About Willow

Our Heritage

Good Governance at Willow

Governance Statements

Our People

Our Facilities




Strategic Planning Model

Functions and Departments

Our Operating Systems

Our Achievements


Awards and Recognition

Family Owned and Australian Made

Our Heritage

On 29th July, 1887 Ralph and Richard Wilson began building metal working machinery and tools. They worked in a shed at the rear of their family home in Flemington, Victoria, using a lathe, straight edge, cold chisel, hammer and file.

Their father had emigrated from England and married in Melbourne in 1861 at the St.James Old Cathedral. The son of an English lead miner, he had been trained as a draper in Durham before he “ran away to sea”. Subsequently he settled in Victoria where he worked as a miner and also as a fetler on the Avoca railway line.

Ralph and Richard formally entered into partnership as WILSON BROS. in 1889 to produce tinned plate tea and biscuit canisters. These were manufactured in the back shed at home until 1893 when premises at Wilson’s Lane, off Buncle Street, North Melbourne were purchased, funded by a loan of £70 from their father. Another brother, Joseph, and a cousin, John Henry, helped their seniors in the business.

At the new premises the partnership diversified into jams, jellies, preserves and sauces. Seville marmalade, anchovy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and tomato sauce were leading products. The jams were marketed under the trade mark “PENGUIN”, a trade name still registered and applied today, a century later, to insulated plastic coolers.

Pioneer manufacturers in those days waged a war of savage competition. Among men of limited capital, only those with an immense appetite for work and an inviolable capacity for frugal living made the grade. A 16 or 18 hour day was nothing unusual. Family legend has it that the brothers often offset the loss of production on a strictly observed Sabbath by beginning Monday’s work at one minute after midnight.

It would have taken more than the great depression of the early 1890s to put such men out of business. The proprietors survived through those desperate times, which saw the burst of the great land boom and the bank failures, which followed.

They persevered with their “PENGUIN” jam and under the guidance of Ralph, who had served his apprenticeship as a mechanical engineer, the little factory gradually expanded its can making and metal working plant.

At a very early stage, the Wilson brothers began experimental tin printing on a converted letterpress flatbed machine; they may have been the first to venture into that field. They imported a Mann flatbed lithographic machine from England in 1902.

Ralph was evidently a man of exceptional inventive gifts combined with practical ingenuity. Applying himself to the technical problems of can fabrication, he designed and built by hand an extraordinary range of presses and machines, some of which are still useful today.

The 1890s were also the years of the great bicycle boom, and the partnership produced bicycle repair outfits to complement their can work.

Predatory price discounting by large food preserving companies with more mechanized equipment and great financial resources forced the partnership out of foodstuffs. Fortunately however, the business had a sound foundation in metal can work, particularly in square work and printing, and thus was able to prosper and to afford larger premises nearby in Buncle Street, North Melbourne in 1900.

Richard Wilson retired from business in 1906 and the partnership was dissolved. Ralph Wilson continued as sole proprietor until 1915 when the business was incorporated as Wilson Bros. Pty. Ltd.

During the first World War (1914 to 1918) the Company’s output was devoted to munitions and essential services packaging. Wearied by decades of hard work and by the intrusion of bureaucrats both during and after World War 1, the founder agreed to the introduction of new methods and product ranges to rejuvenate the faltering business. In 1922 the plant was modernized and extended.

The first domestic tin ware had been produced in 1910 – handmade by tinsmiths. In 1924, following the success of the first range of printed metal kitchenware decorated with the traditional Willow pattern design, the trade mark of WILLOW was registered and applied to the whole kitchenware range – whether decorated or not.

Products of the time included: sheets of printed tin plate tiles, candlesticks, kerosene pumps, scoops, letter boxes, milk skimmers, pannikins, ice chest drip trays, bird cage bottoms, ashpans, billies, boilers, basins, canisters, butter coolers, Coolgardie safes and baking pans.

In 1930 Ralph, the founder, died. The Firm came under the leadership of his only son, Ralph, who had worked to rebuild and improve the procedures of the tiring business during the 1920’s – its first re-equipment. Prior to joining his father’s business, Ralph III had worked as a farm labourer for his Uncle Richard, then as a wharf labourer, a policeman during the general strike and a draper’s assistant in Melbourne’s Flinders Lane.

The Company was in the midst of its second economic crisis – the Great Depression. However, its finances had been conservatively structured (due no doubt to the original partners’ observations of the financial tragedies of the 1890s which resulted in an ingrained suspicion of banks acting hastily to foreclose as mortgagees), and the Firm was able to survive once again.

At that time the North Melbourne staff was “one week on, one week off”; they were given the choice of being paid in cash or kitchenware, which they hawked on their “week-off” for an extra margin.

The depression years saw the loss of the Company’ Sydney market, due to cut-throat pricing by Sydney competitors. Ralph’s response was the brave venture, backed by the National Bank of Australasia, to start a factory there, for there was insufficient work at North Melbourne to sustain the employment of his people. Factory hands travelled in their delivery vans to take up lodgings in Sydney and to commence production at leased premises in Rosebery in 1932.

The market for the Company’s products was gradually recovered and enlarged. In 1936, a two acre site was purchased at Alexandria, Sydney, and a modern factory was built by the staff and fully commissioned in 1939.

