JCB: 70 YEARS IN THE MAKING

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Updated: July 14, 2016

Words / Earthmoving Equipment Magazine

Imagine if your old man actually invented the backhoe loader. Then imagine if he built on this with other genius construction equipment to create the largest, family-owned company of its kind in the world, which, of course, he then handed over to you. Ruling! And that’s what JCB has been doing for 70 years – ruling the market with their revolutionary machinery.

The birth of the backhoe loader is not all that JCB is renowned for. Constantly evolving, they currently produce over 300 different models of machines including hydraulic excavators, telehandlers, wheel-loading shovels, track and skid steer loaders, tractors, rollers, forklifts, as well as other waste management and compaction equipment. Their product line ranges from the mini 1-tonne variety to enormous 50-plus-tonne beasts.

So where did it all begin for this groundbreaking, multi-billion-dollar corporation? “It’s actually a pretty legendary story,” replied Glenn McLeod, JCB CEA (Australia’s) National Backhoe Loader Product Manager. “JCB is the initials of the founder of the company, who is Joseph Cyril Bamford. He started the company in 1945 – hence the 70-year anniversary. He had broken away from his family business, which had been producing agricultural equipment since the early 1800s. Legend has it that he spent one pound on a welder, rented a shed in a place called Uttoxeter in the UK and started producing trailers out of surplus war material.

“He produced the first hydraulic tipping trailer – that was one of his first accolades and is a bit of a milestone. Subsequently, he started producing attachments and hanging them on agricultural tractors. By 1953 he invented the idea of a frontend loader and a backhoe, or a digger, and hence the whole concept of loader backhoe was born.”

Glenn, who has been with the product for 30 years, was quick to add that this wasn’t the company’s only pioneering feat. “In 1977 they invented what we now call the telescopic handler,” he said. “And that concept has gone from strength to strength over the years. Subsequently, the JCB backhoe loader and the JCB telescopic handler are market leaders, with both product groups being number one in the world.”

Having successfully grown his business, Joseph Cyril Bamford stood down as chairman of the company 31 years after he started it, allowing his son, Anthony Bamford, to take over. “He’s been at the stewardship of the company since 1976,” said McLeod of the heir. “He was knighted as Sir Anthony and now he’s actually Lord Anthony Bamford. Of course, the other part to the legendary story is that Anthony was actually born the same year the company was founded, so his birthday coincides with the anniversary. Still a family-owned business, Lord Bamford’s sons are now coming through the ranks with the intention to maintain the company as a private entity.”

So let’s run through some numbers to get a perspective on just how big the family business has now become. In terms of the sheer volume of business, JCB is recognised as the third largest producer of construction equipment on the planet today, and as Glenn pointed out: “They’re actually the largest [ITALICS START] privately-owned [ITALICS END] manufacturer of construction equipment in the world.” They boast 22 factories across the globe, they manufacture in just about every continent and they sell in over 120 countries. The company has produced more than one million JCB machines in its time, and at its peak their record volume was upwards of 75,000 units per annum.

If their production quotas aren’t astounding enough, their manpower will surely blow you away. “JCB directly employs around 12,000 people worldwide,” Glenn began the calculations. “Then you’ve got the dealership employees who dovetail on the back of that. All-in-all they work it out as around 50 to 60,000 people employed by JCB.

However, the sign of their real dominance and significance doesn’t come in the form of any stats or figures, but instead in the way they’re perceived. “In the English Collins Dictionary the definition for a digger is actually ‘JCB’,” Glenn revealed. “In Europe it’s actually a generic name like a Hoover. Irrespective of what brand, make or model you’re sitting on, over there everyone calls them a JCB.” Like an iPod is to the MP3 player, you know you’ve made it when people use your name colloquially in everyday talk.

The Aussie division of the company – JCB Construction Equipment Australia (CEA) – has been distributing JCB products in our nation since 1999. Glenn was proud to announce that “JCB CEA is also a family-owned business”.

“JCB CEA supports around 110 staff,” he continued. “We’ve got our own branches in every capital city, and we have 62 sub-dealers around the country too. We’ve got excellent geographic coverage across Australia, with a focus on regional areas to offer strong aftermarket support. We carry around 20 million bucks worth of parts to back that up as well.”

And as with everywhere else around the world, JCB machines rule Down Under. “We’ve replicated the number-one place for market leadership on loader backhoes and telescopic handlers,” the National Product Manager outlined. “We have around 45 per cent market share on both those product lines, and have done so for quite some time.”

The reason for JCB’s success and popularity is quite simply because their products are superior. Just like Joseph Cyril Bamford himself, the company has never simply followed trends and always strives to be the first to bring out the best, cutting-edge technology that redefines the industry and ultimately benefits the end user. “JCB have got a really strong heritage of introducing market-leading features across their product range,” Glenn reiterated. “To lead the market is something that’s in their DNA.”

“JCB have got a really strong heritage of introducing market-leading features across their product range.”

Everyone from civil contractors and local governments to building trades and rental companies use JCB machines, but it’s the common landscaper that can truly find solace in some of the brand’s smaller models.

“For landscape contractors, the machines that would probably be of most interest would be our skid steer and compact track loaders, and the mini excavator,” Glenn suggested. “With those loaders we offer a very unique and exclusive design in that they’re the safest machine on the market because of their side entry and exit. So there’s a single boom on the right-hand side and the operator entry/exits on the left-hand side through a conventional door. In all competitor models, without exception, you have to climb through the front of the machine, either over or under the bucket, which is inherently unsafe.”

And if there was a holy grail, it has to be the all-new 1CXT backhoe loader; the smallest and most versatile in their range. “That’s a landscaper’s dream,” declared Glenn. “That machine was on rubber tyres, but it’s now on a compact track loader frame. I’ve gotta say, and I’ve been in the business for a long time, but it’s every guy’s dream of a Tonka Toy.”

After 70 years, the family brand that began in a tiny English shed is still amazing us with further innovations. There’s talk of JCB’s new, revolutionary EcoMax Tier 4 emission standards engine, and Glenn divulged of yet another landscaper’s machine on the horizon. “There’s been a new JCB compact backhoe loader introduced, so it’s around 75 per cent the size of a conventional machine and it’s four-wheel steer and drive. That’s just been released and we anticipate seeing that in Australia some time in 2016.”

Happy anniversary – we can’t wait for another 70 years of JCB.

THE FASTEST DIGGER IN THE WORLD

On November 20, 2014, at the Bathurst 1000, JCB entered the Guinness Book of World Records when their JCB GT Backhoe Loader broke the land speed record, going over 116km per hour.

 

LIMITED-EDITION BACKHOE LOADER

To celebrate their 70-year anniversary, JCB have released a rare loader that’s painted in retro colours, is packed full of new features and comes with all sorts of commemorative additions. With 70 only available worldwide and five here in Australia, you’d better get in quick for this collector’s item.