Richardson Transcripts (CT6)
Mr B C Harrison, Vice Chairman of Herberts, talks about the firm commencing with ashort history of the founder, Sir Alfred Herbert.
Alfred Herbert, native of Leicester, son of a farmer, (mm) parents intention heshould go to University with the idea of becoming a parson, ultimately persuadedhis parents to let him join an old school fellow William Hubbard as anapprentice to a firm of engineers in Leicester - that firm was Jessops wasn't it?(mm) ---- Alfred Herbert was one of six apprentices earning five shillings a week.There were 150 people employed making building, making - building cranes, hoistingand lifting machinery, steam engines and in general engineering. At that timethere were no milling machines, no turret blades, no gear cutting machines, gearswere cast, no twist rules and no nor micrometers not even a blue-print. Itappeared that superintendents and foremen carried all information in their headsand then by ingenious and often miraculous methods worked the unit parts into afinished product.
Some amazing achievements and anecdotes in Herberts early experience of work buttime does not permit, but what a training and an acquired practical ability thoseengineers of yesterday had before being thrust into the world of metal cuttingto devise their own future. Now then this is, this is Alfred Herbert------no no I'd better read this bit. And this Alfred Herbert did. In 1887 he cameto Coventry which then had a population of 45,000 at a time when the ribbon andwatch trades most important to the City were suffering grave depressions throughforeign competition, also at a time when the cycle trades were being introducedto find work for the unemployed skilled watchmakers. He came to Coventry withintent to join his brother but eventually took a job managing asmall and not very ------in general engineering business owned by Coles and Matthews in theButts - district of Coventry. Incidentally something which isn't in this reportand I'll add - one of their main lines of business was the renting out of -tractors and - ploughs. You remember they used tractors which cabled a ploughbackwards and forwards across a field. This was one of their main lines ofbusiness (No, we don't do you? no, no. Cabled it backwards and forwards?) Yes,you remember the old cable tractors, old cable ploughs don't you? (No, weknew - we knew that there was a development of steam traction in connectionwith, as an early attempt to mechanise agriculture but we did not know thedetail, that in fact you had a cable power.) Well the way it used to work,there were two tractors one on either side of the field (oh yes) with a big drumunderneath (oh yes) and this drum connected a cable to a plough (yes) and it wasa strange concoction of a plough which tipped over one way or another so thatthe -- the the - shore - shares and so on went into the ground the right way andthey used to plough the field by pulling the tractor - the plough across one way (mm)then move the pair of tractors forward one width whatever it was whether it wasa one, two, three or six share plough and pull it back the other way and this wayand, and, this was one of the things which ---- Coles and Matthews used to do,to rent out these things (mm) to farmers. - (Why didn't they catch on? Cost toomuch?) Well (lady's voice - you wouldn't save either time or labour) (You wouldn't save anything would you?) No, but I think it was the start ofmechanisation of agriculture (oh yes) that the modern method of having the tractorpulling a single plough is much more versatile. (Oh yes quite) You've gotto have a field of a certain dimension haven't you? (yes) Generally speakingit's got to be rectangular (mm) and you wanted long pulls and so on (mm). Mindyou I would think that also some of the - things weren't - as good as they need to be.I should think the cables need to be pretty powerful (mm) - and in those daysthey probably hadn't got such powerful steel cables as we have today (mm, yes,right - interesting however). Mm, anyway, that - that was one of the thingsthat Coles and Matthews did. (yes). After a year or so his old school fellow,apprentice William Hubbard joined him in partnership and they bought the Colesand Matthews business and carried on as Herbert and Hubbard (yes). Theirrespective fathers gave them £2,000 each by way of capital, a goodly sum to starta business at that time. They spent £250 to build a smallworkshop, they alsobought a few good machine tools amongst them a Universal Mill which could cutgears and a cylindrical grinder. Both were American made. Also a Muask?screw cutting lathe. They started making smallmachines, hand lathes anddrilling machines and milling machines mainly for the expanding motor trade.
The lathes with compound rests sold very freely at £28 each. By way ofimproving on current designs of hand lathes, Herbert and Hubbard increased thebelt width from an inch and a half to three inches, they made the compound resttwice as strong as was then in practice and put a 2½" hole through the spindle,provided a Capstan? caption? of the pilot wheel? mounted a cut off slide on asaddle which had a chasing saddle and quick withdrawal, thus was born the No.4Capstan Lathe of which with its continually improving descendants many thousandshave been sold throughout the world. It is calculated that over 45,000 Lathesof this capacity have been sold. The engineering world would say that theNumber 4 is better known than a bottle of Bass. Incidentally (That is adangerous remark I should have thought.) Is it? (yes) (laughter) I think it's only dangerous in the modern context but I wouldn't be surprisedto find that -- a Number four Capstan was known before Bass was ever made.
