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SKF UK History

Reducing friction and cost. Saving energy and time. Explore the timeline below to see how SKF Knowledge has helped develop industries and improve everyday life since 1907.

Explore the timeline to see our history develop

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  • 1907-1919
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    Quick facts 
    SKF Luton was founded in 1911 with 150 employees 
    Sven Wingquist

    Sven Wingquist founder of SKF

    Skefko offices were opened in Lower Regents Street, 1910

    Skefko opened offices in Regent Street, London, 1910

    • 1907
      SKF was founded in Gothenburg, Sweden by Sven Wingqvist, inventor of the double row self-aligning ball bearing.

      Under the original name of the Skefko Ball Bearing Company Ltd, offices were opened in Lower Regent Street, London on 7th February 1910. Three acres of land were bought at Leagrave Road, Luton and on 10th November building of SKF’s first purpose-built production plant outside Sweden commenced.

      In an area of some 1,440 square metres, the Luton factory commenced production on 17th June 1911, with 150 employees. Output after the first year averaged 180 bearings per day of the original bearing design.

      During this year the administrative and commercial offices were moved from London to Luton.

      To meet the increased demand for bearings during World War I it was decided to double the size of the Luton factory, enlarge the stores, and add the main office block, thereby multiplying the total floor area by more than eight times.

      By the end of World War I Skefko’s 775 employees had doubled the 1914 production with a monthly output of 24,000 bearings.

      This year saw the opening of an export sales department and, at Birmingham, of the first regional sales office. By the end of the year the weekly output of bearings had reached approximately 20,000.
  • 1920-1939
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    Quick facts 
    Skefko became a British public company
    UK History Factory employees

    In 1924 the number of employees at Luton reached 1,000

    UK History camouflage trees

    Precaution against air attack during the World War II

    • 1921
      Due to the high demand for Skefko bearings branch offices had been established in Leeds, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol and Belfast.

      Taper roller bearings were produced for the first time in Luton.

      The manufacturing range in Luton was extended to include cylindrical roller bearings.

      The number of employees at Luton reached 1,000.

      New plant was added, increasing the capacity for production of taper roller bearings as well cylindrical roller bearings.

      Skefko became a British public Company when SKF offered over 50% of the Shefko shares on the London Stock Exchange. The number of employees at Luton rose to over 2,000 for the first time and, with a view to further expansion, 44 acres of land were bought at Sundon, a few miles north of Luton town centre.

      Just before the outbreak of World War II extensions were completed to the Leagrave Road factory and, as a precaution against air attack, elaborate camouflage was added in the form of a fake road built over the main entrance and factory building to give the illusion of a suburban avenue when viewed from above.
  • 1940-1959
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    Quick facts 
    From 1941 SKF workforce increased to 3,000
    UK History war girls

    Women supporting the war effort

    UK History War 1945

    SKF UK being prepared...

    • 1941
      With the increased demand for bearings, vital to the war effort, the workforce was increased to more that 3,000.

      Rather than keep all the activity concentrated at one spot and so become vulnerable to total loss through bombing, it was decided to spread the risk and set up a ball production plant at the new Sundon site. Later this year the bar turning plant was erected and, by Christmas, the ball and ancillary plant was in full production, employing 250 people. During October of the same year, Skefko’s wartime record was reached with nearly a quarter of a million bearings leaving the despatch bays each week.

      During the war 400 of SKF’s employees saw active service with the armed forces, 34 of which gallantly lost their lives in the service of their country.

      Many wartime contracts naturally came to an end, causing some dislocation of production at Luton, but the first stage of a major expansion scheme was started in anticipation of the demands of factories returning to peacetime production.

      Transfer of employees from Leagrave Road to Sundon began and the new roller factory and the large bearings and heat treatment departments came into production.

      By the end of the 1940s branch offices had also been opened in Leicester, Cardiff, Aberdeen, Nottingham and Dublin.

      By the end of the year around £2 million had been spent since the end of the war on extending and improving Skefko’s manufacturing facilities.
  • 1960-1979
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    Quick facts 
    Golden Jubilee celebrations

    Skefko changed its name to SKF (U.K.) Limited
    Golden Jubilee celebrations

    Golden Jubilee celebrations

    SKF Sundon Park Road

    SKF Sundon Park Road

    • 1960
      Over the previous fifteen years leading up to the celebration of the Golden Jubilee, saw a steady transition of processes and workforce from Leagrave Road to the present Sundon Park Road premises.

