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Bell Equipment

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Bell Equipment manufactures earthmoving and material handling equipment for the mining, construction, forestry, and sugar industries.

The company was founded and is based in South Africa, but has grown internationally through a series of strategic global partnerships.

It is listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.


[edit] History

[edit] Foundation and Expansion

Bell Equipment was co-founded by Irvine Bell and his wife Eunice in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. In 1954, they established a small enterprise providing engineering and equipment repair services to local pioneer farming communities.

The business quickly gathered steam. It claimed to be capable of repairing even the most extensively damaged or worn machinery, which attracted customers from afar

As its customer base expanded, so did its facilities. In 1958, Irvine Bell built a new workshop and hired his brother Robert and brother-in-law Malcolm Campbell to help out. Meanwhile, his wife Eunice was in charge of the company’s financials.

Irvine was not simply a skilled repairman, but also an inventor. Earlier in his engineering career, he designed a homemade water-boring machine. More recently he had developed a self-loading sugar cane trailer, which included an overhead transfer crane. So, while fixing equipment, Bell Equipment was also manufacturing Irvine’s inventions, in limited quantities.

By the early 1960s, Irvine found a way to improve sugar cane harvesting, which was a big industry in South Africa. He believed the current “rudimentary” harvesting machines lacked the necessary maneuverability.[1] Instead, he wanted to develop a “whole new class of machine” that utilized hydrostatic technology.[2] So, in 1964, he built a three-wheeled loader prototype powered by a hydraulic motor from an old motor grader. The new machine was called the Bell Tri-Wheeler. Each of its three wheels could be controlled independently, allowing the vehicle to turn on its own axis.

“The simple control concept was easily assimilated by operators without any previous experience.”[3]

Despite Irvine Bell’s invention skills, he wanted his company focused on engineering, not manufacturing. He licensed the manufacturing rights of his Tri-Wheeler to a Johannesburg locomotive company.

In the early 1970s, Bell Equipment again expanded beyond its current space, establishing a new facility in Richards Bay, South Africa.

[edit] The Family Grows

Irvine and Eunice Bell had three sons: Peter, Gary, and Paul. They all became involved in the family business. They were especially skilled at designing “productive mobile machinery.”[4]

Peter and Gary designed a go-kart, which was capable of pulling a small tip trailer. They also attached a dozer blade to the kart, enabling it to spread gravel. Then the two brothers developed and patented a sugar cane cutting attachment for the Tri-Wheeler that would further mechanize cane harvesting.

Meanwhile, the license agreement for the Tri-Wheeler was about to expire, and the Bell sons wanted to recapture the manufacturing rights. However, Irvine was wary about his sons’ ambition to enter into mass production. He believed that within a year they would lose interest from constantly producing the same piece of equipment. They proved him wrong. Within the first year they produced 50 units.

The Bell sons followed up their initial success with more advancements and attachments, adapting the Tri-Wheeler for further applications. They fitted it with a forklift mast, creating a rough terrain forklift, which was embraced by the brick industry. They also re-configured the machine for the timber industry by attaching a log grab, creating the Bell Logger.

Soon, the sons were moving on from attachments to develop brand new machines while not straying too far from their target market. Peter designed a vehicle to transport sugar cane and timber. It was described as a “more robust” machine built for hauling. It was called the Bell Rigid Tractor. Peter then designed a front wheel loader, specifically built for an African market.

[edit] Seeking a Wider Audience

After years of selling its equipment through independent distributors, Bell decided to establish its own dedicated outlets providing factory-direct support. The Bell Customer Service Center support network began with a branch in Johannesburg and soon spread outwards with national coverage before exporting its services to neighboring countries.

In 1984, Bell commissioned a new custom-built factory in Richards Bay. Meanwhile, new facilities were being established internationally. A New Zealand assembly facility was built to provide loaders to the Australasian forest industry. In the U.S., Bell forged a partnership with a large forestry manufacturer to American versions of the Bell Logger.

[edit] Articulated Trucks

In the early 1980s, a new type of earthmover arrived in South Africa. They came from Europe and were called articulated dump trucks. They were described as “effective and versatile,” but still Bell “saw room for improvement, fine tuning [its] design to better cope with the harsh operating conditions common in Africa.”[5]

In 1984, Bell had released its first articulated truck, the B25A. It was a 25-ton model and was viewed by Bell as a “resounding success.”[6] Soon Bell developed a wider range of articulated trucks. In 1989, Bell introduced its 40-ton capacity articulated dump truck, which was followed by the 50-ton capacity B50D.

[edit] Strategic International Alliances

Having already achieved a significant portion of the African market, Bell wanted to branch out further internationally. The company sought to partner with global equipment manufacturers to provide a “comprehensive range of machines in the construction, forestry, mining, and agriculture industries.”[7]

In 1992, Bell formed an alliance with Kato Works in Japan to sell a line of hydraulic excavators.

In 1995, Bell acquired the right to distribute John Deere construction and forestry equipment in South Africa under the Bell brand. Four years later Bell again partnered with John Deere. This time Deere would be selling Bell articulated dump trucks throughout North and South America.

In 2003, Bell established an assembly plant in Germany to “provide greater flexibility and better management of logistics when delivering articulated dump trucks to important Northern Hemisphere markets.”[8]

Other partnerships include Hitachi in Asia, Liebherr and Protec in Germany, and Ausa in Spain.

[edit] The Company Today

Bell Equipment is a global company with more than 19,000 machines operating in over 60 countries around the world.[9] It has over 2,400 employees worldwide and its head office is in Richards Bay, South Africa.[10]

It is a family business. Founded by Irvine Bell and his wife Eunice, their sons Gary, Peter and Paul all play key roles in the company. Currently, Gary Bell is chief executive while Peter and Paul work with the engineering and marketing aspects of the business.

For 2007, Bell Equipment posted its highest net profit to date. Its revenue increased 30.9 percent to US$585 million (4.6 billion ZAR).[11]

“We were able to achieve our budgeted sales and net profit and as a consequence were able to report the highest net profit after tax in the 56-year history of the group,” Gary Bell said.[12]

[edit] Equipment List

[edit] John Deere Equipment

[edit] References

  1. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  2. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  3. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  4. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  5. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  6. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  7. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  8. History. Bellir. 2008-09-09.
  9. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  10. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  11. Homepage. Bell Equipment. 2008-09-09.
  12. Article. Engineering News. 2008-09-09.

[edit] External Links