During the second World War the factories almost exclusively produced munitions, working two shifts. They mainly made mess tins, rocket cylinder covers, small arms ammunition boxes, gas mask respirator cylinders and soldier’s cake tins. The Firm designed and manufactured a new pack of small arms ammunition which was universally adopted by the British Commonwealth and the United States of America armed forces. A hot dip tinning plant was erected at North Melbourne to process the defence requirements.

Horse and lorry teams were reintroduced into the Company because of the war-time fuel rationing, and the horse drawn delivery teams became famous in Melbourne during and immediately after the war. Teams of 3 or 5 in hand, crossbred grey Percherons delivered regularly between the North Melbourne factory and the city bulk stores. The horse teams were disbanded in the interest of cost reduction in 1958.

Raw materials were rationed during the war and were in extremely short supply for years afterwards, making the supply of civil needs very difficult. A fire during the war had destroyed the stock of kitchenware finished goods, and this upset the calculations for conservation by rationing, with the result that many customers could not be supplied.

In 1956, after their father’s death, Ralph’s two sons, Ralph IV and David, became joint managing directors, and his widow Elizabeth Dorothy Wilson, M.B.E., O.A.M., became Chairman of Directors.

Government requirements for defence munitions ceased and, since can making work had not been solicited for 20 years, the Firm became dependant once again on the domestic market. However, the consumers’ needs had changed, and the equipment which had been adequate for munitions work in the 1940s was not suited to the new demands.

The second re-equipment of the business began in 1959. Modern printing equipment replaced the old, and the first plastic moulding machines were installed at North Melbourne. A vacuum forming machine produced baby baths and the first injection moulders were installed later that year.

Expansionary marketing strategies were applied. In addition to sales offices at the factory sites in Melbourne and Sydney, resident sales staff were engaged to service accounts from sales offices in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, and export activities began in earnest. (Orders had been supplied to New Zealand and South Africa in the 1920s and 1930s).

Sales of metal buckets, water cans, basins, tidies and baby baths – mainstays of the business – had been severely reduced due to early adoption of the new plastics technology by competitors.

Gradually, but over the next 20 years, strong influence in these markets returned to the Company as a range of plastic housewares products was developed to complement the metal range.

Despite the severe restrictions imposed by the “credit squeeze” of the 1960s and the punitive taxes imposed on private companies, the Firm began a decade of expansion, financed from its own resources. Dividends were either nominal or non-existent, and all surplus funds were ploughed back into the business.

In 1963 an acre of land was acquired adjacent to the Alexandria Sydney works. A modern canteen, raw materials store and a foam styrene moulding plant were installed to produce foam coolers, surf boards, wine racks and insulation for the range of WILLOW insulated jugs. The technology developed by the Company in this plant was exported to overseas licensees.

In 1964, in order to formalise the tradition of care for its people, the Firm introduced a superannuation plan. The benefits were made retrospective to each person’s date of commencement. The Firm was an industry leader in voluntarily providing this security for its people, many of whom were long service employees.

In 1965, the Company name became WILLOW WARE PTY. LTD. to be more closely associated with the brand name “WILLOW”.

In 1967, bulk warehouses in Melbourne and Sydney were leased to enable greater distribution throughout Australia. In 1970 the Sydney warehouse was destroyed by an arsonist. Two acres of land were purchased adjacent to the existing plant and a new warehouse was erected in 1971. Blow moulding equipment was introduced to supply plastic components for insulated jugs and coolers.

One of the product ranges then was barbecues, and a new division was developed in North Melbourne to produce a barbecue fuel from Yallourn brown coal. This was marketed under the registered trade mark, “HEAT BEADS”, for open grill barbecues.

The Company had commenced electronic data processing through an external bureau in 1965. This was as a replacement for accounting and invoicing machines and as a means of generating information. An in-house system was introduced in 1975 which, from painful beginnings, has developed into an major strength, providing meaningful and timely management information.

Although an exporter of kitchenware in the 1920s, serious overseas market development began in 1960. As well as exporting technology to overseas manufacturers by 1970, the Company exported housewares and leisureware regularly to over 50 countries in all continents, winning a Commonwealth Government Export Award in 1972.

Ralph V, son of the present proprietor, joined the firm in 1978.

During the 1980s, rationalisation of product range and manufacturing equipment occurred. This was the third major re-equipment of the business’s plant and procedures.

The market for many of the Company’s product ranges had changed. Some products were discontinued because of reduced consumer demand and others because of the high cost of production due to labour intensive manufacturing techniques. Decreased tariff protection and the importation of often inferior quality products made some manufacturing processes economically unsustainable.

As a result the Sydney hot dipped galvanising plant and the Melbourne lithographic and decorated canister plants were disposed of. The issue of these sales – the redeemed working capital, the factory space and the skilled staff – were redirected into new manufacturing ventures.

In 1985 the Company received an award form the Technology Transfer Council on behalf of the Commonwealth Government in conjunction with the New South Wales Government. The award recognised “commitment to striving for excellence by the implementation of a ‘Just in Time’ pilot programme”, at its works in Alexandria, New South Wales. In 1986 the Company received a similar award from the Technology Transfer Council on behalf of the Governments of the Commonwealth and Victoria for its works in North Melbourne, Victoria.