      The foundation stone of a new factory at Irvine, Ayrshire, was laid and by Christmas the Irvine factory was completed and the transfer of the Cages and Cast iron Departments from Sundon had begun.

      Extension of the Irvine factory started to enable production of rings for taper roller bearings and assembly of these bearings at Irvine.

      New bearing lines were set-up at Irvine to meet the rapidly increasing demands for ball bearing water pump spindles.

      Skefko changed its name to SKF (U.K.) Limited.

      This year saw the acquisition of the Sheffield Twist Drill and Steel Company, as it was known at the time. It then became known as SKF and Dormer Tools (Sheffield) Ltd. The company was known as Dormer Tools due to a management buy-out during the early 1990s, and is now a member of the Sandvik Group.

      The final move of all manufacturing facilities from Leagrave Road to Sundon Park Road was completed during this year.

      Manufacturer of bearings ceased at Irvine.
  • 1980-1999
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    Quick facts
    A new subsidiary SKF (U.K.) Service Ltd was formed
    UK History 1987

    Employees of a new subsidiary – SKF (U.K.) Service Limited, formed on the 1st September

    UK History 1996

    SKF (U.K.) sponsored ThrustSSC

    • 1982
      SKF Engineering Products Division was formed to take full advantage of the new business opportunities for non-bearing products.

      A new subsidiary SKF (U.K.) Service Ltd was formed on 1st September. This change was brought about by the ever increasing need to focus more clearly on customers’ requirements.

      SKF acquired the British company Ampep plc. AMPEP are involved in the design and manufacture of self-lubricating PTFE/Glass Fibre lined plain bearings for high technology Aerospace and Industrial applications.

      In October SKF Industrial Division officially received the prestigious Investors in People award.

      For the first time ever a wheeled vehicle travelled faster than the speed of sound. The SKF (U.K.) sponsored ThrustSSC, equipped with twin Rolls Royce jet engines, managed to achieve MACH 1 by reaching 764 miles per hour or 1,222 km/h. SKF bearings were used in all the critical applications, such as wheels, steering, gearbox and suspension.

      SKF (U.K.) sponsors Luton Town Football Club. SKF Service Division acquires DEI (Development Engineering Consultancy) an international maintenance engineering consultancy, based in Aberdeen, Scotland.
  • 2000 to the present day
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    Quick facts
    2000 and onwards
    SKF appointed a new mono-brand distributor, Sprint Engineering Services
    CSO Deep Blue

    SKF supplied Coflexip Stena Offshore four huge spherical roller bearings

    Jubilee logo

    SKF Group celebrated its 100 year anniversary on the 16th February

    • 2000
      SKF Service Division acquire DI (Diagnostic Instruments) who design, develop and manufacture mobile industrial computers and application specific data collectors/analysers in the noise and vibration measuring field.

      SKF Engineering Products Ltd sign agreement with Stabilus to distribute their gas springs and dampers to industrial customers in the UK.

      SKF extends the sponsorship agreement with Luton Town Football Club for a further two years.

      SKF Industrial Division supplies an innovative slewing bearing solution for the Falkirk Wheel, a new giant rotating boat lift. It is the centrepiece of the Millennium Link, a £78 million project led by British Waterways, which reopens and reconnects the Forth and Clyde Canal, and the Union Canal between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

      SKF gained a significant contract, worth nearly £1.2m, from Coflexip Stena Offshore to supply four huge spherical roller bearings and cast steel housings for the world’s largest deep water pipeline laying ship, ‘CSO Deep Blue’. The bearings support two 770 tonne reels, each carrying 2500 tonnes of rigid steel pipe of up to 400mm diameter, wound around a hub that is 20m in diameter.

      SKF Service Division attends MAINTEC, the UK’s leading asset management and maintenance exhition and conference. At the show SKF launched its Total Shaft Solutions concept, and displayed its full range of maintenance and condition monitoring solutions for bearing-related applications.

