Gooch and Housego Case Study

Gooch & Housego is a key supplier of critical components to the world's major optical and laser system manufacturers, as well as a leading supplier to global defence and aerospace industries. Now an international award-winning company with six manufacturing facilities around the world, including its Somerset headquarters, it is world-renowned as an innovative manufacturer of optical components and systems. 

It is vital for Gooch & Housego to employ a highly-skilled and specialised workforce, many of whom have been found in Somerset. Among the many benefits the staff appreciate is the beauty of the county and the quality of life. During World War II young Archie Gooch and Les Housego were evacuated from London to Ilminster, Somerset, as employees of Standard Telephones and Cables (STC). STC’s products were vital for the war effort, and manufacturing was relocated from Greenwich to Ilminster to escape the blitz. 
 
In Ilminster STC took over what is now Swanmead School and converted it into a factory manufacturing quartz crystals that were used in radio communication. As luck would have it they both met local girls, married them and settled into Somerset life.  In 1948 the two young men set up Gooch & Housego in a loft in Ilminster town centre where they set out to make scientific and crystal optics. Their determination to specialise in high quality optics for a discerning market proved to be a firm foundation for the business of today, which still applies the same principles. However, in the early days times were hard and work was sometimes scarce, so on occasions they were known to turn their hands to manufacturing picture frames and ashtrays to make ends meet.
 
As the company grew, it needed larger premises and moved into part of Cornhill, gradually taking over more and more of the building until it bought the entire property a few years later. In 1994 more space was needed and the company acquired Ilminster’s former Magistrates’ Court building, which was converted into offices. 
 
Gooch & Housego expanded into international markets with operations in California, Ohio, Florida, Hong Kong, and Germany, as well as a UK facility in Torquay and the original headquarters in Ilminster. 
 
By 2007 it was obvious that Gooch & Housego needed a state-of-the-art facility with clean rooms and equipment that matched the expectations of their customers. It is especially fitting that the company purchased the old Clarks’ building, which it transformed in a £10 million refurbishment into a world-class optics manufacturing facility.
 
Gooch & Housego has a reputation for world leading design, development and manufacturing expertise across a broad, complementary range of optical technologies. The innovative Ilminsterbased company is regarded as a world leader in many of the fields in which it operates. 
 
Having been in Somerset for over 60 years Gooch & Housego is well-established in the community, and has always collaborated with local schools, colleges and universities to have a flow of excellent craftsmen, skilled engineers and scientists. The company is proud to offer an excellent apprenticeship scheme, especially in the difficult global financial climate. 
 
According to Terry Scribbins, COO, “People are central to our success. We are fortunate to have a skilled local workforce and being located in Somerset is an advantage when it comes to recruiting people from outside the region.”
 
In addition to commercial success and worldwide recognition in the relevant industries, Gooch & Housego’s successes have been recognised at home in the two Queen’s Awards that they have received – one in 1994 for Technological Advancement, and the other in 2006 for International Trade. In 2009 Gooch & Housego was one of six finalists in the West of England Business of Year Award, run by PricewaterhouseCoopers. 
 
Niki Phelps, marketing and communications manager, says “Like most companies 2009 was a very tough year for Gooch & Housego. We have come through difficult times, but thanks to our innovative products and our global presence we are now benefitting from a recovery in our core markets as well as winning new business.”  
 
Gareth Jones, CEO, summarised Gooch & Housego’s outlook, “We have been in Somerset for over 60 years. It is a beautiful part of the world and a good place to do business”