“IT’S great to be part of an organisation that’s actively trying to grow and capture new opportunities as the mists of the recession start to drift away.”
These are the eloquent words of Gordon Cameron, Commerical Manager for Hardox Wearparts Centre, Stirling. They are one of the first centres to be fully owned by SSAB, a world leader in high strength steel.
Last year SSAB acquired JL Steel Services and, although the JL Steel title is still widely used, the process of changing the brand name to Hardox Wearparts Centre Stirling is well underway.
2014 has been a huge success story for the firm. An exceptionally strong showing at the ScotPlant exhibition was repeated at Hillhead and Gordon is hugely confident about the future – not least because of the new range of excavator buckets which are causing a stir in the marketplace.
He said, “Traditionally, our main business in the excavator bucket market is repair and maintenance, both on-site and in our workshops, although we did produce some ourselves.
“We used ScotPlant as the launchpad for our new range of excavator buckets, made with Hardox. Everything about the buckets is impressive – the robustness, design, material, fabrication techniques.
“They are ideal for high usage – things like recycling, demolition, rock quarries. The design and parts lists for the buckets came from our expertise and knowledge built up over the last 30 years.
“We generated good sales with them at ScotPlant, and that was continued at Hillhead. What we provide is genuine Hardox material, and when we send the buckets out, we’re prepared to send them with clear varnish so customers can see the Hardox name in them.
“Sometimes people paint the buckets and you can’t tell what’s in them. It’s possible to disguise the true quality of a bucket. What you’re getting with us is an honest product.”
Hardox Wearparts Centre Stirling’s aim was to provide a superior wear product solution for a component that traditionally suffers extensive operational wear and reduced life cycles. Experience gained from 15 years of the service and repairs side was crucial. Quality and accuracy are of paramount importance and the new bucket range has been developed to integrate easily into a wide range of OEM machines. Gordon added, “No-one in Scotland is making high quality buckets. Our ones are top quality, locally made for the local market.
“We offer a bespoke service. Although the buckets start from a standard design, they can be tweaked as everyone usually wants their own thing. If someone wants thicker sides or more internal protection, for example, we can give them that. Demolition companies might want extra protection at the bottom of the bucket. It’s very much a tailored service – customers get exactly what they want.
“We’re currently involved in trials with some big quarry operators and we’re awaiting their feedback on the buckets. I believe they’ll confirm our buckets are as good as we say they are and once we get that feedback, we can shout it from the rooftops.
“When people see the buckets at shows, they want to come and look at them and climb over them. They’ve generated huge interest and there’s potential for more.
“I don’t want to be fixed to one kind of teeth or adapter. I want us to be able to work with companies and strengthen our relationships.
“One of the advantages of being fully owned by SSAB is that this brings to the table the full back-up of their technical team. They can carry out wear calculations and flow analysis.”
As well as becoming recognised as a main player for quality excavator buckets in Scotland, Gordon is also focused on maintaining and expanding their existing wearparts business, providing components for industries as varied as fishing and forestry to recycling and quarrying.
He also believes the resurgence in house building will have huge benefits for the firm. “I read recently that Scotland was back to pre-recession levels of growth,” Gordon added. “There are no issues regarding a lack of work. Success or failure is not going to be down to the lack of a market. The building trade is really kicking in again. Our products are used at the very start of that process, extracting rock. I was on a site in Aberdeen recently where hundreds of new houses were being built. You can feel the industry picking up again.”
As many of Hardox Wearparts Stirling’s repeat business comes from the recycling industry, this is also a major cause for optimism. Recycling is a huge growth area right now with companies pushing more then ever to be greener.
Gordon continued, “We also offer on-site services. We have mobile welding vans. Guys go out to do repair work on buckets and do conversions. And our medium term plan is to introduce CCO plates and castings, allowing us to offer more products to our customers. One area where we’re being innovative for this industry is online. We’ve launched a site, www.wearpartsshop.com/stirling, which allows customers to look at the whole product catalogue and select the application they’re interested in. They can even send us a quotable request. We have developed with two large customers their own version of that website where they can upload parts they buy, speeding up the order process.
“So we’re really pleased with where we are right now. It’s a competitive market and can be difficult to stand out without a recognisable brand or product. We’ve got both.”