Staffordshire firm JCB has completed the first phase of its move to a new purpose-built Heavy Products factory in Uttoxeter.
The development represents a £40 million investment by the company – just at a time when it has announced it is to axe 650 of its workers in the UK.
The company, famous for its iconic yellow machines, announced last month that it was planning the redundancies – which amount to almost a tenth of its UK workforce – due to a decline in orders and the rising price of raw materials.
Consultations with workers are taking place at each of its 11 factories in Staffordshire, Wrexham and Derbyshire. It is thought at least 500 of the jobs going will be in manufacturing with the remainder made up of managerial staff.
The major factor in the decline in business has been attributed to the global slump in the construction sector and the company has forecast that its production schedule for the year could be down by around 20 per cent.
Matthew Taylor, group chief executive, said the job cuts were “regrettable but absolutely necessary” due to the climate.
Work on the new facility, which is next to the A50 at Uttoxeter, started last year and the company said its completion represented an opportunity to capitalise on future growth potential when the construction equipment markets recovered.
The first 155 office and shopfloor employees have transferred from the Uttoxeter town centre factory to the new to the new 450,000 sq ft facility. The remaining 400 employees are expected to move in phases between now and next spring.
“The new Heavy Products factory represents an opportunity for JCB to grow its tracked and wheeled excavator business substantially once the global construction markets have recovered from the downturn currently being experienced,” said Mr Taylor.
“As part of the move, we have invested very heavily in new production equipment which will enable us to take the quality of our excavator product to new heights.”
“JCB’s range of JS excavators have impressed customers around the world with their power, efficiency and design and this substantial investment means we can build on that reputation,” he added.
The new factory is said to offer employees a very hi-tech and modern environment, with improved working conditions.
JCB Heavy Products manufactures a range of 25 tracked and wheeled excavators from seven to 46 tonnes. The first machines to roll off the production lines of the new factory will be wheeled and zero tailswing tracked excavators. The new facility will enable JCB to increase production capacity by more than 60 per cent in the future and will help it spearhead its drive to increase its global market share of the tracked and wheeled excavator market.
The relocation of the factory from the town centre heralds a regeneration of the area and JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford is personally involved in the project, which he sees as his legacy to the town.
He instigated a Royal Institute of Architects’ (RIBA) architectural competition to come up with an award-winning design idea for the scheme.
The competition has entered its final phase with two companies from an original shortlist of six selected to take the project to the next stage by producing further design work for the proposed redevelopment of the 22 acre site.