Paul Blanchard: Meet the MD at Komatsu UK

Taking control at Komatsu UK in 2019, Paul has expertly guided the business through one of the most unprecedented periods in generations, emerging from the pandemic with a olxtoto healthy order book and on the crest of a major recruitment drive.

A committed member of the NEAA, Paul is a powerful advocate for the collaboration, and shared best practice the Alliance offers.

Here he reflects on 30 years at Komatsu, his passion for the manufacturing sector and how NEAA membership helped the business negotiate some of the challenges posed by a pandemic…

Tell us about Komatsu UK and the equipment you manufacture at Birtley…

The global Komatsu operation celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2021. It was founded to make tools for its parent company, a mining operation, near the city of Komatsu.

At Birtley, we have been designing, developing and delivering excavators of the highest quality since the plant was established in 1987.

When new, we helped redefine modern manufacturing in the region, establishing Japanese practices and ways of working unheard of in most UK plants.

Thirty-five years on, we are still at the forefront of manufacturing excellence and our design team continues to break new ground with its world-leading innovation producing medium and large excavators for industry across Europe.

Almost every part of the machine is now created at Birtley. Our shop floor team is made up of fabricators, assemblers, painters, all of whom play their part in the manufacturing process, but we also have designers who are constantly improving the machines and developing new ones; we have the quality team ensuring all of our exacting standards are adhered to; and we even have engineers who we deploy all over Europe to carry out and oversee any repairs required on Komatsu machines.

We have a wealth of talent. Komatsu was responsible for the first hybrid excavator on the European market, we developed intelligent machines that can be controlled from thousands of miles away and in the last six months our design team won accolades for our new high-reach demolition excavator that does the job of two machines.

Every innovation has a purpose, and we work closely with our customers to pinpoint the areas we can develop and improve upon. For instance, our new high reach machine can change the work equipment in 100 seconds without the operator ever leaving the cab. This is a process that used to take hours and not long ago was impossible and would require firms to have two separate machines.

Not only does innovation like this reduce downtime enormously, but it improves on-site safety, it reduces carbon as machine efficiency increases and it means projects can be completed in less time.