As Scots firm ScanStone gears up for the future, we check out some of the company’s latest developments, both manufacturing and product. Jane Carley reports.
Britain’s agricultural machinery manufacturers have had to embrace ‘getting ready for Brexit’ over the last few years. And Forfar root crop specialist ScanStone has certainly done that, establishing ScanStone France in Picardie in 2020 to add to the three depots it runs in Lakenheath, Suffolk; Brigg, Humberside and Kilkeel, Northern Ireland.
General manager, William Skea explains; “The idea is that our French customers will not have to worry about the complexities of getting parts or machines from us in the future. They can leave that to us with our French company, run under their legislation which overcomes many of the issues. It will also support our existing French dealers.”
It is a long way from the company that was founded in 2006 from the ashes of Reekie Manufacturing by a group of directors headed up by Gordon Skea. ScanStone now has a turnover of £10m, more than 60 employees and produces 200 machines a year from a lineup that includes bedformers, stone separators and harvesters.
At the end of 2018, the company moved its assembly line into a new building adjacent to the existing factory, complete with air-source underfloor heating, cranes and built in wifi to allow production staff to access online assembly manuals.
“As production expanded we found that we were simply not big enough, with a bottleneck in fabrication. We have now expanded the paint area to provide more drying capacity, again with underfloor heating. It gives us three times more space, and parts can be painted and dried within 24 hours,” explains Mr Skea.
Workshop space has also been extended as part of the £300,000 project, allowing the manufacturer to offer a clever ‘drive through repair shop’ where local farmers can bring machines in for urgent attention during the season.
“Covid-19 restrictions called for additional staffroom area and canteens to be spaced further out, so we have invested in a first floor mezzanine of 300 square metres for canteen space which will also have a training area. Customers can use this as a waiting area while their machines are attended to or can use the time for training,” he says.
The company is also looking to roll out an online parts service this year; £2.5m-worth of parts are held at Forfar and £1m at Lakenheath. Delivery is offered free of charge using the company’s own vans in Scotland and couriers elsewhere.
With soil preparation already starting for salad potato growers in East Anglia, ScanStone is set for a busy few months. “We appreciated government support during the first lockdown when we paused manufacturing briefly and we have worked closely with our MP and have been able to keep all parts of the business going this time,” says Mr Skea.
“Like many in our sector we have been lucky that we have not been badly affected, and while Brexit is causing short term pain, we are looking forward to a bright future.”
Added capacity has also allowed the development and construction of an increased product range. “In response to the loss of Reglone, we have introduced our own haulm topper range which includes a front-mounted version which can be coupled with a rear mounted butterfly machine, giving a three-bed topper,” explains Mr Skea.
“The front unit can also be easily adapted to go on the rear of the tractor for single bed topping, simply by reversing the gearbox, with no guards or belts to change. A small number were out with customers last autumn and we expect a lot of interest for 2021.”