Etesia Celebrates 25 Years - Innovation is the Key

Etesia StrimmerIt goes without saying that we at ToolBusiness spend a lot of time in damp and windy fields looking at products that are best tested and demonstrated in damp and windy fields. Based near Banbury in Oxfordshire, the UK base of Etesia is ideally placed, being surrounded by fields on which to demonstrate their range of mowers, motorized barrows and garden tools. The purpose of the press day was to celebrate 25 years of innovation and to demonstrate some of the new range of products and ideas that the company is developing.

Fortunately, Etesia had arranged a dry venue under canvas and began the day with a short video giving a lightning tour of Etesia’s 25 years in business. This was followed by a more detailed exposition of the Etesia story by Patrick Vives, the MD of Etesia UK.

Etesia lawnmowerEtesia is a family owned French company that has been very successful developing and innovating garden equipment – for example in developing and producing hydrostatic transmissions, diesel powered ride-on mowers and more latterly electrically powered machines with 0% emissions.

The company has been able to be so innovative because at least 5% of annual turnover is allocated to Research and Development – one of the ways in which a company such as Etesia can compete with slower moving corporations and thus stay in front of the innovation curve.

The development of Etesia’s range of ride-on mowers over 25 years serves as an apt metaphor for the company as a whole. Beginning in 1989 Etesia developed a new system of grass collection that used contra-rotating cutters that ejected the cuttings to the rear of the machine where it could be easily collected. The competition was still using side ejection that made easy collection impossible.

The introduction of the Bahia range was an attempt to make smaller and cheaper mowers that would find a wider market. These models too had innovations like a remote controlled emptiable grass box. With the introduction of the H124D, the high-lift emptiable grass box was pioneered as well as a 4 wheel drive option – at the same time development was aiming to lower the cost of the machines even further.

Etesia Lawnmower imageThe Attila Range was developed specifically for farmers and local authorities who needed a brushcutting capacity on a machine with four wheel drive, rugged tyres and a low centre of gravity in order to work on sloped banks and verges.

When Etesia developed their Bioconcept strategy its analysis showed that in the lifecycle of a typical garden machine 9% of emissions were created in the manufacturing process, 1% in the distribution and 5% at the end of life of the machine. The bulk of emissions (85%) were in the daily use of fuel in the machine. Clearly, if the company could tackle this last one, emissions could be reduced greatly. Etesia experimented with biofuel and now has a range of machines that can run on a diesel and biofuel mix as well as on LPG.

But the future development was obviously pointing at using electricity and the promise of zero emissions.

The company also began to look in detail at production in the French factory in order to save time, money, energy and production costs. Involving the workers themselves, an integrated system was developed that allowed smarter production of in-demand models and took into account seasonal variations in demand. At the same time there was relentless pressure to produce reliable, cost effective and innovative machines in order to compete in a market place hit by recession and general retrenchment. For example, all Etesia machines are subject to post- manufacture tests whereas commonly only a small sample of machines are tested by larger manufacturers.

As a company, Etesia relies on its band of loyal customers as well as trying hard to develop into new markets worldwide. In order to do this it has to have a dealership structure that will respond quickly to customers’ demands and listen to their requests and suggestions. With exports making up 60% of production, the machines have to be aimed at a wide range of users working in a wide range of conditions.

Quality doesn’t come cheap, but as we all know in the tool trade – most often you get what you pay for.

The second part of the presentation was by Andreas Kuisl from Pellenc. Not many readers may know about Pellenc but the company has been around for 37 years. It is most well known in France for producing cordless pruners for vineyards. (Think about it – would your hands be capable of doing the pruning of acres of vineyards in the time slot available?)

Pellenc is an ideal working partner for Etesia because the company has been developing motors, cordless backpacks and cordless tools for a lot longer than the market may reflect. At least 1% of its £102m turnover is spent on research and development. With 300 patents to its name Pellenc is an innovative force to be reckoned with.

