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From Garage to Global Force: JCB Marks 70 Years in Business

JCB is marking its 70th anniversary today by giving employees around the world the day off.

Fri October 23, 2015 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

JCB is marking its 70th anniversary today by giving employees around the world the day off. This special day is also marked by the introduction of a JCB limited edition backhoe loader. It is a version of today’s 3CX super backhoe model and a tribute to the product line that fueled JCB’s growth. A total of 70 of the special machines will be made which features the vintage look last seen 40 years ago on the JCB 3CIII model.

JCB Chairman, Lord Bamford said that JCB and its employees should be very proud of what has been achieved over the past 70 years – but the company’s focus is very much on the future. He said, “70-years is a long time, but the past is the past and while we are proud of it, our engineers are really only interested in the future and the products of tomorrow. You cannot rest on your laurels in business; you have to be thinking of tomorrow, the changing world markets and the products our customers need. That is what makes me and all our people tick.”

Lord Bamford, who was born on the same day his father founded JCB, added: “My first memory of JCB really was my father. He was an engineering genius, there was no doubt about that and he was always dreaming of things, and dreaming of better ways of doing things. The backhoe loader my father invented was a godsend and started a mini revolution in construction machinery. Today the backhoe is one of more than 300 products we produce and sell globally.”

“A saying that my father had was that ’customers make payday possible’ and that is still true today. They are crucial to what we do. We will continue to listen to our customers around the world as we develop new machines. The fact that we are a family business makes us different. Virtually none of our competitors are family-owned businesses. We are dedicated to the production of world-class products and take a long-term view.”

Today Lord Bamford took a close look at one of the first of the limited ’platinum’ edition backhoes which will go into production at JCB’s World Headquarters in Rocester next month. They will come with red buckets, a full white cab and red wheels instead of the customary black and yellow finish – a look last seen on the 3CIII model in 1979. And in a nod to the demands of the modern operator, the colorful machine will also be equipped with an in-cab coffee maker. The limited edition 3CX super backhoes - which have a top speed of 25 mph - will be fitted with 109 hp JCB Tier 4 Final EcoMAX engines manufactured at JCB’s plant in Derbyshire in the UK.

Since JCB’s first was manufactured in 1953, the company has produced more than 600,000 backhoes and now sells them in 120 countries. JCB has also been the world’s leading manufacturer of backhoes for 15 years in succession with a range that spans 40 models from the compact 1CX through the mighty 5CX. Models offered vary by country.

Lord Bamford added, “The backhoe loader was the building block for the success of JCB and while we now produce many other types of machines for construction, agricultural and industrial applications, it remains one of our most important products. The JCB backhoe has not only helped put JCB on the map, but also Staffordshire and Britain. I’m delighted that we are producing these limited edition models to mark the company’s anniversary.”

A Storied Past

JCB was founded on October 23, 1945 by the late Joseph Cyril Bamford in a garage in the Staffordshire market town of Uttoxeter.

It was the same day as his son Anthony, now Lord Bamford, was born and as Mr. Bamford remarked “Being presented with a son tended to concentrate the mind and when you were starting at the bottom, there was only one way to go and that was up.”

The foundation for the growth that was to follow was the manufacture of a tipping trailer made out of war time scrap which today stands proudly in the showroom of JCB’s World Headquarters.

It was produced in his garage and sold for £45 at the town’s market. The buyer’s old cart was also taken as part of the exchange. Mr. Bamford refurbished it and sold it for another £45 – reaching the original asking price of the trailer.

By 1947 the company was expanding and because Mr. Bamford’s landlady disapproved of his Sunday working, he moved a few miles down the road to a stable block at Crakemarsh Hall. The stable block was owned by Mrs. Julia Cavendish, a survivor of the Titanic disaster. JCB also hired its first ever full-time employee, Arthur Harrison, who became foreman.

By 1950 JCB was on the move again, this time to the site of a former cheese factory in Rocester. The location had been identified by Bill Hirst, who reveled in the fact that his workplace was closer to home, enabling him to “spend an extra 10 minutes in bed.” Bill had joined JCB as a £1-a-week apprentice in 1947. Now 83 and living in Uttoxeter, he rose through the ranks to become Service Director.

1953 proved to be a pivotal year for new products when Mr. Bamford invented the backhoe loader with the launch of the JCB Mk 1. It was the first time a single machine had been produced with a hydraulic rear excavator and front mounted shovel. This ingenuity still bears fruit today: JCB has manufactured more than 600,000 backhoes. They are now manufactured on three continents.

1953 was also the year that the renowned JCB logo - recognized around the world - was first used on a machine. Five years later it was registered as a trademark.

