Barry Copping visits the Hainault-based ancillaries specialist Jenco and discovers that the company will celebrate fifty years of operation in 2013, offering a full range of ancillary systems for the plastics industry as well as other sectors.
Having completed forty years’ service with the company, managing director Paul Jensen is well placed to view historical trends: “For many years we drew 85-90% of our business from existing customers who were pleased with our products and services and placed repeat orders.
"Things slowed somewhat in the early 2000s in line with plastics industry performance overall. In the last two to three years in particular, we’ve seen a substantial influx of new customers – around 100 in the last two years – particularly since my fellow director Glen Auker joined us.”
The company cites as its unique selling proposition the degree to which it can engineer and tailor ancillaries systems especially closely to customer requirements. Jensen explains: “Our manufacturing capability is probably unique in the UK. While we naturally source equipment from other suppliers where appropriate, we score heavily over competitors who sell only standard kit. Should this need modifying to suit changed conditions, it may have to return to an overseas manufacturer, and the answer may well be 'no'”.
An impressive range of export destinations includes Canada, India, Nigeria, Poland, Romania, Saudi Arabia and Singapore. Jensen elaborates: “Each month we receive two or three export orders. Some are at the higher-value end, by which I mean full systems at £30,000-£40,000 value; others might be repeat orders for, say, hopper loaders. Exports account for around 20% of Jenco’s business. Auker chips in: “There are huge export opportunities to be developed and exploited.”
Jenco has no shortage of international competition, emanating from Denmark, Germany, Italy and Sweden among other countries. Of the Far East, Jensen says: “This is most significant at the bottom, lower-priced end of the market. But we’re alert to the potential for greater competition, and are never complacent.”
The company claims particular strength in powder conveying systems. Jensen explains: “These are not rocket science, but of course powders can pose particular challenges in maintaining an even flow and preventing clogging. Our standard systems perform particularly well here, and are an important element of repeat business. Almost all profile extruders (both in the UK and abroad) use Jenco equipment.”
The physics and mechanics of ancillary systems are of course the same as when Jenco began, but control systems have changed out of all recognition. Jensen comments: “Developments in controls are progressing ever more rapidly. Certainly high-end control systems are much more affordable now, much easier to use for the operator, and much more straightforward to integrate with machinery through common programming protocols. But what can be frustrating for both us and the customer is the changes that suppliers of, for instance, programmable logic controllers (PLCs) keep introducing. A given controller may be superseded after as little as two years by a new model which is not compatible. Controllers are not cheap, and then there are reprogramming requirements.”
“We really do try to keep control systems as simple as we can from the operator's point of view. It's all very well selling a fantastic new control to the customer’s engineer who understands fieldbuses, HMIs and so on, but for the average operator the system needs to be simple to use, transparent and robust.”
Jenco has recently expanded its range by concluding new distribution agreements. Jensen outlines these: “We’re excited by the opportunities presented by taking on TSM blenders, which are excellent products. TSM’s proximity in Ireland is reassuring. Also the Helios Oktomat bulk bag discharge system, which already has a strong track record in the UK, which we’re looking to build on.
“We're making very good progress with the Coloursave gravimetric additive feeding system. Processors are increasingly realising the benefits in terms of accuracy and consistency of replacing volumetric dosing by the gravimetric method.”
Auker remarks: “Given our extensive range of ancillaries, every sale of a particular piece of kit can lead to further opportunities elsewhere in the customer’s process, which we look at as a whole: vacuum conveying, blending and drying for instance. Recycling is becoming an increasingly important market for us, with shredders and granulators.”
Auker continues: “Some of our competitors make great play of providing 24/7 service cover on ancillary equipment, but Jenco prefers to put its effort into rock-solid reliability in the initial installation. This is vindicated by the high proportion of customers who have never experienced a single fault with our kit – and this naturally leads to repeat orders."
Jensen concludes: Long-standing customers sometimes request spares for Jenco machines that are 25 or even 40 years old and we are pleased to supply these. I guess that's one of the reasons why people are very happy to deal with us. They know that should a problem arise it will be sorted very quickly – and that can only be good for our reputation."