Bott & Penny Hydraulics: 25-years of turn-key fleet solutions
Bott Ltd is a company that goes from strength to strength – in December they won the highly coveted ‘Converter of the Year’ award at the Commercial Fleet Awards 2017. This being the case, it is not surprising that some of the largest organisations across the globe entrust Bott to carry out the conversion of their extensive fleets. Most recently, in an announcement made in January 2018, it was outlined that Bott had been awarded the contract to convert a 250-strong vehicle fleet owned by North West housing group Torus – providing them with state of the art vehicles, with quick and easy access and storage for their wide range of parts and equipment. Further high-profile contracts include the design, manufacture and supply of racking and livery for the Environment Agency’s diverse fleet.
Penny Hydraulics, based in Chesterfield, has been the lifting equipment supplier to Bott for over 25 years. Combined, the companies boast over 65 years’ experience in the conversion of commercial vehicles!
The working relationship between Bott and Penny Hydraulics started with a requirement for load handling devices for technical service vans for breweries, including Marston’s and Greene King. As part of a full conversion of the vehicles, Bott were tasked with specifying a mechanical handling device to enable safe and productive handling of deliveries and turned to Penny’s for a solution. Today, Bott has lifting equipment requirements which range from Penny Hydraulics’ SwingLift range of electric cranes with capacities as low as 100kg and bespoke boom lengths to suit small car-derived vans, to PH Hydraulic cranes with over 7 metres of boom reach and capacities over 3300kg. Unique products in the market, hydraulic loading platforms for vans are also supplied.
The two companies have also collaborated to develop proto-type vehicle mounted lifting equipment for British Telecom’s huge fleet of 3.5 tonne fleet vehicles. Penny Hydraulics has manufactured multiple, bespoke loader crane designs for the BT fleet in conjunction with Bott who has acted as a chosen conversion partner - installing the units as part of the full vehicle conversion.
One of the first cranes the companies worked together to develop was the ML100, a 100kg capacity design based on Penny’s best-selling ML Crane Range. The ML100 is one of Penny’s lightest cranes ever to be designed – this remains a key point for BT as it means that devices can be installed with minimal impact on the overall vehicle weight to leave more carrying capacity for optimum operational flexibility and productivity. Later, a higher capacity design was introduced, the ML150, offering an additional 50kg working capacity.
All cranes used by BT are fully demountable - they can be deployed on other vehicles or removed altogether maintaining maximum fleet flexibility. The cranes are extremely compact in design helping maximise vehicle floor space. One-man operation is possible via an easy to operate wander lead control and an integrated overload device ensures that the cranes will not lift more than their maximum stated working capacity for extra operator safety.
In more recent years, a new product has been introduced to BT based on Penny’s KJ Crane Range. The special KJ150 is a 150kg capacity knuckle jointed crane ideal for handling generators, whacker plates and general items of plant anywhere within a two-metre arc. The crane is based one of Penny’s standard crane designs, but with some changes to suit BT’s specific needs.
In the utilities sector, it’s crucial to have lifting equipment that allows heavy loads to be safely raised and lowered down manholes. Bott have specified and installed Penny’s flatbed and van-mounted SwingLift cranes for customers including Scottish Water and Severn Trent Water. Cranes such as the SwingLift ML250 and ML500 have historically been particularly popular for their extensive water industry customer base. These cranes come with high-speed hoists, making them the perfect choice for users who need a practical, efficient, and cost-effective way to handle goods below ground. The SwingLift KJ250 is especially popular for water industry applications as its 1.5-metre boom has two pivot points, meaning the operator can carry out lifts within a 3-metre radius of their vehicle.
The Penny Hydraulics LL250 LoadLift is a unique product in the market place - it is so common to see tail lifts on pickups, but to see a hydraulically powered lift in a van is extremely rare. Bott have utilised Penny’s LoadLift for customers across a wide range of industries and applications; from the delivery of chemical drums, to use on bomb-disposal vehicles! One such customer to benefit from Penny/Bott collaboration is global medical technology company Hill-Rom. Bott and Penny partnered to provide a turn-key fleet solution for them. A bespoke hydraulically powered lift was required to lift and lower test weights on and off their engineers vans. The test weights were used to carry out statutory tests of specialist hospital beds. The lift needed to be high capacity, to easily lift and lower weights up to 400kg in and out of the van doors. What’s more, the van spec was a Ford Transit Custom with a low roof height - squeezing a high-capacity lift into such a small space was not altogether straightforward! The bespoke specification LoadLift was supplied to run off the vehicle battery in 12V and offered a compact design & folding platform to maximise floor space. The lift also benefited from a smooth and fast action. The first Hill-Rom LL250 was designed, manufactured and installed as a proto-type at Penny Hydraulics headquarters in Chesterfield in 2016, with subsequent installations being carried out at Bott.
When a customer requires a bespoke crane or lift, Penny Hydraulics have the necessary experience, design resource, and specialist facilities in-house that enable the manufacture of an entirely new product to address the customer’s specific lifting challenge.
“When developing bespoke cranes and lifts, we carry out the first installation at our premises – this conversion acts as a proto-type, enabling the customer to see and test the product when it’s actually installed in their commercial vehicle for sign-off,” said Penny Hydraulics Sales Director, Richard Short. “Following sign-off, we then fulfil the order on a supply-only basis to Bott who carry out the remaining installations - it’s a tried and tested method that’s worked well for us for the past 25 years.”
