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The Times they are a Changin’ – Interview with Mark Wroblewski – Production Manager

13 May 2022

 

The Thomas brand is one of the industry’s most enduring, with more than 40 years of service. Thomas change machines have evolved with their customers’ businesses – from coins and banknotes through to chip and pin, contactless, mobile payments and increasingly TITO. Thomas PayStations can also be found in other sectors requiring change and payment solutions, such as local authorities, museums, retail, parking and transport.

Thomas is now part of the Playsafe Systems/Eurocoin group of companies and Steph Norbury went to visit the new production facility in Welwyn Garden City to find out more.

Welwyn Garden City was the second of England’s ‘new towns’ built in 1920 and designed to provide healthy living and industry in a time of optimism. The Thomas production team moved into a pleasant unit in Tewin Court in November and they have never been so industrious!

Mark Wroblewski – Production Manager – has been with Thomas for almost 20 years and so he should know. “We have more orders now than I can ever remember,” he says. “We have got three production lines on the go and we can be working on up to 30 machines at any one time.”

Mark currently oversees a staff of five but he is recruiting due to the volume of work. The factory floor is divided up into lines of different models in various stages of production and some quite battered-looking units that have come in to be refurbished. “This is nothing,” laughs Mark. “We had one in last week which was a pile of rust – but by the time we have finished you wouldn’t recognise them.”

Of the new machines being produced, Mark tallies up there are around 6 large PayStations, 4/5 mini PayStations, 2/3 Micro PayStations and 6/7 Slimlines being completed every week. “The production takes a day and we do the testing the next day,” he says. “Testing of the PayStations is done with real cash and different currencies relevant to the customer to ensure that everything is perfect before delivery.”

Most of the machines in production are in the standard arcade cabinet, however, there are a number of custom jobs – some units for the supermarket chain Lidl for example. The team also supplies custom vinyl wrappings to the machines if required and additional features can be added on – customers can specify how many cassettes they want or if they need ticket dispensers for example.

Mark attends two meetings a week with the R&D team to discuss new features and ideas but there is nothing he doesn’t know about these machines after nearly two decades working on them.

“It’s a great job – I have had some fantastic opportunities and travelled all over the world,” he says. “It has been a challenge coming out of the pandemic and moving production from our previous facility in Hatfield but we are pretty settled in now. Like everybody else, we suffered delays in sourcing components due to supply chain issues and chip shortages but things are improving due to careful planning on our side. The main issue now is keeping up with the orders coming in. In all the time I have worked for the company, turnover has increased every single year and this is the busiest we have ever been.”

The majority of current orders are coming from the arcade sector – possibly a result of pent-up demand and strong trade since reopening and of course the cashless revolution. Playsafe reported that there was a surge in interest in its Quantum TITO system at this year’s EAG, noticeably from the coastal FEC operators. Customers are investing in the whole package, including the TA8021C gaming Paystation with chip and pin/contactless payment system, as it offers a comprehensive cashless system at an attractive price point.

It seems like only a matter of time before Mark and the Thomas team will be needing an even bigger facility to cope with the demand!