In 1985, the new microwave cooking technology drew the Company to extend it’s traditional Willow metal bakeware range by installing new equipment to produce a new plastic cooking range. This range, designed by the Company, received two Australian Design awards in 1987.

David Wilson and Elizabeth Dorothy Wilson retired from the firm in 1987. Ralph Wilson IV became sole proprietor.

New ranges of home storage products were introduced in 1986 and 1987 with outstanding success. With the microwave products they attracted both export sales and overseas manufacturers to produce under licence in the United States of America and in Europe. The Company received the award for “Australian Manufacturing Excellence (general merchandise)” from the Australian Retailers’ Association in 1987.

Since 1980 there was a significant and progressive decline in protective tarrifs for Australian manufacturers, and this, together with a strengthening of the A$ caused a massive increase in competition, particularly from low cost countries such as China and Thailand.

The company’s response to this situation was to rationalize it’s manufacturing and financial activities by selling it’s Sydney factory in 1989, moving it’s key leisureware manufacturing facility to the Melbourne factory, and selling remaining Sydney redundant plant, equipment and furniture at auction.

To survive when many other manufacturers did not, the company had no “sacred cows” in it’s divisions or properties. Only it’s ethic and determination to survive and succeed were inviolable.

During this period the company strengthened it’s market leadership position in bakeware, microwave cookware and food storage by acquiring the businesses of Bonco Bakeware (New Zealand) in 1987, Microwise Cookware in 1988 and Davis Plastics in 1993.

Ralph V was appointed CEO in 1995.

The company recognized that it needed to become still more productive and efficient in all areas of it’s operations, and proceeded with the implementation of a world best practice approach in modern business methodologies, including JIT, TQM, MRPII – Class A, ISO 9001 Quality Management System, 5 Star Safety and ISO 14001 Environmental Management.

In 2003 the company moved from North Melbourne to a new, purpose built manufacturing and distribution site at Tullamarine. This enabled the purchase of new injection and blow moulding machines, robotic equipment with mechanical handling of raw material servicing each machine, and the consequent adaption of automation throughout the plant, resulting in a more efficient and safer workplace.

In conjunction with becoming a more modern and efficient manufacturing organization the company strengthened it’s marketing and sales areas to assist in the provision of improved strategic direction. Product ranges have been rationalized or extended where relevant, allowing core competencies in business units to be developed to market leadership.

Commencing in 2005, the company has resourced and developed a new industrial sales channel, and very strong growth has been achieved in this area.

From 2005 to 2010 the company was involved in a social marketing campaign, linking with and financially supporting the Surf Life Saving Association. The campaign was a successful aid in invigorating brand awareness with the consumer in selected business units, whilst supporting a very important community program.

The company strives to continue to meet and exceed it’s customer requirements with world class manufacturing excellence.

Good Governance at Willow

At Willow, we define Good Governance as always doing the right thing, every time, ever-day, always.

The Board of Directors has adopted the principles of good governance as prescribed by the ISO 8000 Good Governance Principles. Policies and procedures have been implemented to ensure a culture of good governance is practiced to the benefit of shareholders, our people, customers, suppliers and the broader community.

There is a strong ethical business culture at Willow, practiced on a day-to-day basis. We have a documented Good Governance Model that covers more than 30 major policy items. The statements of Vision, Mission, Aspiration, Values and Style, as well as the strategic and corporate planning processes are integrated within this. There is also a Family Shareholder Governance charter.

The CEO delivers regular education, culture and governance sessions. We practice the maxim of walking-about and engaging with all our people – particularly those on the shop floor.

Willow’s Good Governance Model

The components of the Willow Good Governance Model are:

1. Good Governance Policies

2. Heritage

3. Culture & Values

4. Strategic Plans & Budgets

5. Business Systems

6. Key HR Policies

8. Safety Management System

9. Quality Management System

10. Environmental Management System

11. Risk Management

12. Compliance and

13. Corporate Social Responsibility

Governance Statements

Our Shareholder Expectations and Purpose

We are in business to:

  • Provide a strong return to our shareholders and be financially healthy.
  • Increase the worth of the Company and portfolio of brands.
  • Create and build a prosperous, vital, showcase housewares manufacturing business.
  • Demonstrate exemplary governance of broad policy to a moral and legal code.

Our Vision

This is our declaration for the future as a showcase Australian housewares manufacturer, with best practices, with best in-class products, providing a successful customer and consumer experience, every time.

Our Mission

Our mission is to be the best Australian housewares manufacturing company in the eyes of our people, our customers and consumers, and our shareholders.

We will achieve our shareholder expectations, purpose and mission through:

  • Moral courage and discipline.
  • Product leadership.
  • Disciplined operational excellence.
  • Cost leadership.
  • Category captaincy and
  • Developing our people.

Our Guiding Values

The values that guide our business are:

  • Zero harm in our safety.
  • Zero defects in our quality.
  • Environmental leadership in our industry.
  • Manufacturing and operational excellence.
  • Company-wide continuous improvement.
  • Systems thinking.
  • Consumer-first thinking and
  • Mutual respect.