Benefitting from a successful and long-standing working relationship, there are in fact distinct similarities between the two businesses which may contribute to their synergy.
“Not only are both Bott and Penny Hydraulics based in the East Midlands and manufacture their products in the UK, but we also have many shared values when it comes to business, with innovation, creating better working environments, efficient working and user safety at the heart of what we do. This has without doubt contributed to our combined success,” said Richard.
Kevin Woodward, Managing Director of the Vehicle Enhancement Divisions at Bott Ltd recalls a particular event 20 years ago which solidified the relationship between the two companies, “I remember on one particular occasion, being asked by a customer if we could fit cranes into the back of vans and at that time, I had no idea how this could be done. I think in those days, I found the number for Penny’s in the yellow pages and arranged for John Penny to come to our old Coalville facility; to discuss my challenge.
He did no more than arrive in his old Volvo Estate complete with suit and tie.
I discussed my particular problem with him and after duly listening to me, he gave a wry smile and proceeded to advise me that he had brought one of his cranes along in the back of his Volvo; along with his overalls. He said if I was happy for him to work with one of our engineers, there and then, he would show us what we needed to know and do to fit a crane into the back of one of our vehicles.
He duly stripped out of his suit, togged up with his overalls and spent 2/3 hours on site showing us the ropes. I have to say that even after all these years that particular recollection sticks is my mind as the ultimate ‘can do attitude’.”
A ‘can do attitude’ is still something that runs deep within Penny Hydraulics and has been a key contributor to the success of the business to date.
“Many of our market leading products have come about due to a customer coming to us with a specific load handling problem,” said Richard. “Through innovation, we have designed a product to meet their needs and it is through innovation that we continue to grow, develop and enhance our product ranges.”
“We are proud to be an ‘Expert Partner’ to Bott and to mark yet another milestone in our long-standing relationship,” said Richard. “We are confident that thanks to the significant investment in our facility and the ongoing appointment of high-calibre individuals to our growing team we will continue to enhance our products and service offering. The 25-year relationship we have with Bott is built on mutual trust and the desire of both companies to work with the customer not only to deliver the “right tool for the job” but exceed their expectation.”
About Bott Ltd
In 1930 Wilhelm Bott established a mechanical workshop in a mill near Gaildorf, Germany – the birthplace of today’s Bott Group. Today, the Bott Group is a world-leading manufacturer and supplier of workshop equipment, in-vehicle equipment and workplace systems. With production facilities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Hungary and with licensed partners and importers across the globe, Bott has a worldwide service network enabling them to respond to local needs. From design and manufacture to supply and installation, Bott has a strong reputation for high product quality, service excellence and value for money.
Expanding into the UK in 1980, Bott operate from their headquarters in Ashby de la Zouch. In addition, their Vehicle Fitting Centre and Sales Office in Cumbernauld services the Scottish market. All manufacturing activities are carried out at an additional, dedicated production facility in Bude. Operating from these 3 facilities, Bott aim to provide businesses and tradesmen in the UK with tailored van conversions that let them work efficiently and safely. From design to manufacture and installation, the quality and service that comes as standard with a Bott product has been so high that many of the UK’s leading businesses have come to rely on them to provide fleet conversions and cutting-edge solutions for even the most unique and challenging situations.
During the last two decades of growth Bott has become a true one stop shop for both fleet and specialist customers. The company has invested in key areas such as compliance, electrical technology and vehicle graphics to provide turn-key solutions for their customers. In addition, the company has developed close relationships with key supplier partners, enabling the company to access a comprehensive range of capabilities resulting in a seamless customer experience.
Supporting the company’s growth, in 2015 a £1.1 million extension added 13,000 square foot to Bott’s facility in Ashby. This brought total investment in the company’s Ashby site to over £5 million, which marked a remarkable journey which began 26 years ago with two individuals in a tiny workshop with a big vision!
About Penny Hydraulics Ltd
Penny Hydraulics design, manufacture, install and service a wide range of loader cranes and hydraulic loading platforms for commercial vehicles. The company has its own purpose-built premises housing a manufacturing and assembly plant and carries out all the functions of a fully integrated company with design, manufacturing, quality control, aftersales support and nationwide service operation.
The company was founded in 1978 by mining engineer, John Penny. Initially offering nationwide hydraulic garage equipment and mining equipment repairs. Today, the company employs 90 people and operates from its Derbyshire headquarters that, in 2017, benefitted from significant development & expansion. The large-scale construction project at the company’s existing site in Clowne near Chesterfield cost over £2M. Works included; a new warehousing facility to allow increased levels of stock, a new production facility to allow increased turnover of products and a new office building to offer space to expand the company’s design, sales and marketing functions and improve customer perception and experience.
The company recently celebrated its third consecutive record years in sales, with various large contracts for customers such as Royal Mail helping to boost sales. A new line of over 470 hydraulic vehicle mounted cranes added to the existing crane range also played its part. The business remains family owned and is currently run by 2nd generation family members and a board of Directors.
Penny Hydraulics is partnered with industry leading professional and trade organisations and is an accredited commercial vehicle converter for major vehicle manufacturers including Volkswagen, Renault and Nissan. In addition to this, commercial vehicle body builders worldwide from USA to Australia and Hungary to Benelux, choose to partner with Penny Hydraulics to sell lifting applications all over the world.