A series of major orders over January and February has led JCB CEO Alan Blake to say that firm is predicting growth in 2011 and that “the UK looks like a good market for us.”
Speaking exclusively to Construction News, Mr Blake has also outlined his plans for the firm during 2011, suggesting this year will be one of increased machine purchases. This follows on the back of three major deals for the Midlands manufacturer – a £14m deal with HE Services, another £14m with Hewden, plus a 505-machine deal with Travis Perkins.
“The start of 2011 has been very strong for JCB. Throughout the recession, we’ve been introducing new machines and models. Most of our innovations have been aimed at efficiency savings. And as fuel prices increases, customers want more fuel efficient machines which are more economical to run,” says Mr Blake.
To capitalise on predicted growth, the firm has announced plans to recruit a further 80 engineers to work on product development, focusing on areas such as engines and hydraulics. Mr Blake confirms that the majority of that new staff would be based at JCB’s operations in Rocester and Wrexham, although a percentage would also be based in India and China.
“The recruitment plans are partly linked to an increase in volume, but we continue to work on the engineering of our machines, so the recruitment of engineers is directly linked to our drive to develop more efficient equipment,” says Mr Blake. “The growth in the number of machines we make drives the number of employees we have. There will be recruiting as volumes come through but the biggest area will be in top engineering talent, to develop innovative and cost-effective machines. We’ve been recruiting engineers all through 2010 and we will continue to do so in 2011.”
He also reports that in addition to the 3 per cent payrise announced last summer, JCB staff have also received a further 4.7 per cent payrise in line with inflation.
Mr Blake says that although he is seeing positive signs in the UK market, the firm is predicting growth in overseas markets. “We’re strong in the emerging markets and our growth in 2010 and 2011 is predominantly coming from Brazil, India and China and increasingly, Africa. We’re not expecting double-digit growth in the UK, but a lot of equipment has left Britain and domestic stocks are relatively low,” he says.
Mr Blake says that there is still opportunity for firms using heavy plant to win work in Britain. “When councils make cutbacks, the first area to be cut is maintenance. Projects that might not have been as well maintained over the past couple of years now need to have work done on them. Sewers need to be maintained; roads have to be repaired; phone systems need to be upgraded. We’re finding that the availability of work isn’t as bad as everyone is saying,” he says.