,,,...... loan and not making much of a living, however they found asideline which was largely responsible for stabilising financially the beginningsof this organisation. They obtained an agreement from a French Company to beagents in the U.K. for Wells Steel Tubes (They did indeed.) Owing to theirclose contact with the cycle industry Herbert knew the market and the contactsand thus the Tubes were soon required in large quantities and giving a good turnoverwith a satisfactory profit. This in fact was the making of the business (oh yes ofcourse it was). Yes, they even exported to America. Sales in1891 were threequarters of the total output in that year. For reasons unknown, Hubbarddecided to return to Leicester so Alfred Herbert bought his share of the businessand carried on under his own name until a small private Company of which he wasChairman and Governing Director was formed in 1894. It says "reasons unknown"here, but they had a quarrel (oh yes, mm) - but the basis of the quarrel we don'tknow. From then onwards the Company grew from strength to strength. In 18 – 89the total number employed was 12. When Sir Alfred died in 1957 in the 91st yearof his full and vigorous life, the Company employed over six thousand. It thenhad four manufacturing plants in or near Coventry, which had a floor space ofnearly a million and a half square feet. (Four? where were they?) Look (four)Four, yes (yes, yes) - (out at Edwick?) Edwick, Red Lane, Exhall and Lutterworth(mm, right) - had eight branch offices, no wait a minute I've jumped somethingthere, had four manufacturing plants in or near Coventry, which had a floor areaof nearly a million and a half square feet and approximately three thousand machinetools in use. Had eight branch offices in the U.K., had subsidiary companies inFrance, India, Italy and Australia. Herbert was the first Machine Tool Companyto open an office in Australia, had appointed Agents in 65 other countries, some ofthose Agents have been with the Company for over 50 years, had acquired the ...... Instrument Company, a Company recognised as the leading metrology firm in the U.K.at that time at Bletchworth.
What of the man, Alfred Herbert, why and how did he succeed? He was recognized as an outstanding individualist, so characteristic were the founders and leadersof the machine tool industry and as good fortune often does favour the bold soSir Alfred who was knighted in 1917 may be said to have had a fortune on his side
in starting his engineering business in the still early days of this mechanicalage, starting in Coventry which had been the pioneering centre for so manyindustries, ribbons, watches, cycles, motor cycles, motor cars and aircraftand in this modern age rockets and guided missiles. But good fortune aloneis not enough and it was characteristic of the man that he should appreciatethe possibilities and enterprisingly set out with a firm determination – ofthem - I don 't know what that - it doesn’t 't make good reading does it?Whilst helping to meet industry's new and growing needs with their fourmachines, in doing so he was greatly aided by those whom he so ably gatheredabout him. Frugally anticipating the future too, both he and they realised the importance and the potential of the two way trade in machine toolsoverseas. So it was that Sir Alfred's personal fortunes flourished, as didthose of the Company of which he so unquestionably was the head.
From the outset, Alfred Herbert's declaration to produce only the best possiblemachines from the best available resources and skills , training, etc. at thesame time an elite manpower as an investment for the future did not entirelysatisfy his aims . Whilst his engineering skill piloted the basic majormechanical designs his acutely perceptive mind was projecting beyond theconfines of his own successful enterprise and examining the problems ofmanufacture and productivity on the outside. Two basic requisites formanufacturing efficiency became established considerations in every aspect ofthe Company's development. 1. Maintaining competitive advantage in productivitydepends directly upon keeping in touch with the development of production methodsand upon implementing them at precisely the right time, and 2. Machineutilisation must be kept at the - possible maximum to ensure maximum efficiency.
It was quite remarkable that re-thinking on productive efficiency in recent years has offered no better conclusions although of course technologicalprogress in recent years has been staggering. His contribution to promulgating
up-to-date information on metal working techniques was to publish regular summariesof progress in his own organisation (mm) thus the Herbert Machine Tool Review wasborn in 1913. It is today one of the most highly regarded specialist technicalpublications in the world. Probably the wealth of information streaming fromhis insight into - into industry prompted our founder to offer a sales engineeringservice to industry at the turn of the century. For over sixty years Herberthad offered facilities to solve their customers' problems, to recommend the mostsuitable machines and equipment for required production, and give a very reliableand often guaranteed estimates of production. The Group continues to give thisservice dealing with approximately 700enquiries per month. I don't think wewant to publish that 700by the way (No) - We have recently extended the service.We have appraised/praised? the entire manufacturing effects since the customersexisting plant equipment and methods. This has been done in several largewell-known concerns in this country. Aware of the vital need to keep expensivemachinery cutting he recognised the need to foreshorten the distance between thehead works whose reputation for service was spreading and the expanding industrialcentres throughout the country, where his machines were being worked in increasingnumbers. With this in mind he began opening branches to carry machine spares,tools and other machine shop accessories as well as skilled personnel. Whensubsequently overseas trading became to assume significant proportions agencies andsubsidiaries were - I can't read this word but I should say it was "established"to provide the same services to overseas customers. The rate of expansion ofservices offered by the Company has always sought to keep pace with or to anticipategrowth of demand. Today Herbert branched in - branches in London, Leeds, Birminghamand Manchester, Leicester, Rotherham and Gateshead, Bristol and Glasgow offerequipment and spares and technical devices, an extension of the head works atCoventry. Each branch has warehousing for comprehensive stocks of equipment andwill deliver the requirements of customers by road at short notice. Thebranches manned by workshop trained specialists with impressive fieldexperience who are able to give sound advice on all aspects of production includingdiecasting, plastic moulding, forging and inspection either at the branch or in thecustomer's works.