Our Behaviours

The expected behaviours that underpin our values are:

  • Sense of urgency.
  • Consumer-first thinking.
  • Do the right thing, every time, every day.
  • Sharing bad news fast.
  • Honesty, openness and transparency.
  • Constructive feedback.
  • Disciplined work practices.
  • Taking personal responsibility.
  • Being accountable.
  • Learning from past experiences and
  • Understanding business rhythms.

Our Style

Our work style is demonstrated through our actions of:

  • Engendering a motivating environment.
  • Discipline, accountability and personal responsibility.
  • Urgency, willingness, energy and enthusiasm.
  • Hard work and determination.
  • Punctuality.
  • Good housekeeping practices and
  • Teamwork/One Willow.

We are intolerant of:

  • Poorly performing processes.
  • Poor communication.
  • Surprises that could otherwise have been foreseen or prevented.
  • Lateness and missed deadlines.
  • Drawing attention to yourself and
  • Bad manners.

Our Value Proposition To Our People

Willow is an innovative, successful and community-minded manufacturer. We provide our people with a challenging environment that will enable you, as an individual, to shape your future.

We offer you the opportunity to craft a career not just a job.

Our environment of trust and empowerment will ensure you achieve your optimum potential. At Willow, you are valued, rewarded and offered a work-life balance which will enrich the quality of your daily life.

Our Consumer Value Proposition

At Willow, we know what it means to be Australian, just as you do. We love our great Aussie lifestyle and understand how important it is to be able to enjoy life and the time we get to spend with our family and friends.

But we also know that finding the time for this is difficult – it’s not all beer and skittles! That’s why at Willow, we’ve been working hard for for more than 125 years developing indoor and outdoor product solutions to keep up with the needs of everyday Australians to help you live your life, your way.

Our Customer Value Proposition

Willow is a trusted Australian company that manufactures the majority of our products in Australia. We understand the local market and are well equipped to respond to changes in trends and demand; ensuring high service levels are maintained.

Our depth of range enables us to provide total category management, eliminating the need for multiple suppliers, whilst our competitive retail pricing and high quality product maximizes our customers’ margins.

Our Supplier Value Proposition

Willow is committed to manufacturing product solutions that helps Australians live their way of life. In our journey to achieve this goal we value the support and partnership that our suppliers provide.

We build partnerships with our suppliers that are collaborative, fair and mutually beneficial. We believe in sharing of information that enables our supply partners and us to continuously improve performance, measure performance and share the outcome of our performance.

Our relationship is performance driven and collaborative – it is not merely a transaction.

Our People

Our workforce comprises people working in both the office and shop floor. We have up to 200 people working at Willow, representing more than 20 nations.

Our longest serving person has been with the Company for more than 50 years and almost half (45%) of our people have completed 10 years of service or more.

We have a variety of skills and experience – covering Industrial Design, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Accounting and Finance, Human Resources, Manufacturing, Die setting, Fitters and Turners, Electricians and Toolmakers.

People Initiatives

We have undertaken considerable investment in our HR strategies and offer industry best practice in employee relations, examples being:

  • 1. Family values and practices in a trusted and professional environment.
  • 2. Upper quartile levels of remuneration for staff.
  • 3. Flexible work arrangements are considered and practiced.
  • 4. Superannuation established in 1964 and back paid to those employed at that time.
  • 5. Professional education and development.
  • 6. A long-term employment ethos.
  • 7. Staff 2 week bonus-leave program.
  • 8. Monthly Rostered Day Off (RDOs) for shop floor personnel.
  • 9. Early entitlement provision to Long Service Leave.
  • 10. Birthday and employment anniversary recognition programs.
  • 11. Staff attitude/morale surveys.
  • 12. Paid maternity leave scheme.
  • 13. Employees with more than 10 years-service get 7 weeks leave per annum.

Engagement with Our People

The following initiatives have been implemented to promote an harmonious workplace:

  • 1. Discount purchases of product.
  • 2. Active Wellness Program and CSR Committee.
  • 3. Service awards recognition.
  • 4. Employee barbecues celebrating:
    • a. Christmas break-up.
    • b. AFL Grand Final and the
    • c. Melbourne Cup.
  • 5. Hearing checks.
  • 6. Employee Assistance Program and
  • 7. Flu vaccination program.

The Willow Way

“The Willow Way” is an exciting concept that is being implemented to provide creative methods to communicate to all our people both in the office and on the shopfloor.

The goals of the program are to build pride, disseminate the aims and aspirations of the Company and provide a conduit that encourages the celebration of the successes and professionalism of our people.

Our Facilities

The Willow Factory in Tullamarine, Melbourne

Willow’s manufacturing site at Tullamarine was purpose built as a green-field world-class facility. The main facility comprises our professional offices, inwards goods, engineering, production and warehousing of 15,000 square metres, the distribution centre is a further 10,000 square metres, in all a total of 25,000 square metres.

We use blow moulding, injection moulding and expandable poly-styrene manufacturing processes comprising about 60 machines.

We provide full in-house design, marketing, sales, manufacturing, engineering, logistics and distribution competencies Australia wide and for our export markets.


Safety awareness and accident prevention are our first responsibility. This is taken seriously by everyone, whether they are in the office or on the shop-floor.

The safety message is delivered at formal in-house training sessions, through the monthly Willow News and at end-of-shift toolbox talks.

