Our Rangemaster Visit - A Glimpse of Great British Manufacturing

As range cooker specialists one of our favourite things to do is to take a look around one of the factories which produce the products we sell sell. The directors of Rangecookers.co.uk, both with degrees in industrial design, were recently given a tour of the Aga-Rangemaster factory in Leamington Spa, where this impressive manufacturer build Rangemaster, Falcon and Mercury ranges.

British Manufacturing Heritage

There is a cynical view that there is no manufacturing in the UK any more, and whilst it is true that much has been moved abroad, it is good to know that companies like Aga Rangemaster (and GDHA in Merseyside) are still in the business of fully manufacturing cookers for the domestic and export markets, right here in the UK. Our tour of 14,896 square metre the factory begins with the goods-in bay where the raw material comes in - towering columns made up from sheets of mild and stainless steel ready for the huge hydraulic presses and punches which form them into the chassis, oven cavities, panels, doors and hotplates which make up the broad range of over 1000 SKUs or individual products. We follow the path of these parts through the transparent-walled welding bays - an amazing, mostly automated area where robotic arms elegantly manoeuvre the parts into position and efficiently weld them together - and on to the highly efficient enamelling process. Here, vitreous enamel compounds in powder form are electro-statically applied to the various parts before being baked at extremely high temperature to form a tough glass finish in black (for oven cavities, trays and gas hotplates) or one of twenty or so colours used throughout the product range. Some of the colours are not suitable for enamel (metallic or matt finishes), and these are applied as lacquered paint finishes nearby. Some of these clever processes have been developed by and are unique to this factory, with cost-saving always in mind but never at the expense of the integrity of the product or the reputation of the brands.

Rangemaster Kitchener Production

From sheet steel to final assembly - some Rangemaster Kitcheners are assembled before lining up for final checking and packaging

Built to Order Range Cookers

Aga-Rangemaster build their cookers to order, producing over 60,000 Rangemaster cookers alone in 2012, and as we move into the massive assembly area we are shown the lists of products being built that day - gas, dual fuel and electric cookers in a dazzling variety of sizes, styles and colours. Each raw chassis is allocated a computerised code so that the workers along the length of each cooker’s journey know which of the many gas and electrical components to fit. The cookers are moved along on long platforms of steel rollers whilst internal fittings and then external body parts are added by teams of highly trained operatives, culminating in final electrical and gas pressure testing before being carefully packed ready for storage and dispatch by the company’s own delivery teams direct to the customer or supplier. A similar story for the induction and ceramic models, which are built on the floor above in the more refined conditions demanded by the components and materials involved.

Mercury Induction Assembly

A selection of Mercury 1200 Induction ranges await final assembly of doors and side panels. Note the heavy-duty oven shelves

Three-brand Build Structure

Along the way, we see that although the three brands being produced all share the same basic underpinnings, the nature of the build will change. If you have ordered a Falcon or Mercury, these are built using heavier gauge steel and more powerful components. Our guide used an automotive metaphor to explain the difference in approach: “If Rangemaster is the Ford, then Falcon is BMW and Mercury the Morgan.”, referring to the Mercury’s more labour intensive hand-built control panel and hand-welded door construction.

It is inspiring to see such an industry thriving in the UK (with over 500 staff at the Leamington site), and there is no doubt that seeing what goes into these cooking appliances definitely helps when explaining the benefits of a particular cooker or brand to our customers. I recently responded to an Amazon forum post which was a response to someone’s request for endorsement of a Rangemaster cooker, but the poster offered the opinion that all cookers in the UK were in fact made cheaply in Italy or China and only badged-up here by lazy-minded brands trading under false pretences. I was confidently able to correct this over-cynical impression, and was very pleased to do so having witnessed the full manufacturing process on such a grand scale. AGA-Rangemaster, like their competitor GDHA who build Stoves and Belling ranges in Merseyside, is one of the jewels in the crown of British manufacturing, and long may it be so.

click_here_buttonto see all Rangemaster cookers, or click for Falcon and Mercury