Our personnel - our publicity man attributes the success of the Company to two factors.Sir Alfred's uncanny sense of appointing the right men in charge of designs productionsales and service it would appear that in those early days he appointed his executiveson their known success in the fields in which they were specialising. Often I haveheard the story of Sir Alfred seeing for himself the achievements of industrytalking to the men who contributed their success men who later were invited to joinhim at Coventry. In later years he selected his executives up to Board level fromhis ex- apprentices who had shown promise and initiative. Another Herbertcontribution to prosperity has been a stream of trained engineers to industrythroughout the world. Installing a Herbert trained engineer in a customer's workswas tantamount to having a salesman permanently on the customer's payroll. Thesecond point was his assistance - his insistence on building to high quality arange of machine tools particularly lathes which in design outmoded theircompetitors, which in service outlived their competitors and which in applicationachieved immense success in the fields for which they were designed. During the76 years' history of the Company it has taken out over 500 patents, the first in1891.
And as we reflected on the achievements of this distinguished industrialist, wecould not but be amazed with the immense changes that have been wrought in industryduring his lifetime and notably during his latter years. The whole outlook todayis so different in consequence of the remarkable advances in scientific knowledgeboth pure and applied, but the Company of Alfred Herbert Limited continues to growin size and status and it is keeping abreast of modern thinking and action. Fiveyears before Sir Alfred died the Company pioneered tape control of machine toolsin the U.K. Today their activity in this field is extensive. To expand productionthe Company between 1965 and '66 acquired the Holbrook Machine Tool Company tospecialise in the design and manufacture of precision lathes, Lockwood Machine Toolsof Huddersfield - manufacturers of planning and planner milling machines, I.L. Berridge& Company of Leicester to augment production of Herbert lathes and to make some oftheir imported machines which are now licensed and built in the U.K., Moodies?Electrical Company in Birmingham which whilst continuing to supply electricalequipment designed and built to customers' requirements and standard switch gearare also supplying to the Parent Company electrical switch gear for machine toolsincluding various electrical controllers for such - for a variety of machines,Lutterworth works, extensions had been made at our Lutterworth works primarily toincrease the production of Herbert De?vley Jig Millwhich we built underlicence from the American Company. We are now exporting numbers of these machinesto the United States of America.
In mid 1966 a new Company was formed in the U.K., Herbert Ingersoll Limited, a jointventure to manufacture in the U.K. special purposes machine tool systems – Herbertowns 51 per cent of the Company and the financial interests are such that Herbertwill probably have a 20 per cent - no, I don't think we ought to put that in (oh) -The factory was built at Daventry approximately 30 miles from Coventry and in thethird year of operation in 1970 an annual rate of output of 4½ million pounds hasbeen reached. It says "will be reached" here. The fact - The first metal wascut on the 1st January 1968. The latest acquisition of Herbert was the machinetool small tool and kindred interests of B.S.A. Thirteen B.S.A. Companies weregrouped into a new subsidiary of Herbert called Herbert B.S.A. This included theChurchill Machine Tool Company. This merger, together with new factories Herbertopened - in Falmouth and are opening at Redditch and - at Redditch that's all -at Redditch - are part of the enlarged Alfred Herbert Limited - The machine toolindustry employs 68,000 and the Herbert Group employs 11,000 so that they haveapproximately one-sixth of thistotal. - In fact - Herbert also sells for a lotof other British machine tool makers, Lumbs and Mills? Brown and Ward, Landis Maiden,Herbert probably sells at least a fifth of the total output of the British machinetool industry.
In - 1968 (mm) - the whole structure of the Company was reorganised (mm) - It wasreorganised to form a Parent or Holding Company - under which were seven operatingCompanies each specialising in themanufacture of different types of machine tools(yes). They were supported by four Service Divisions (yes) and - under thisarrangement the Company is now progressing to be - a specialist in the manufactureof - lathes in one Company, boring and drilling machines in another Company,grinding machines in a third, dealing with - machines sold on behalf of otherCompanies in a fourth (mm), small tools and equipment in a fifth , (yes), controlsof instruments in a sixth and Herbert Ingersoll the makers of special purpose and -transfer machines (mm) - in the seventh Company (mm). (yes).