I’ve been around heavy machinery my whole life, yet I didn’t grow up on a farm. My dad, Dale Anderson, is a mechanic (owner of Anderson’s Garage) and township supervisor in Pennsylvania, which is an elected position. Since the early 1980’s, he’s been serving by performing manual work.
What does it mean to be a township supervisor? Well, he manages back country roads that aren’t maintained by the state or the town boroughs. He spends the winters removing snow and laying cinders so residents can travel the roads. In the summers, he trims brush and trees and spreads layers of brine, or salty water that reduces dust, on dirt roads. I spent my summers riding in dump trucks on bumpy roads to keep him company.
Dale spreading brine on Eulalia township roads (not a JCB vehicle).
When I think of tractors and machines from my childhood, I think about John Deere and Caterpillar branded machines. I learned to “drive” by mowing our yard with an old Wheel Horse tractor.
I’ve never heard of JCB until my parents booked a trip to the United Kingdom to visit. Dale’s sales representative mentioned touring the JCB Factory and scored us VIP tickets since the township recently purchased a backhoe.
So what makes JCB different than its competitors? They’re innovating and making faster and smaller machines that help construction workers be more efficient.
What to Expect on a JCB Tour
1. A Family Company and Professional Staff
As we entered, we were greeted with genuine staff and offered tea or coffee served in JCB branded china. All the staff and most of the other guests wore suits–we were the casual ones. That’s not to say you have to dress in your business best but having closed toe shoes is required.
Les holds an old catalog with a picture of him. He’s the one with the mustache.
Les is one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had. As if he didn’t see enough from working 40 years at JCB, he stuck around to lead tours He held multiple jobs throughout the company and was a proud family member. Les received waves as we passed making us feel like we were part of something special.
Generations work at JCB. Rocester has JCB schools, where children start at the age of 14 and learn the skills necessary to be innovators and engineers in hopes they return to work for JCB after university. JCB offers apprenticeships to help train their employees with knowledge continually being passed onto the next in line.
2. Tour Kits
Walking along heavy machinery can be dangerous, so they provide a quick training and make the visitors stand out with bright, reflective vests. The audio sets were helpful, even in our group of four, to hear Les while JCB continued their daily routine on the assembly line.
3. A Brief History Video
After introductions and the kits, we finally leave the lobby and head to a dimly lit theatre with red velvet seats. A quick safety video starts before sharing the accolades of the company from Joseph Cyril Bamford’s (JCB) first invention to present day. It ends with Lord Anthony Bamford, Joseph’s son, sharing the company’s values of innovation.
4. The Story of JCB
After the video gets you excited about the accomplishments of the company, Les walks us through the Story of JCB, which is a personalized narrative through a museum showing actual refurbished machines from the early days of welding through present day’s JCB Dieselmax.
Early restored JCB machines.
An early version of the JCB Backhoe Loader.
You pass by J. Bamford’s office that overlooks the assembly line as Les shares his personal JCB stories.
Dale sits at Joseph C. Bamford’s desk.
5. The JCB Merchandising Store
As with most tours, there’s always branded swag you can buy. Purchase your souvenirs here and have them held for you until you finish the tour.
6. JCB Backhoe Loader Manufacturing Tour
View of the floor from J. Bamford’s office.
Nearing the end of the tour, it was finally time to see how backhoes are assembled. The tour page highlights what is seen while walking the concrete painted floors, “…here you will see the process of how the machine is built from the delivery of the sheet steel, profiling, laser cutting, welding, paint shop, assembly and finally the finished product!” – Source
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures, but this was one of my favorite part of the tour. I was most impressed watching laser cut sheets of metal. JCB has the scrap steel sheets melted down to reduce waste and work in a just-in-time production.
As we walk along the assembly line, we see the JCB Backhoe Loaders being assembled from frame to cab and all the fixings. I could have spent the whole day watching the technicians tinker.
7. VIP Only?
As VIP guests, my guess is the below parts of our tours were added customer benefits.
Bonus: Walkthrough of the business offices, where JCB engineers, accounting, finance, sales, etc. are hard at work.
Food: As a regular guest, breakfast or lunch is provided if you choose. I highly recommend paying the price difference as the food was incredible and probably some of the best food we had within the prior week traveling around England.
As much as I didn’t want to work my parent’s vacation around the tour, I have to say I enjoyed the private tour, the food, and learning what it takes to build heavy machinery.
JCB Tour Tickets
It’s not as straight forward of a process as buying tickets online. Go to their website and fill out a request form or if you’re a customer contact your sales representative. The prices are reasonable as the tour lasts roughly 3 to 4 hours. Our tour started around 9:45, and we finished lunch around 13:30.
Where is the JCB Tour?
Getting there: JCB factories are scattered throughout Uttoxeter. Without owning or hiring a car, it may be difficult to get to Rocester. From London, we took the train from Euston to Birmingham and rented a car further out of the city. Visitors taking the tour use a separate entrance than the headquarters building, so navigate to the headquarters, and as you arrive, follow signs to “The Story of JCB”. Buzz the intercom and state the name you gave for the tour. You’ll know you’re in the right place when you see a display of machines creating an archway into the building saying VIP Visitor Centre. I’ll be honest: It was a pain to travel to Rocester for a tour.