By the time the 1960s arrived it was clear that the backhoe was revolutionizing the building industry, increasing productivity and reducing reliance on manpower.

As the new decade dawned, the company was also harnessing new tools to generate business and promote the brand.

In 1961, JCB Aviation was formed and the company’s first ever plane, a twin-engine de Havilland Dove made its inaugural flight, with customers from Europe now able to make a return visit to the factory in a single day. JCB Aviation is older than many of today’s airlines.

It was in 1962 that the JCB Dancing Diggers first took a bow and JCB’s first ever overseas subsidiary in Holland was opened. A year later the JCB 3C backhoe, an acknowledged design classic, was launched. Such was the growing success of the company that in 1964, with sales up by 60% to £8 million, shared a £250,000 bonus with its employees. The news made national headlines. Payouts were large enough that some employees were able to buy their first homes with the bonus they received.

Mr. Bamford declared: “I am giving you this money because I want you to share in the success of the company you have helped make.” In the same year, JCB exported its first machine to the USA – a JCB 4C backhoe loader.

In 1969 JCB produced a record 4,500 machines and exported more than half of them. It was in recognition of export success, that the company received its first ever Queen’s Award – the first of 27 such accolades. It was a year of awards as Mr. Bamford became a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in honor of the company’s export achievements.

As 1970 dawned JCB opened for business in the USA, setting up a base in Whitemarsh/Baltimore, Maryland to harness the huge growth opportunity North America offered.

Between 1971 and 1973 revenue doubled to £40 million. In 1975 JCB’s Founder retired, telling staff in a farewell message: “My son Anthony faces the tough job of moving JCB forward through the next decades into a new century. This is a demanding task but he has been well trained for it and is supported by a very strong team from work staff to management. There cannot be any limit to the successes.”

And so a new era had dawned – and one that would see huge expansion of both manufacturing facilities and product ranges.

It started in 1972 with the opening of JCB France. In 1977 the wraps came off the Loadall telescopic handler, a machine which revolutionized the way loads were handled on both construction sites and farms. The Loadall has since become one of the most successful products in JCB’s history.

1977 also marked the start of a number of high profile visits to JCB by members of the British Royal Family when HRH The Prince of Wales toured the Rocester factory.

A year later another landmark was achieved: the construction of JCB’s second factory in the UK, JCB Transmissions in Wrexham.

But it was the decision to start manufacturing in India in 1979 that heralded a period of global expansion when Anthony Bamford spotted its market potential. Today JCB has factories in New Delhi, Pune and Jaipur, with India now being JCB’s biggest market behind the UK.

Product innovation continued to be the lifeblood of the company. In 1985, the 3CX Sitemaster backhoe loader was launched and went on to become JCB’s best-selling backhoe. It’s also the year JCB celebrated the production of its 100,000th backhoe loader.

1986 was a milestone year for JCB’s charitable work when the children’s charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) became the company’s nominated charity. It was then that Carole Bamford, now Lady Bamford, initiated the setup of an NSPCC fund raising committee. To date JCB and its employees have raised millions of dollars for the NSPCC.

In 1987, Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited JCB’s World Headquarters and drove a machine off the production line. Ecstatic crowds greeted her and one member of the public planted a kiss on the cheek of the woman dubbed ’The Iron Lady’ as she toured the facility.

In 1988 the wraps came off the JCB GT, a backhoe capable of traveling 100mph. It quickly became a successful promotional tool for the company; one that continues to draw crowds around the world today.

By 1990 JCB was expanding into new fields with the launch of the JCB Fastrac tractor – the world’s first genuine high-speed, full suspension tractor. It cost £12 million to develop and took the world of agriculture by storm. It was also the year that Anthony Bamford was knighted by Her Majesty The Queen and became Sir Anthony Bamford, an honor he said “Recognized the efforts of the whole JCB team.” To celebrate, JCB employees were given an extra paid holiday.

Product development continued unabated with the launch of the 2CX backhoe loader in 1990, followed three years later by the even smaller 1CX.

In 1994 Joseph Cyril Bamford had a rose named in his honor. Called ’Mr. JCB’, the yellow rose was unveiled in the presence of The Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show.

A year later, JCB was celebrating its 50th anniversary with a visit from The Queen to its World Headquarters, where she unveiled a replica of the Uttoxeter garage where Mr. Bamford began his business.

Future Labor Prime Minister Tony Blair visited in 1996 and helped assemble a 4CX and in 1997 the innovative Teletruk forklift – which can lift and place loads over obstacles – was launched. In 1998 JCB opened its second factory in Wrexham, Wales, and a year later opened JCB Earthmovers in Cheadle, Staffordshire. In 2000, the first machines began rolling off the production line at JCB’s new North American headquarters in Savannah, Georgia.