      SKF Service Division attends MAINTEC, the UK’s leading asset management and maintenance exhition and conference. At the show SKF launched its Total Shaft Solutions concept, and displayed its full range of maintenance and condition monitoring solutions for bearing-related applications.

      SKF attends HILLHEAD, the world’s largest working quarry exhibiton and conference which attracted over 15,500 visitors from both original equipment manufacturers and end-users working within the quarrying and construction industry.

      SKF's global Textile segment attends ITMA, the world’s largest textile machinery manufacturers and textile industries exhibition and conference. This is the first ocassion ITMA has been held in the UK and the show attracts 1,300 exhibitors from 44 countries, and over 100,000 visitors from 140 countries.

      SKF Service Division became the exclusive distributor for Fixturlaser AB in Great Britain, by acquiring the assets of the existing UK distributor Fixture Laser Limited.

      SKF appoints its first new MRO distributor in 14 years. SKF's mono-brand distributor, Antifriction Components Ltd., joins its multi-brand distributors BSL, Wyko Industrial distribution and BRT Bearings, in servicing the UK market. Antifriction Components Ltd. will cover the UK through its 13 regional branches including its head office in Bristol.

      SKF appointed a new mono-brand distributor, Sprint Engineering Services, the first single-branch distributor taken on by SKF for many years. A specialist in the paper industry, Sprint provides 24/7 customer support and can also provide full technical services capabilities.

      Visit Sprint's website:

      SKF inaugurated a new maintenance offer by completing a deal with Sprint Engineering Services, its first UK Certified Maintenance Partner (CMP). Under the CMP agreement, SKF provides Sprint with the tools, training and skills required to help the company deliver predictive maintenance programmes by collecting machine vibration data.

      The SKF Group celebrated its 100 years anniversary on 16th February. The company has grown from a designer, manufacturer and supplier of bearings into a provider of a diverse range of engineering solutions, combining evolution with a constant commitment to its customers' needs and core company values of innovation and quality.

      SKF developed a new family of bearings that, compared to standard ISO products, can reduce energy consumption by at least 30%. This new bearing family comprises the two bearing types that are the most commonly used worldwide - deep groove ball bearings and tapered roller bearings.

      BBC News South East produce news film to celebrate SKF manufacturing rolling bearings in Luton for 100 years.
      To view BBC News film click here

      SKF and Imperial College London, ranked among the top research universities in the world, combine their efforts opening the "SKF University Technology Centre in Advanced Modelling and Measurements in Tribology".
      To visit Imperial College London website click here

      SKF appoints M Barnwell Services Ltd, a leading supplier of fluid sealing products, as a specialist distributor for its comprehensive range of sealing solutions. These products will be supported by Barnwell’s Smethwick head office, as well as through its nationwide network of branches in Bellshill, Bristol, Dartford and Manchester.

      SKF opens an innovative new Solution Factory at its UK headquarters in Luton. Designed to unite the company’s key service and product offerings under a single banner, the new Solution Factory is part of a programme being rolled out globally with the aim of providing customers with an integrated suite of facilities to help them improve key business processes, while enhancing productivity and profitability.

      SKF strengthens global lubrication business with acquisition of US based Lincoln Industrial for USD 1 billion from Harbour Group. Established over 100 years ago, Lincoln Industrial employs around 2,000 people in the design, manufacture and supply of precision engineered lubrication systems, tools and equipment. In the UK Lincoln has a sales office in Banbury, Oxfordshire.

      SKF launches a new range of high performance electric cylinders at Drives and Controls exhibition. The CASM electric cylinders have been developed for use in a variety of technically and environmentally demanding applications, ranging from component handling, welding and clamping, to packaging and general automation.

      SKF sends Weston AFC, the winners of North Somerset Under 18s football tournament Meet The World, on an all-expenses paid trip to Gothenburg, Sweden in July to represent their country at the Gothia Cup, otherwise known as the youth football ‘World Cup’.

      SKF acquires Kaydon Corporation in an all-cash transaction valued at USD 1.25 billion. Kaydon is an international US-based manufacturer headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan with three distinct
      business areas: friction control products (bearings), velocity control products and specialty products, including environmental services. In the UK Kaydon has a factory in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, which manufacturers
      the world-renowned Cooper split bearings.

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