In blog

Ahead of attending UKREiiF between 17th - 19th May, we've been speaking exclusively to John Kavanagh, Group Communications Director at JCB about the valued british manufacturer's history and how its gearing for the future.

Q1 - JCB is a global brand and a valued British manufacturer. Tell us how JCB continues to grow its global manufacturing presence through innovation?

JCB was established in 1945 and it was a one-factory operation in Staffordshire until the 1970s making the innovative (and now iconic) JCB backhoe loader. JCB now has 22 factories across the world, including six in India, where the JCB backhoe loader is the machine of choice in road building and infrastructure development. The JCB backhoe loader is also manufactured in our factory near São Paulo, Brazil. This iconic machine, which became JCB’s signature product, was the first of many innovations that helped build JCB’s global position today as the world’s third largest manufacturer of construction equipment by volume. Other innovative machines include the JCB Loadall telescopic handler, which was launched in Staffordshire in 1977. In the agricultural sector, the launch of the fully suspended, high-horsepower JCB Fastrac tractor in 1991 and the introduction of the AgriPro Loadall with Dual Tech variable transmission in 2016 made JCB a key player in the world of farm machinery. JCB continues to invest in its global manufacturing footprint and its newest factory in the state of Gujarat, India was inaugurated last month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Q2- Staffordshire is proud to have JCB’s global headquarters on its patch. How do you feel the location of the headquarters has helped JCB to grow and succeed?

JCB is a family company. The company founder, Mr Joseph Cyril Bamford, was born in Staffordshire and he had worked for Bamfords Ltd in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire before the Second World War. Bamfords Ltd used to make farm equipment and when Mr JCB, as he was known, returned to Staffordshire after the end of the war, he set about making farm trailers using surplus wartime scrap. This is how the JCB started, so its presence in Staffordshire is in many ways an accident of birth, i.e. Mr JCB’s birth. Having said that, the company could have grown and expanded elsewhere but the Bamford family, including Lord Bamford, current Chairman of the company, has always been committed to investing in Staffordshire due to the availability of skills in the local area to support manufacturing. The central location of Staffordshire in Great Britain, with good access to the national motorway network, is another reason why the county has contributed to JCB’s success.

Q3- Building skills are so important to the future of Staffordshire, can you tell us more about the opportunities you provide through your academy?

The JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire is a state-run school for 12-18 year olds that JCB has sponsored. As such, it is not under JCB’s direct control but when it was sect up over ten years ago, its mission was to develop the engineers and business leaders of the future by ensuring the core curriculum was extended to include the teaching of engineering and manufacturing skills. This has been hugely successful, so  much so that the Academy has been oversubscribed in every year since it opened its doors in 2010. Students are under no obligation to join JCB when they finish their education, but many do start working at JCB as apprentices. Other destinations for students include Rolls-Royce in Derby, so JCB’s sponsorship of the Academy is contributing to the success of other manufacturers in the region.

Q4 – Midlands Connect announced its plans to improve the A50/A500 corridor in April. As a company that will be directly impacted by this, what do you feel are the key opportunities of the new growth corridor?

JCB has championed the need for improvements to the A50 in particular for over a decade. Some upgrades have happened but more needs to be done, not just to improve the A50 but the A500 as well. Over the passage of time, the A50/A500 has become a vital link between the M6 and the M1. In the case of JCB, it is now a vital supply route for e.g. gearboxes and axles from our transmissions factory in Wrexham, North Wales and for the supply of parts to our Staffordshire factories from our World Logistics warehouse in Tunstall, Stoke on-Trent. Likewise, most of our 7,000 employees in Staffordshire use the A50/A500 to travel to and from work every day.  So the proposed Midlands Connect improvements will certainly improve the movement of parts and people to our factories, while also improving the outbound flow of finished machines to dealers in the UK and beyond. It will also make this area more attractive to our suppliers as we encourage them to set up operations in the region to support our business. All of this will have efficiency and productivity benefits for JCB and other manufacturers along the A50/A500 corridor.

You can see John Kavanagh speak during Stafforshire's panel discussion at UKREiiF on Wednesday 18th May. The topical panel debate will look at how Staffordshire will deliver an innovative growth corridor around the A50/A500 corridor.