SKF UK History
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Quick facts1907-1919SKF Luton was founded in 1911 with 150 employees
Sven Wingquist founder of SKF
Skefko opened offices in Regent Street, London, 1910
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.
Quick facts1920-1939Skefko became a British public company
In 1924 the number of employees at Luton reached 1,000
Precaution against air attack during the World War II
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.
Quick facts1940-1959From 1941 SKF workforce increased to 3,000
Women supporting the war effort
SKF UK being prepared...
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.
Quick facts1960-1979Golden Jubilee celebrationsSkefko changed its name to SKF (U.K.) Limited
Golden Jubilee celebrations
SKF Sundon Park Road
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.
Quick facts1980-1999A new subsidiary SKF (U.K.) Service Ltd was formed
Employees of a new subsidiary – SKF (U.K.) Service Limited, formed on the 1st September
SKF (U.K.) sponsored ThrustSSC
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
Quick facts2000 and onwardsSKF Group appoints Alrik Danielsson as new President and CEO
SKF acquires US-based Lincoln Industrial for USD 1 billion from Harbour Group
SKF Group celebrated its 100 year anniversary on the 16th February
SKF Service Division acquires 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 extends sponsorship agreement with Luton Town Football Club for a further two years.
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, Antifriction Components Ltd www.afc-uk.com.
SKF appoints Sprint Engineering Services, based in Gravesend, as an MRO distributor www.sprint-uk.com.
The SKF Group celebrates its 100 years anniversary on 16th February. The company has grown from a designer, manufacturer and supplier of bearings into a provider of engineering solutions. SKF introduced a new family of Energy Efficient bearings that, compared to standard ISO products, can reduce energy consumption by at least 30%.
BBC News South East produce news film to celebrate SKF manufacturing rolling bearings in Luton for 100 years. SKF and Imperial College London combine their efforts opening the SKF University Technology Centre in Advanced Modelling and Measurements in Tribology www.imperial.ac.uk. SKF appoints M Barnwell Services Ltd, as a specialist seals distributor www.barnwell.co.uk. SKF acquires US-based Lincoln Industrial, with around 2,000 employees for USD 1 billion. Lincoln has a UK sales office in Banbury, Oxfordshire www.lincolnindustrial.com.
Inauguration ceremony of SKF University Technology Centre in partnership with University of Cambridge. Research led by Professor Harry Bhadeshia, a world expert in the physical metallurgy of steels www.cam.ac.uk.
SKF announces new climate strategy targets and partners with the WWF in its Climate Savers Programme. SKF launches BeyondZero portfolio, including solutions that will both improve energy efficiency and support more environmentally friendly energy production.
SKF acquires US-based Kaydon Corporation with 2,100 employees for USD 1.25 billion. This includes a factory in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, which manufactures the world-renowned Cooper split roller bearings www.cooperbearings.com.
SKF Group appoints Alrik Danielsson as new President and CEO. SKF agrees long term SKF Lubrication Systems Distributor agreements with Harrison Lubrication Engineering Ltd of Bolton, Halomec Ltd of Stroud and Group HES Lubemec Division of Gloucester.
SKF Group creates a more simplified, less hierarchical organisation by combining the former Industrial Market management with the existing Automotive Market and Group support functions management.