JCB's ambitious move into diesel engine manufacturing was honoured today by HRH The Duke of York when he officially opened the factory producing the technologically-advanced engines.
In 2004, JCB became the first company in the UK for 60 years to begin diesel engine manufacture using a state-of-the-art design.
Now, just 15 months after the first JCB444 engine was made at the plant at Dove Valley Park, Foston, Derbyshire following an £80 million investment, daily production has hit 100 units – and the engine is powering more than half the machines made by JCB each year.
The JCB444 engine has been designed to meet all the forthcoming emission and noise legislation with the minimum of design changes – a major benefit as most current engines will need significant adaptation in order to comply.
Today JCB's bold move into this brand new sector was applauded as HRH The Duke of York, in his role as the UK's Special Representative for International Trade and Investment, officially opened JCB Power Systems, where the engine is manufactured.
The Duke last visited JCB in 2000 when he came to the World HQ at Rocester to receive a £2 million cheque on behalf of the NSPCC following a fundraising drive for the charity.
Today the Prince told the audience of assembled employees and civic dignitaries: “I'd like to say what a pleasure it is to be back in the JCB family. It is quite clear to me that when I travel round the United Kingdom and visit different parts of the UK business scene and industry, this one company stands out probably above most of the others.
“You produce an excellent product which is sold all round the world and I see it all round the world and the term JCB has become part of the English language.
“But actually what is more important about JCB is your commitment to investing in Britain and I would just like to congratulate you on what you have achieved in the past and what undoubtedly with this new power system you will achieve in the future.
“And as far as the engine is concerned, you have taken emissions and the future into consideration and I see that as being something you can be justifiably proud of.
“I am also certain that there are many more people out there who will want this modern engine whether it is in a JCB or in any other application that a diesel engine might be needed for in the construction or other industries.”
During the visit JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford praised the team behind the production of “this superb British engine.”
“The JCB diesel engine is a project very close to my heart”, Sir Anthony said. “My father always wanted to manufacture his own engine and he developed a number of prototypes. However, the high costs ruled it out – until now.
“Using the latest design and manufacturing technology, we have developed the most modern diesel engine by far for use in off-highway machines.
“JCB is a technology-driven company and I am hugely proud of what we have achieved. If observers have any doubts about the excellence of British engineering, they shouldn't have. Just look at this superb British engine.
“The success of any new product can only be judged by our customers. They are very impressed. Already, more than half the machines we manufacture are powered by the JCB engine. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the whole team at JCB Power Systems for doing a great job”.
During his visit The Duke was briefed on the advanced engine design, saw the production processes first hand and met some of the 100-plus employees at the plant. Before departing he also unveiled a plaque to commemorate his visit.
The £80 million cost of the JCB444 engine is the biggest single investment made by JCB in its 60-year history.
Before going into production it underwent a five-year development programme, which included more than 100,000 hours of pre-launch testing. Today the engine is fitted into the company's world-leading range of backhoe loaders as well as Loadall telescopic handlers.
Third parties have also been quick to show an interest in the JCB444 engine and it has already been adapted for pump units, marine applications and for use in construction equipment and similar machinery.