We received our first 5 Star grading with NSCA in 2004 and our initial AS 4801 Safety Management System accreditation through SAI Global in 2008.



The move to our new purpose-built site at Tullamarine has helped us commit to and achieve environmental leadership behaviours for our industry.

Formalised programs and KPIs are in place for the recycling of:

  • 1. Used postage stamps.
  • 2. Shrink wrap.
  • 3. LDPE and HDPE plastic lumps from purging and ABS styrene.
  • 4. Cardboard packaging.
  • 5. Scrap metal.
  • 6. Scrap pallets.
  • 7. Used printer cartridges, scrap and shredded paper and
  • 8. General recycling from our canteen.

Rejected products are recycled directly back into the production process. We received Environmental Management System accreditation through SAI Global in 2007.

Our environmental management plans include:

  • 1. Installation of a 250,000-litre water tank for rainwater harvesting to reduce our use of mains municipal water and keep our gardens healthy.
  • 2. Reduction in our levels of rejects and wastes generated during the manufacturing process.
  • 3. Beautification of our parks and gardens to reduce reflected heat in summer by 2 degrees and provide a pleasant environment to promote the wellness of our people.
  • 4. Continual environmental education programs for our people.

Willow’s 250,000L Water Tank


In 1991 we embarked on a formal approach to address and underwrite quality by commencing Total Quality Management (TQM) with the Phillip Crosby organisation.

This was implemented over an initial four-year period covering all staff and shopfloor personnel. In 1999 we received the Quality Beacon Award from them for our commitment to quality and continuous improvement. In 2000 we were accredited to ISO9001 Quality Management System through SAI Global.

Strategic Planning Model

The Strategic Planning cycle commences with the development of the strategic and corporate plans.

Operational performance is assessed and remedial actions assigned at each daily End-of-Shift Meeting, at the weekly Operations Meeting and at the weekly Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) meeting.

End-of-month Profit & Loss and Balance Sheet results are issued by the end of the second working day of the new month.

Each department reports progress monthly according to a balanced scorecard and KPI summary.

These are tabled as department end-of-month kits.

Functions and Departments

We operate a fully integrated manufacturing enterprise comprising:

  • 1. Demand, Sales and Marketing.
  • 2. Customer Service Logistics.
  • 3. Purchasing and Master Scheduling.
  • 4. Industrial Design.
  • 5. Manufacturing Operations.
  • 6. Engineering.
  • 7. Information Technology.
  • 8. Finance and
  • 9. Human Resources.

Our Operating Systems

Willow uses the following world-class methodologies to build our integrated professional operating system:

  • 1. Visual Strategic Visioning and Planning.
  • 2. Balanced Scorecard Reporting.
  • 3. Business Excellence ERP/MRPII Class A.
  • 4. Total Productive Maintenance - 5S and TPM.
  • 5. ISO 8000:2003 Good Corporate Governance.
  • 6. AS 4801:2001 Safety Management System.
  • 7. ISO 9001:2008 Quality Management System.
  • 8. ISO 14000:2004 Environmental Management System and
  • 9. ISO 31000:2009 Risk Management.

Our Achievements

We believe that we have attained some significant achievements evidenced by:

  • 1. Over 125+ years of continuous manufacturing operations in Australia by the one family line; a family business practicing strong family values in a professional manner.
  • 2. Strong sales growth.
  • 3. Superior customer service at 98% + delivered in full and on time (DIFOT).
  • 4. More than 90% of the product range is manufactured in Australia.
  • 5. Strong recent employment growth.
  • 6. Adoption of best practice methodologies.
  • 7. Recognised 14 times in the national Powerhouse Museum.
  • 8. Quality, Environment and OH&S accreditations.
  • 9. Extensive history and many current innovative practices.
  • 10. Strong community spirit by supporting local council community programs.
  • 11. More than 60 community, industry, customer, safety, environment, product and export awards.
  • 12. Innovative employee engagement program called “The Willow Way”.

Manufacturing Hall of Fame

In June 2014 the Company was inducted into the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame in recognition of manufacturing excellence and its contribution to the Australian economy over many, many years.

We are very proud to have been recognised with this award and are greatly encouraged by it, to strive to live our vision as a significant showcase family owned, Australian housewares manufacturer.

Power House Museum

We are proud to have once again been included in the Power House Museum, this time with our 35-litre cooler receiving their Selection Award.

The Powerhouse Museum is a national museum located in Sydney that amongst other of its worthy pursuits, builds a collection of Australian manufactured products that are culturally significant to the Australian way of life. Over the years we are proud to have received 14 such entries in this significant national museum, as noted in the following table.

No. Powerhouse Museum Registration No. Year of Manufacture Product
1. K762 C 1920 Willow branded Galvanised Dipper
2. K887 C 1920 Butter Cooler (Wilson Bros.)
3. K899 C 1930 Cooking Boiler with Cover and Swing Handle
4. K1260 C 1920 Kettle
5. 85/1982 C 1920 Cooking Tin
6. 85/2023 C 1920 Tinplate Flour Sifter
7. 85/2024 C 1920 Metal Plate
8. 85/2063 C 1920 Toy Kettle (Wilson Bros.)
9. 85/2161 C 1920 The Willow Housewife’s Handbook On Cookery
10. 86/780D C 1920 Billy Can and Cover, branded Willow, containing honey.
11. 87/1027 C 1965 Willow Metal Cooler – tartan design
12. 87/1271 C 1920 Metal Baby Bath
13. 2007/111/1 2005-present 35 litre Wheelie Cooler and Packaging
14. 2008/125/1 1960-1970 Cooler Bricks, Metal with Red Tartan Lithographic Decoration


Innovation has been part of the bedrock at Willow and has been ‘tumbling-along’ endlessly since 1887.

