste has reduced dramatically.
Minimising our carbon footprint is embedded in our day-to-day practices.
These include but are not limited to:
• Deliveries made using a carrier network leading to geographical delivery efficiencies along with negating the need for a fleet of own
• Installation of LED lighting across our premises reducing both electricity usage and cost.
• Investment in solar photovoltaics (PV) panels was first undertaken in 2012 and a further 250 panels were installed in July 2022 -
leading to a considerable reduction in both electricity usage and cost. (47% energy independence in summer months - 30% reduction
in KwH usage.
• A companywide “turn off the lights” policy.
• 95% of employees live locally with no one travelling further than 15 miles to work.
• The Bike2Work scheme is available to everyone to encourage employees to cycle to work.
• All correspondence and communication conducted electronically.
• Reduction in travel costs and emissions by sales personnel working remotely
• Communicate goals and targets externally through our Environmental Policy.
• Measure progress and successes.
• Improve existing processes and practices by reporting energy usage to the whole team for greater visibility.
• Champion employee engagement and empowerment.
• Identify and build a sustainability strategy that fits our business.
Gopak is already well into its sustainable journey having successfully completed infrastructure upgrades. We will continue our commitment to identify and deliver operational efficiencies, encourage changes in employee behaviours and measure and communicate energy usage including wastage and savings. Our aim is to continue to produce products that have a long shelf life, are designed and made using recycled content, are packaged using packaging with a minimum 30% recycled content while operating clean manufacturing processes.
How it all started
A young designer, fresh from service in the Navy, started turning his clever ideas into reality in a garden shed in the quiet village of Mayfield, East Sussex in the late 1940s.. Peter Le Fleming Shepherd (1922 – 2018), an innovator for his entire life, developed an enthusiasm for creating furniture which could fold, early on in his career.
Initially, Peter made innovative small pieces of furniture that were sold primarily through high-end retailers such as Heal’s and Liberty of London. In the early 1960’s he made a significant breakthrough when he designed a heavy plywood folding table with a pin leg. Initially, this was sold to primary and secondary schools in the south of England for their dining halls.
The table was constructed using unique techniques that negated the need for screws, fixings or welding. These processes remain to this day, a foundation on which we base our manufacturing techniques, as we continue to sensitively embrace our environmental responsibilities and create a clean and safe workplace for all.
A lightweight version of the original table followed. This was triggered by a change in responsibilities within schools. The setting up of the lunchtime service had traditionally been undertaken by the school caretaker. However, in the early 1960s, this responsibility moved to the catering staff who required furniture that was lightweight and portable. The Gopak aluminium framed folding table was met with much enthusiasm. The tables were easy to carry, simple to fold and unfold and could therefore be quickly deployed in the school hall, turning the space into a dining room with minimum effort and limited time and then easily cleared away after lunch for the next school activity.
This was a turning point for the company, as this innovative and iconic design became the go-to folding table for schools and community organisations nationwide, and from there, the Gopak brand became a household name.