Andreas was quickly able to put across Pellenc’s vision for the future of solar powered battery packs that could be converted (using smart electronics) to run domestic appliances, LED lighting systems as well as a range of tools, both domestic and industrial. Andreas made a convincing case for solar powered battery packs being able to reduce emissions by 98% on a range of common machines and appliances.

For me the best part of any trade day is trying out the machines. I started with the Pellenc battery powered brush cutter. Like its petrol-powered counterparts it operates freely as its powerpack is a battery on the operator’s back. In my experience, it is as efficient as a petrol-powered machine, but without the noise, the vibration and the fumes. I could see how this would be perfect for urban environments where noise and fumes might limit the scope and range of grasscutting operations.

I also had a great time scarifying an area of grass using the new Etesia battery-powered general purpose Bahia machine. The diesel powered Attila mower I tried showed brilliant stability as I threw it around the field using the tight turning circle and brilliant maneuverability. The field wasn’t really damp enough to put those mini tractor tyres to the test…!

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Welability - SIF

Bringing together a better future for UK manufacturing.

Weldability LogoOn Friday the 27th March after a short train ride from London Kings Cross and brisk walk through Letchworth town centre, we arrived at Weldability-Sif for the official opening of their Technology and Training Centre.

In recent times welding, along with the UK Manufacturing Industry as a whole, has slowed, almost to the point of vanishing. Although this is largely down to outsourcing to overseas manufacturers, there is also a perception that it is a profession for older generations, one that the young do not see as a plausible or accessible career pathway. However, Weldabity-SIF are doing all they can to change that.

SIF tipsAdrian Hawkins, Chairman of Weldability-SIF began the day by looking back on how the company has evolved during their 90-year history. He told the story of how during the Second World War, SIF-Tips, the company’s publication offering welding tips and ideas, changed its mascot from ‘Willie the Welder’, to ‘Winnie the Welder’ to help women adapt to their new found status as blue collar workers. Even during wartime, Sifbronze, as it was then known, were creating inroads to making welding accessible to all, regardless of age or gender.

The company has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, becoming Weldability SIF in 2007. With the new Weldability-SIF Technology and Training Centre, of which the offices of Unit 1 will be named ‘Peter’s House’, after Adrian’s late Father, this day was as much about looking forward as back. Due to the work of the Weldability-SIF foundation, apprenticeships in the sector are becoming far more accessible with training welding workshops opening in engineering colleges around the country. These welding workshop include the recently opened Llaneli based Coleg Sir Gar, and also the one at Goole College, based in Hull.

Weldability Building OpeningSir Oliver Heald, the MP of the Letchworth Area officially opened the new building, before being taken on a tour round the new Technology and Training Centre. After a quick look at the new Showroom, we were then taken through at demonstration of how a Weldability-SIF Apprenticeship works. Initially an Apprentice will focus on the theoretical side of the vocation, using the facilities of the E Learning suite to be taken through the training and then take online tests to prepare for the practical side of the job. He or she will then begin honing their Welding skills in the Vitual Welding studio, enabling them to practice without being at risk of injury or worse and also saving wastage of materials at such an early stage. Furthermore this E learning is portable, and is currently making its way around schools in the Greater London Area.

We were a given the opportunity to chance our arm with the virtUweld welding simulator, and it is safe to say I’d need a fair few more lessons before I don the mask and have a crack at the real thing!

Another fascinating part of the tour was looking at the work of Extractability, the fume extraction division of Welability-SIF. New regulations, tightening up on the management of fumes has lead to improvements in Extractability products, with the Protecto line, having an extensive range of Extraction arms, fans, downdraft benches, hoses, filters, vacuum systems and filters, both fixed and mobile. Its great to see the company doing what it can to not only make the vocation accessible, but also developing their technology to make the future bright, with more green credentials.

After the tour was over, we were treated to an excellent lunch, and a chat with members of the Weldability-SIF family and staff. We would like to thank everyone there for making it an enjoyable and interesting day in Letchworth Garden City.

Report by Matthew Beard, Editorial Manager

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