Innovative thinking and practices commenced with the manufacture of sheet metal machinery in 1887 then onto the innovation of oval product tooling, the first Australian manufacturer to adopt the Henry Ford conveyor system, the mass production of ammunition boxes from unique machinery the design of which was adopted by ammunitions suppliers in the UK and USA during the First World War effort, hot-dipped tinning and galvanising, the lithographic reproduction of original art for metal houseware products commissioned from some of Australia’s leading and renowned artists, expanded foam styrene, the invention and manufacture of Willow Heat Beads barbeque fuel and more recently the installation of rainwater harvesting to reduce and potentially eliminate our use of mains water, the installation of a noiseless wind turbine to generate green electricity for our office and manufacturing needs, and the implementation of an illustrative visual strategic planning documentation and monthly reporting process that is delivered in the same illustrative format from the board room through all management ranks onto the shop-floor.

A listing of the innovations developed and implemented by Willow over the years appears in the following table.

Year Innovation


The production of jams and preserves from the proprietors’ own recipes at Wilson’s Lane, North Melbourne.


Sheet Metal Machinery:

Design and making of machinery to produce square containers for dry food, prior to the introduction of end roll seaming technology.



The first lithographic flatbed (off stone) tin printers in the colony of Victoria and perhaps in Australia.


Oval Product Tooling:

The construction of tooling for oval products by the design and building of a lathe chuck which moved the tool steel through the long and short axis on each revolution, the chuck movement induced by gravity and governed by a friction controlled back plate.

Tools for oval trays:

1. Canisters

2. Boilers and

3. Baby baths

This was well before the days of programmable milling machines.


Conveyor System:

The first Australian manufacturer to adopt the Henry Ford Conveyor System. The belt was 50cm wide and 60 metres long running to the spray painting department from the assembly department, it was canvas.



The breaking in, training and breeding of horse teams to deliver our manufactured goods in time of petrol rationing during World War II.


Army Bullet Boxes:

The invention of an amended product design and the required machinery to increase the quality and production of .303 ammunition bullet boxes.

These new boxes, the H26 and H52, replaced the H13 handmade box and lifted the daily shift output from 150 to 1,100 units.

The automatic and seaming machine replaced the labour intensive hand soldering. This machine was conceived by our company and the Melbourne machine builder W.G.Goetz that was instructed to build it despite their warnings that it would break and their refusal of warranty. We went ahead at our own risk, successfully. As a munitions manufacturer it enable our supply to meet the demand.


Galvanising and Tinning:

As a munitions supplier of hot dipped galvanised and tin products, we were the first to replace Sulphuric Acid with Hydrochloric Acid as a less dangerous pickling.


Infra-Red Spray Paint Drying:

The installation of a conveyor infra-red drying oven for spray painted enamels used in munitions work, this technology was installed as an innovation to replace the less reliable convection drying system.



Designed and built wire cutting and forming machinery, lap seam soldering machines (basin seams), tapered can body forming and soldering machines (billy cans) in times of no supply of design and build machinery from machinery manufacturers.


Art Work:

The first to commission and introduce iconic artwork into tinplate kitchenware from:

1. Septimus Power

2. Rubery Bennett

3. Pro Hart

4. Maynard Waters

5. Raymond Ward – Thompson

6. Photos of Royal occasions et alia


Metal Press Adaption:

The first to incline 100 ton heavy duty durable action metal drawing presses to use gravity to exit the pressed piece and more importantly to keep the operator’s hands outside of the machine.


Artwork Massed Designs:

The first to produce sets of decorated kitchenware with artwork covering the whole sheet with a design repeating both horizontally and vertically, as a “massed design”.

It enabled components (lids on bodies) to be cut at random to give a uniform appearance over a whole set.

This resulted in improved efficiency and lower cost by:

1. One set of artwork and printing plates instead of eighteen

2. At least doubling of the printing and processing efficiencies.


Expanded Foam Styrene (EPS):

Design and building of machinery and moulds for expanded foam styrene mouldings for packaging and consumer products.

Commissioning licenses in South Africa and New Zealand who imported our machinery and moulds, paying annual royalties.


Linked Processes:

The strategy to design or prefer consumer products, which utilised a number of our varied production facilities. For example:

1. Pedal bin kitchen tidy

2. Metal roller coating (lid)

3. Metal lithographic printing (body)

4. Wire forming (pedal mechanism)

5. Injection moulding (pedal and inner)

6. Cooler chest (eskies)

7. Metal lithographic body

8. Wire framed handle

9. Injection moulded inner

10. Blow moulded lid

11. Expanded foam styrene insulation


Heat Beads:

The production of Heat Beads – barbeque fuel. We designed the blending formula and the rotary beading press.