On March 1st 2001, flags at JCB factories around the world flew at half-mast following news of the death of the company’s Founder Joseph Cyril Bamford. Britain’s Financial Times said he was blessed with a rare combination of “engineering genius and marketing flair.”

In 2001 JCB expanded its charitable work establishing The Lady Bamford Charitable Trust in India with the adoption of a school a few hundred yards from JCB’s factory in Ballabgarh, near New Delhi.

In 2004 employees gathered at the World Headquarters for a commemorative photo to mark the production of the 500,000th machine. It had taken just short of 60 years to reach that milestone. The next half million machines would be produced in just nine years. It was also the year that JCB took a bold step into engine production with the launch of the Dieselmax engine, manufactured at JCB Power Systems in Derbyshire.

In 2005, JCB opened its factory in Pudong, China and announced news of the biggest ever order in its history, a $140 million deal to supply the US Army with a high-speed backhoe loader for military engineering tasks, a machine known as the High Mobility Engineer Excavator (HMEE). In 2006 Sir Anthony Bamford’s son Jo became a Director of JCB, the third generation of the Bamford family to hold this position.

2005 also saw JCB set a world record with the JCB Dieselmax streamliner car. Powered by two JCB Dieselmax engines, it reached speeds of 350.092mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in the US to attain the world’s fastest diesel car record, a title it still holds today. Sir Anthony Bamford joined the team on the Salt Flats to celebrate the successful outcome of his idea.

JCB’s support of underprivileged children spread further around the globe with the 2007 opening of the Lady Bamford Center for Early Childhood Development in Savannah, Georgia to support the education and social development of children 6-weeks to four years of age. It was in this year that JCB achieved its highest ever machine sales of 72,000 units.

Meanwhile, in 2008 JCB Heavy Products – which manufactures tracked and wheeled excavators - moved to its new factory on the outskirts of Uttoxeter. This was followed in 2009 by a £40 million investment in JCB’s factory in Ballabgarh, India to create the world’s largest backhoe loader factory.

In 2009 Prince William followed in his father’s footsteps of 32 years earlier when he toured the company’s headquarters, helping employees celebrate the production of the 750,000th machine.

A national shortage of engineers inspired Lord Bamford to establish JCB Academy in Rocester, Staffordshire in 2010 to train the country’s future engineers and business leaders. The facility has been a resounding success with nearly 1,000 students passing through its doors, with every single one gaining employment or further advancing their education. JCB also announced a $40 million project to develop a brand new range of skid steer and track loaders to be manufactured at its North American Headquarters in Savannah.

As it looked to the future, JCB celebrated its heritage with the opening of the ’Story of JCB’ in 2010, a permanent exhibition marking the growth of JCB and the Bamford family’s roots in industry. These roots can be traced back almost 200 years when they started out as blacksmiths in Uttoxeter, before, in 1871, they founded agricultural machinery suppliers Bamfords Ltd in the town.

Global manufacturing extended to Brazil in 2012 and British Prime Minister David Cameron officially opened the new £63 million facility in Sao Paulo. This year JCB also celebrated securing a £60 million order for more than 1,000 backhoes from the Brazilian government.

As JCB approached its 68th birthday in 2013, a new independent economic report revealed the company supported 24,000 jobs in the UK and contributed £545 million to the British Exchequer. Hundreds of employees also gathered outside the world headquarters for a commemorative photograph marking the production of the one millionth JCB machine. It was also a momentous year for JCB’s Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford as he became Lord Bamford after being invited by Prime Minister David Cameron to be a Conservative working peer in the House of Lords – prompting hundreds of messages of congratulation to flood in from around the world.

In 2014, Lady Bamford presented a check for £2 million to HRH The Countess of Wessex for the NSPCC after a marathon company-wide fund raising drive. Employees raised £1 million and the amount was doubled by Lord Bamford. In India production started at JCB’s new £62 million Jaipur factory complex and plans were announced for a £20 million new Headquarters for JCB Germany in Cologne.

As JCB prepared to mark its 70th anniversary, it was the company’s focus on product innovation that endured, as the wraps came off the brand new 3CX Compact Tool Carrier, a machine 35 percent smaller than its bigger brother, the popular 3CX backhoe. The 3CX Compact Tool Carrier was purpose-built to tackle work on today’s increasingly congested jobsites.

With 70-years of history and growth behind the company, JCB continues to focus on innovation and the delivery of new products to the marketplace. Products that help contractors complete work efficiently, safely and profitably.

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