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Major Milestone for JCB

First published in the July 2019 issue of Quarry Management as A Major Milestone 

JCB celebrate half a century of wheel loader production

This year JCB are celebrating 50 years of wheeled loading shovel production. Over those five decades, the company’s award-winning range has expanded beyond recognition, introducing many market-leading technologies and establishing JCB as a global leader in the wheel loader business.

The company first entered the wheel loader market with the acquisition UK-based Chaseside Engineering, taking on their seven rigid-axle machines. Relocation of production lines from Chaseside’s plant in Blackburn, Lancashire, took several months but it was all systems go by the start of 1969, which marked the start of the first full year of shovel manufacturing at JCB’s expanding Rocester factory, in Staffordshire. In that first year, the fledgling wheel loader division would build just 298 machines, catering primarily for domestic customer demand.

As the 50th anniversary is marked, JCB now produce wheel loaders in their thousands on production lines in countries around the world, including the UK, India, Brazil and China. This year also marks the 20th anniversary of JCB opening a multi-million-pound factory in Cheadle, Staffordshire, dedicated to the production of wheel loaders.

JCB’s chief innovation and growth officer, Tim Burnhope, said: ‘Over the past 50 years, JCB’s wheel loader range has evolved into a major part of our product portfolio. Fifty years is a long time but our sights are firmly on the future and we are committed to bringing new levels of innovation to this range. The launch of the spacious CommandPlus cab on our wheel loaders was a pivotal moment in this machine’s history and this innovation really did put operator comfort at the heart of the design.

‘JCB now offer 25 different wheel loader models and manufacture the product on three continents. With our innovative range, we are very well placed to increase our sales in a sector which has grown rapidly around the world for three consecutive years.’ 

The first JCB-designed machines arrived in 1971 with the launch of the 413 and 418 models to replace the former Chaseside models. The JCB loading shovels featured a cab mounted on the front section of the articulating chassis, to provide the operator with an improved view of the working area. They were also equipped with an oscillating centre pivot, to ensure that all four wheels remained in contact with the ground, delivering maximum tractive effort.

At this time, JCB also launched a tracked loading shovel, the 110, the first of its type to feature a hydrostatic transmission and twin-tiller loader controls. The machine was the first to be awarded with a Design Council Award in 1972. The crawler loader would continue to be developed, with the 112 and 114 models, well into the 1970s.

In 1973 the 423 and 428 were launched, taking JCB into heavier wheel loader territory. A year later the Design Council again recognized JCB for the 418 design, the company’s second award in just two years for what was still a fairly young business unit.

By the early 1980s the division had expanded again with the introduction of the 428 landfill compactor. JCB recognized that different industry sectors required individual machine specifications, a focus that has remained to this day with the company building specific models for construction, quarrying, agriculture and waste handling.

By 1983 the 410, 420 and 430 models had also arrived, again moving the sector forwards with the introduction of four-ram loader linkages. These parallel lift arms would prove essential for materials-handling duties in particular. JCB still offer customers a choice between a four-arm lift package or the Z-bar linkage favoured by the quarry industry on many loader models.

JCB continued to develop their growing range of wheel loaders, moving into the compact market in 1987. The 406 was the first JCB compact loader and also the first loader to have the cab mounted on the rear section of the articulating chassis. This model was soon joined by the 408 in 1989.

Following the success of the compact models, JCB went on to redesign their heavier loaders, with the launch of the 411, 412S and 416 in 1994. Like the compact models, these new machines all featured a much-improved operator’s cab, mounted on the rear section of the chassis for the first time. They were followed just a year later by the 414S, 426, 436ZX and JCB’s first telescopic-boom wheel loader, the 409TM. With 22 years of market-leading telehandler experience, JCB’s decision to combine the talents of their wheeled loading shovel chassis with a telescopic boom from the Loadall division proved an inspired one. It brought together the versatility of a telehandler boom with the precision control of an articulated machine.

Additional compact models followed in 1996, and in 1997 JCB picked up a Queen’s Award for Export Achievement for their loader range. A new range-topping 456ZX model also joined the line-up at this time, alongside the 410ZX and 411ZX hydrostatic compact models and two additional Telemasters – the TM200 and TM270.

If 1997 was a big year for products, 1999 would prove an even more eventful year for the business, with a move to purpose-built new premises in Cheadle, Staffordshire. With the ability to boost production, the multi-million-pound facility – producing under the name JCB Earthmovers – would prove critical to further fuel product expansion and sales growth.

By the early 2000s, the company’s range of wheel loaders and telescopic loaders was well established, with the addition of new 407, 408 and 409 hydrostatic loaders, the TM300 Telemaster and the 456HT loader. In 2006, JCB Earthmovers were again given a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, in the International Trade Category, a feat that would be repeated in 2009.

The company’s Dieselmax engine range, fitted to a number of the loaders, powered the Dieselmax streamliner to a world land-speed record for diesel cars in 2006, establishing JCB as a world-beating engine manufacturer.

As with other JCB businesses, much of the second decade of this century has been taken up with meeting exhaust emissions legislation, as JCB’s wheel loaders have passed through Tier 3 and Tier 4 Interim and Final standards. The company is currently preparing to provide customers in Europe with Stage V compliant models in 2019 and 2020.

Meanwhile, 2014 saw the dawn of a new era in cab design with the launch of the all-new ‘JCB CommandPlus’ cab. The powerful JCB 457 was the first machine to boast the completely new cab, offering operators the ultimate in comfort. This totally new ROPS structure has ‘A’ pillars that have been moved out to the same width as the rear of the cab, providing a larger interior with a panoramic front windscreen. The machine features JCB’s Command Driving Position, with revised pedals, a new adjustable steering column and seat-mounted hydraulic controls.

This decade has also seen JCB’s wheel loader range continue to expand, as the line-up has grown with both larger and smaller models. The largest loader, the 467, was launched in 2012, while the company’s smallest model, the 403, arrived in 2017. The company has also expanded its global footprint, as facilities in India commenced production of wheel loaders in 2012 and production of the 426 loader started in Brazil in 2014. More recently, JCB commenced production of wheel loaders in China in 2017. 

The company is now readying its extensive range to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers with the introduction of Stage V emissions-compliant powertrains. And with production at record levels, JCB Earthmovers still  show little sign of slowing down.

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