As we prepare our marketing campaign for the Spring, I was asked to pick out some photos from the early years, as we are celebrating our 20 year anniversary of The Reach & Wash System and my involvement with the Company.
The photographs took me right back to 1997, when we were at the Cleaning Show preparing for the launch.
Craig Mawlam trading as Over The Top Ltd, had developed a truck mounted state of the art 5 stage water treatment system to produce pure water, complete with a 1,000 litre holding tank and delivery pumps to feed two waterfed aluminum Tucker poles.
Craig had spent the previous year fine tuning the prototype system, and was slowly introducing it to his window cleaning customers. The building owners welcomed it with open arms from a health and safety point of view; not using ladders anymore – working from the safety of the ground with poles, but were a little skeptical of how the windows were going to dry, as the windows had been washed with pure water and rinsed and not squeegeed dry.
When I learnt from Craig that two people cleaning with pure water using waterfed poles could clean as many windows as six using traditional methods with a squeegee whilst working from a ladder, the light went on for me as a young eager salesman! To find a product that effectively meant a saving of 75% on labour with all the added Health and Safety benefits was a salesman’s dream. I decided this was too big an opportunity to pass me by, so I left my job in agricultural sales – a well-paid job with a nice company car in an industry I had been involved in for most of my childhood and early adult working life, to join a fledgling manufacturing company. My new role was to set up the sales and distribution channels for this ‘as yet untested by the market’ window cleaning product.
My family, friends, colleagues and customers were all surprised to learn of my decision to change from what I knew to a totally different industry selling window cleaning equipment!
I didn’t let this worry me too much, as I was very excited at the prospect of educating window cleaners and cleaning companies, of the benefits of cleaning with Reach & Wash® System.
Tommy Tucker, the Chairman of Tucker Manufacturing from the USA came over to help us launch the Reach & Wash System at the Cleaning Show, and was suitably impressed with this futuristic looking technical piece of equipment. He saw an opportunity to supply their waterfed poles as part of the system.
I remember Tommy telling me on the opening morning of the show that he did not think that window cleaners would make such an investment in a van completely fitted out with a Reach and Wash system because of the initial cost. He thought that the prospective customers would only be interested in buying the waterfed poles and maybe a simple low cost inline filter and soap dispenser..
Clearly Tommy Tucker did not share the vision that Craig and I had, of window cleaners operating from self-contained vans.
We came out of the show with an overwhelming amount of interest in the system. The challenge we had was convincing companies and individual window cleaners, that this method was in fact better than traditional methods, and that they were able to clean all external areas, to include the window frames, cladding and signage as a complete external cleaning solution, and that the Reach & Wash system was even a replacement to hiring expensive access equipment for the high-level cleaning
The early pioneering years were hard work, with many thousands of demonstrations, but the time spent was instrumental in changing the window cleaning industry. Gradually the change spread from roots in the UK, as we rolled out the business model through a network of Distributors in mainland Europe and then further afield in other continents. We have seen lots of growth and changes in the company, with the initial transition from a light fabrication assembly business, to full on UK manufacturing almost all our products in house.
The stand out milestones in my mind since the launch have been the introduction of composite poles in 1998, introducing the first hot water system in 2001, winning the innovation award with our third range of waterfed poles in 2010, and now the next generation of pure water cleaning systems – the ZERO, which allows window cleaners to work faster on infrequent cleans
We have moved the business twice since the launch in 1997, and now we are in our third year at our 24,000 sq.ft. manufacturing facility in Swindon, Wiltshire. It has been very rewarding to see the company expansion with long standing customers, and seeing the Distributor network grow.
We now have a second generation of family members working within the Company, they all share the same enthusiasm and vision for the future, as Craig and I did all those years ago.
We strongly believe that the success of our products has been down to offering a practical, efficient and safe method of working, whilst embracing the principle of quality without compromise.
2017 is going to be another milestone year for us, as we Launch our 4th generation of waterfed poles and Reach & Wash® Support Services – a new division of Ionic Systems which provides window cleaners and Facility Management service companies the ability to hire the latest technology to assist them on external building cleaning projects.
by Reuben Reynolds