Speaking during a global virtual trade press conference yesterday (13 April) at JCB’s Global HQ in Rocester, Staffordshire, central England, Macdonald said: “We’ve been through a very difficult and traumatic 12 months. This time last year, the economic impact of COVID-19 was immediate and dramatic. In April, May, and June 2020, the [construction equipment] market collapsed by 50% versus [the same period of] 2019.
“At that time, all our 22 global factories were closed, as we understood the implications of working within COVID-safe protocol. From July onwards, markets began to rebound as governments around the world leveraged infrastructure and construction to stimulate their economies.
“In 2021, the rebound has continued strongly, stronger than we anticipated or hoped. The first quarter of 2021 has shown the market has grown by 6% compared to the pre-pandemic first quarter of 2020. The market at the start of 2021 is now at record levels, which creates some different but welcome challenges.
“I’d like to single India out for a special mention. The market there collapsed by 94% in April, May, and June last year. Using the same three-month [Q1] period for comparison, the Indian market has grown by 29% compared to the same period of 2020. So, the market in India is far larger than it was before the pandemic, which is great news given our presence in that market.”
Macdonald said that while Europe’s construction equipment demand had not grown as much as India’s, all European markets are “busy”. He emphasised that JCB had been taking many orders from customers in Europe and are now forecasting strong demand throughout 2021 and into 2022.
JCB’s CEO said that to keep pace with strong demand, the manufacturer was recruiting a further 850 employees to work in its UK factories, describing it as a “situation that could not have been anticipated just a few months ago”.
Of the 850 new jobs, 450 will be additional agency shop floor employees at JCB’s factories in Staffordshire, Derbyshire, and Wrexham. A further 400 agency shop floor employees with more than one year’s service will be given permanent JCB contracts. These will include assemblers, welders, fabricators, and CNC machinists.
Macdonald continued: “Our new £50 million cab factory in the UK opened in mid-2020. It is very busy making cabs for our machines. Construction of our new £65 million factory in Gujarat, India, is also progressing well. It will give us much-needed manufacturing capacity.”
Macdonald stressed that JCB was very fortunate to be working in a “resilient” sector. “For as long as governments invest in road, railway and housing infrastructure projects, construction equipment will be needed. The recovery we are now seeing in our industry and in our business is very welcome.”
Over the last decade and in the decades to come, Macdonald said JCB had demonstrated and will continue to show its commitment to sustainability.
“Sustainability at JCB means having zero impact on our planet. You have heard previously about our ‘Road to Zero’ programme. It’s a road we’ve been on since 2010, with our key focus being on reducing the CO₂ footprint of the machines we sell. Through innovation and our fuel efficiency drive, we’ve reduced the CO₂ footprint of our machines by more than 50% in ten years.
"Our sustainability strategy is not just about the machines we build and sell. We now have focus on our supply chain. Working closely with our suppliers, we are targeting to reduce the CO₂ impact of our raw material production and logistics. We are also focusing on our manufacturing operations with numerous renewable energy projects for our factories.”
Touching on the Stage V emissions-compliant upgrade machines being unveiled at the press conference, Macdonald said: “We’ve always embraced changes in emissions legislation, to make our engines as clean as they can possibly be. This is all part of our Clean Diesel Programme. At the same time, we also embrace the opportunity to make other improvements to our machines.”
New JCB machines unveiled yesterday included Stage V compliant versions of its popular 140X, 150X and 220X crawler excavators; a new 55kW 3CX ECO backhoe loader with EU Stage V compliant engine; and the G40RS V rental generator set – the company’s first Rental Series (RS) generator set with EU Stage V power, which can be used in general quarry site infrastructure/offices.