Ultra Violet (UV) Ink Drying:

U.V ink drying for high-speed lithographic printing, replacing capital and space intensive diesel fired convection ovens.


U.V Ink Drying:

Installation of 4,000 sheets an hour, wax spray dry lubricant on tinplate sheets prior to cutting and deep drawing to eliminate oiling and degreasing.


Plastic Foils:

The first to apply artwork decorations for injection-moulded housewares by fusing artwork printed on thermoplastic foils onto the parent product during the moulding process.

The artwork (e.g. camellia – floral) was grown, photographed and then printed on foils and on metal for a complete integrated range of plastic and metal housewares, which strategically played to our own strengths.


Primary Industry:

Farmed deer, Galloway cattle, water buffalo in Gippsland not only as a protective financial fallback but also as an unique investment, which would command premium prices.

The deer herd worked up to 1,200 head to be the last in Australia, comprising of the species rusa, sambar, red and fallow (brown, menil and white) versions were sold to Australian markets. Frozen “velvet” antler was sold to Asian markets as an aphrodisiac.

The exploratory and successful hybrid of the large Sambar and the Red yielded a fertile hybrid, high venison and velvet-producing deer.


Engineering and Production:

1. The development of an “over- moulding” system, comprising of two latest generation injection moulding machines and an overhead robot. This relatively new technique within the plastic industry enables us to produce high end quality products not done by anyone else in Australia. The process is fully automatic and can produce up to 1500 over-moulded products per shift.

2. Two fully automatic production lines for automotive ducts, comprising in-blow moulding, two robots, de-flashers, trimming devices and a re-grind system. Designed in house, this process is unique as it is very rare to have an automated process associated with blow moulding. This is due to the lack of precision normally associated with the blow moulding process. Once again, this process has enabled us to become more productive and eliminating the safety risks associated with manual handling. This successful process has increased our cycle time by 32%.

3. The research and development, prototyping and production of 47 jigs, tools and guillotines for automotive ducts. These new machines were designed in-house when Willow became a tier one supplier to Toyota. In a first for the automotive industry in Australia, all the new model parts are cut by guillotine and not saws. The advantages of this new system has resulted in the elimination of dust created by traditional saw blades, a great improvement in the dimensional tolerances of the part, a 70% improvement in cycle time and the elimination of safety risks associated with the original process.

4. Close loop regrind recycling system. This was designed by our engineering team to ensure that all our regrind goes to the centralized regrind station. This assists with housekeeping, but also ensures thatall HDPE resin is automatically recycled during production process.

5. Centralized regrind recycling station. All excess plastic is reground at this station. This process has enabled us to reuse our main resins Polypropylene – PP- and high density poly ethylene – HDPE- thus enabling us to be more efficient by using up to 100% of reground material in some of the products we are producing (i.e. Traditional 60L and 75L Willow bins), making us more productive and environmentally friendly.

6. Special purpose automatic devices designed and build in house, I.e. Punch, clip applicator and check device. This device completely eliminates any safety risk and increases efficiency by having a fully automated process


Product Design:

The development of the first Kitchen Tidy that has a dual action Touch Top and Lift up Lid with a rubbish bag retention system. The “Clipaway” Touch Top Tidy was a winner in the 2011 Victorian Design Awards.


Product Design:

Using previously untried technology, we were able to develop a “telepac” that could be manufactured using a blow moulding technique. This product is used for the medical sterilization of cameras used in operating theatres. We were then able to extrapolate this technique to use as a new manufacturing method for our existing fuel can nozzle. This not only improved the function of the product, but the productivity was also improved.


2.5 L and 5.0 L Apline Jugs:

The Alpine Jug is one of our iconic products and was redesigned to give it a new look. It is now produced so that it can be made in 2 colours. The production line has been automated, improving both safety and productivity and the tap has been redesigned to remove the possibility of the jug leaking.

Awards and Recognition

Willow has received more than 60 awards and recognitions since 1972 (and more prior to that) in the fields of; community support, design, manufacturing, safety, environment, supply, and export.

