The other morning I watched an interview with a couple who were trying to live on products produced only in the UK. Ironically, they were trawling the internet on a computer made in Japan (a minor technicality). This got me thinking about our industry and our place on the world stage as a manufacturer, which seems especially relevant at this time of year when many of us are looking to replace equipment and/or set up new contracts.
Straight away we’re off to a bad start with power tools and pedestrian machines as the majority of these come from the continent and Japan; the UK has never been big in this area, with the only notable exception being Hayter. Moving on to fine turf mowers and associated equipment, UK offerings improve slightly with the likes of Dennis, Sisis, Allett, Lloyds and Ransomes. This is good news as we first invented the cylinder mower way back in 1827 and are still successfully exporting across the world. So, on to ride-on mowers where Ransomes, Hayter and Lloyds still lead the way with ride-on cylinder and trailed gang mowers built in the UK. It could easily be said that the market for this type of equipment is predominately in the UK but there is a healthy export market for golf course products and commercial is starting to break in to new and existing markets.
Apart from the homeowner market with the likes of Countax, manufacturers of commercial ride-on rotary mowers are conspicuous by their absence, this being the domain of American and Japanese producers (that’ll be us Brits sticking with our traditional cylinders). On to tractors where once we led the world with the production of Massey Ferguson, Ford, David Brown, Case and Leyland all having major manufacturing facilities in the UK. On top of this there were the niche manufacturers such as County, Roadless, Muir Hill and Trantor. Today, New Holland still manufacture in Basildon and JCB in Staffordshire exporting tractors and earthmovers all over the world, but all the other sites have been turned in to housing or retail parks.
There are a significant number of home grown manufacturers producing everything from side-arm flails to wood chippers where Bomford, McConnell, Spearhead and Twose lead the world in this field not forgetting the likes of Greenmech, Timberwolf, Rytec, Tomlin, Major and Logic whose ingenuity satisfies both home and international markets.
Unfortunately light commercial vehicle manufacturers have all but disappeared from our shores with Ford announcing that production of the Transit will cease in favour of overseas production. It is however not all doom and gloom, whilst we may be driving vehicles built in Turkey, Spain or Lithuania, they may well be having their streets and airports swept by road sweepers built by Johnston or Scarab from the UK. We led the way by producing the world’s first mechanical road sweeper in the 1840s, beating the Americans by a couple of years.
Whilst home grown production may have taken a significant knock over the last 30 years we should still be proud of our position in the world market. Many of our businesses may be foreign owned, but the manufacturing is still being done here – look at the success of Jaguar and Land Rover.
Having briefly reviewed the equipment we operate, I have to admit that currently only 25% of it is home grown, this being out of necessity and competitiveness rather than a nationalistic sense of pride. Much as I would like to change this, circumstances dictate otherwise; I have also checked my computer, it was made in China!
Group Head of Assets and Fleet
Angus writes a monthly column for Pro Landscaper magazine http://prolandscapermagazine.com/