The Group’s long history and success has been driven by passion, ambition, professionalism, innovation and outstanding customer service through manufacturing and distribution operations in the UK and Europe. Following a significant strategic restructure in 2015, Shepherd Group is purely focused on its flagship business, Portakabin, Europe’s market-leading modular building innovator.
Employing more than 1,750 people across seven European countries, Portakabin creates hospitals, schools, laboratories, universities and factories for every need. As the pioneers of modular construction, Portakabin can deliver permanent-quality buildings of any size, for sale or hire, to fulfil any application, up to 70% faster than using traditional construction, delivering on time and on budget.
Portakabin embodies the values of Shepherd Group and its family shareholders; Visionary Stewardship, Integrity & Respect and Pride in Quality.
After the end of the war, the chance to expand contracting operations was seized, both by opening new offices and acquiring existing local companies in new areas.
The strategy was successful and the company continued to expand under the direction of four of Frederick Welton’s sons: Peter (later Sir Peter), Donald, Michael and Colin. Other substantial operations such as Shepherd Building Service, Shepherd Homes, Shepherd Engineering Services, Shepherd Development Co and Mechplant took on major roles of their own.
Experience in handling cement in bulk on sites led to the formation of Portasilo Ltd in 1953, to design and manufacture portable cement silos. Portasilo would go on to become the UK’s leading supplier of portable cement silos, and also offered customised bulk handling operations for major companies. But it was an entirely new product that dominated Portasilo’s sales by the early 1970s. This was the Portaloo portable toilet unit (originally called Portablu), launched in 1966. Very quickly the product dominated the UK market, manufacturing capacity had to be expanded at Huntington and a separate Portaloo division was formed in 1971. Portasilo’s innovative streak continued with the introduction of the Portastor range of compact and secure storage systems in 1974. New products were under constant development.
With a growing awareness of the inadequacy of building site accommodation, a new type of unit was developed with telescopic legs. Portasilo accommodation was built to a high standard, could be positioned easily, and moved quickly to a new site. These Portakabin units were immediately marketed outside the Shepherd business, and indeed outside the construction industry, and they rapidly became famous.
Initially, these revolutionary cabins were made by Shepherd Woodwork but a new company, Portakabin, was soon formed and a purpose-built manufacturing facility developed at Huntington in York.
As Shepherd Group celebrated its 125th anniversary it took one of the most significant strategic decisions in its long history.
It followed a thorough review of its operating companies, their strengths and their weaknesses, looking at ways to secure their future and the jobs of the people who work in them by providing a platform for growth.
The outcome was a decision to focus future investment on significant sustainable development opportunities such as the continued UK and European expansion of its Portakabin operation.
At the same time, the Shepherd Group Board recognised that the Group’s construction-related businesses needed scale in order to capitalise on their full potential and the market opportunities arising out of their acknowledged technical capability.
The aim was to ensure the best possible future opportunity for all the businesses resulting in strategic decision to sell Shepherd Construction, Shepherd Engineering Services, Shepherd Facilities Management and Shepherd Homes to organisations better able to build on their achievements. The final element of this review was the wind down of the Portasilo and Portastor businesses which concluded in 2019.
Shepherd Group agreed to sell its Shepherd Homes business to Galliford Try who would add it to their existing house building business, Linden Homes.
The transaction represented an exciting opportunity for both the business and its employees for the long-term given that growth and continuing success in the homes market demands ongoing large-scale capital investment which it was felt would be better achieved with a Group which has significant scale in the housing sector as well as a desire to grow its presence in the North.
On 1 September 2015 Shepherd Group completed the sale of two of its remaining Built Environment businesses to Wates Group - the interests involved were Shepherd Engineering Services and Shepherd FM, its facilities management company. In addition to this, Wates Group also acquired a significant number of contracts and frameworks from Shepherd Construction Limited.
Today, the Shepherd Group continues to pursue the Group Board’s strategy of focusing future investment on the areas of the Group with significant sustainable development opportunity, its successful Portakabin business being the main benefactor of the strategy. Further UK and European expansion of Portakabin is planned in the years ahead.
Shepherd Group remains one of the largest wholly family-owned private companies in the UK. Its essential character as a family business remains strong.