  Year Award Result Awarded By
1. 2014 Hume City Business Awards 2014: Ralph Wilson Snr. Willow Ware Australia Pty. Ltd.: Business Leader Winner Hume City Council
2. 2014 Hume City Business Awards 2014: Ralph Wilson Esq. Willow Ware Australia Pty. Ltd.: Business Leader Winner Hume City Council
3. 2014 Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Inductee Victorian Government
4. 2014 Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame: Honour Roll – Ralph Wilson Snr Inductee Victorian Government
5. 2014 Hall of Fame – FBA Victoria Inductee Family Business Australia – Victorian Branch
6. 2013 Design Manufacturer – Made in Melbourne (Willow Leisureware Products) Winner Melbourne Design Awards
7. 2013 Sustainability & Environment Award Winner Hume City Council
8. 2012 Product Design – Consumer Winner Sydney Design Awards
9. 2012 Best Solution of an OHS Workplace Risk Certificate of Merit NSCA
10. 2011 Business of the Year Winner Northern Business Achievement Awards
11. 2011 Human Resources Award Winner Northern Business Achievement Awards
12. 2011 Sustainability and Environment Award Winner Northern Business Achievement Awards
13. 2011 Systems Excellence Awards – Integrated System Winner SAI Global
14. 2011 Victorian Business Awards - Manufacturing Finalist The Age - Dunn & Bradstreet
15. 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Award Hume City Council
16. 2011 Product Design - Consumer Winner Melbourne Design Awards -Design Victoria
17. 2010 Systems Excellence Awards – OH&S Winner SAI Global
18. 2010 Systems Excellence Awards - Quality Finalist SAI Global
19. 2010 Systems Excellence Awards – Environment Finalist SAI Global
20. 2010 Systems Excellence Awards – Integrated System Finalist SAI Global
21. 2010 National Awards Program, 4th Generation and Beyond, Best Practice Winner Family Business of Australia
22. 2010 State Awards Program (Victoria and Tasmania), 4th Generation and Beyond, Best Practice Winner Family Business of Australia
23. 2010 Australian Business Award – Enterprise, Commercial Success and Sustainable Growth Winner Australian Business Awards
24. 2010 Environmental Sustainability Award Hume City Council
25. 2010 Selected in “Insights to Excellence” Showcase Manufacturing Site Showcase Site i2e on behalf of the Manufacturing Hall of Fame; Victoria Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development
26. 2010 Manufacturing Hall of Fame Finalist Victoria Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development
27. 2010 Lifetime Achievement – Ralph Wilson (Senior) Finalist Manufacturers’ Monthly Endeavour Awards
28. 2009 Promotional Excellence Silver APPA (Australian Promotional Products Association)
29. 2008 Supplier of the Year – Hardware Winner BigW
30. 2007 Outstanding Performance – Participating in NSCA Five Star Health & Safety Management System Award NSCA
31. 2006 Powerhouse Museum “Selection” - 35 Litre Wheelie Cooler Award Powerhouse Museum
32. 2006 Australian Design Award - 35 Litre Wheelie Cooler Award Australian Design Awards, Standards Australia
33. 2006 Australian Design Mark - 35 Litre Wheelie Cooler Award Australian Design Awards, Standards Australia
34. 2006 Outstanding Performance – Participating in NSCA Five Star Health & Safety Management System Award NSCA
35. 2005 Best Company Environmental Performance Winner Melbourne Airport Authority
36. 2005 Small Business Award for Outstanding Achievement in Greenhouse Gas Abatement Award Australian Government, Department of Environment and Heritage, Australian Greenhouse Gas Office.
37. 2005 Outstanding Performance – Participating in NSCA Five Star Health & Safety Management System Award NSCA
38. 2004 Best Solution for an OHS Specific Workplace Risk Winner NSCA Telstra National Safety Awards of Excellence
39. 2004 Certificate of Excellence for Environmental Management Award Melbourne Airport Authority
40. 2004 Best Implementation of an OHS Management System Finalist NSCA Telstra National Safety Awards of Excellence
41. 2004 Australian Design Award - Snaith Classique Collection 2nd Wave Award Australian Design Awards, Standards Australia
42. 2004 Outstanding Performance – Participating in NSCA Five Star Health & Safety Management System Award NSCA
43. 2003 Australian Design Award - Snaith Classique Collection 1st Wave Award Australian Design Awards, Standards Australia
44. 2003 Outstanding Performance – Participating in NSCA Five Star Health & Safety Management System Award NSCA
45. 2002 Greenhouse Challenge Plus Award Department of the Environment and Heritage Australian Greenhouse Office
46. 2002 Best Implementation of an OHS Management System Finalist NSCA Telstra National Safety Awards for Excellence
47. 2001 Achievement Award in OHS Participation Winner NSCA Telstra National Safety Awards of Excellence
48. 2001 Best Non Food Exhibitor Winner Foodland Associated Ltd. (FAL)
49. 2000 Appreciation of Efforts and Contribution Award Coles
50. 2000 Beacon Light Award for Commitment to Quality Management and Zero Defects Award Philip Crosby, Crosby International (USA)
51. 1998 Supplier of the Year - General Merchandise Winner Kmart Australia
52. 1998 Recognition and Appreciation - 25 Years Service Award Kmart Australia
53. 1991 Best Variety Display: FAL Expo Winner Foodland Associated Limited
54. 1988 Certificate for Manufacturing Excellence Award NSW Government, Department of Industry and Trade
55. 1988 Certificate for Manufacturing Excellence Award Victorian Government, Department of Industry and Trade
56. 1987 Industrial Design Award - Microette Microwave Cookware 2nd Wave Award Australian Industrial Design Council
57. 1987 Industrial Design Award - Microette Microwave Cookware 1st Wave Award Australian Industrial Design Council
58. 1987 Australian Manufacturing Excellence Award – General Merchandise Category Winner Australian Retailers Association
59. 1986 Just In Time Pilot Programme Award Technology Transfer Council, Commonwealth Government and Victorian Government
60. 1985 Just In Time Pilot Programme Award Technology Transfer Council, Commonwealth Government and New South Wales Government
61. 1974 Award of Appreciation - 50 Years’ Service Award Woolworths Limited
62. 1972 Export Award for Outstanding Export Achievement Winner Commonwealth Department of Trade and Industry and the Associated Chambers of Manufacturers of Australia

Family Owned and Australian Made

Willow is committed to remain a proud Australian manufacturing company. To this pursuit we are keen to assist you with enquiries and wish that you look favourably upon us in placing your order soon.