Bell Equipment rings in 60 years of local manufacturing
Bell Equipment celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this year, which provides an opportune time to look back at the early days of the company and how the values and innovative thinking of Irvine Bell gave rise to one of the country's manufacturing icons that designs and produces world class equipment for the global market.
Irvine was born in 1920 and grew up in the time of the Great Depression. He had an early - and enduring - fascination with tools and machines. Even during his school days he could never stay out of workshops. Whatever nobody else would teach him he taught himself, whether it was servicing starter motors or refurbishing used batteries.
A fitter and turner by trade, Irvine returned home from serving five years in the Army Corps of Engineers during the War and started a small general engineering and equipment repair shop on a farm in Empangeni in 1954 to serve the pioneer farming community of Zululand.
With his innovation and vision, the company provided sugar cane farmers of that time with refreshing solutions to improve efficiencies on their farms. A milestone in the company's history came in 1964 when Irvine developed a Tri-Wheeled cane loading machine, which revolutionised the sugar farming industry and is still widely in use today.
Irvine is credited with taking time to listen to his customers, thereby enabling him to understand their needs and provide solutions, and this ethos continues today throughout the company's design, manufacturing, distribution and support network.
Bell and its extended family of employees value their roots and the founding principles instilled by Irvine and are encouraged by what the company has achieved against international competitors in a highly competitive industry.
Today Bell is a leading global manufacturer, distributer and exporter of a wide range of material handling machines, which are marketed and distributed, both locally and internationally, through a wide network of branches and independent dealers. The company supplies machinery to the sugar, forestry, mining and construction industries worldwide and has about 3 200 employees across the globe.
As one of the global leaders in the Articulated Dump Truck market, Bell Equipment's engineering expertise and product quality are comparable with other global players in the industry and Bell is immensely proud of the ground-breaking technological advancements it has developed on South African soil with its team of local engineers.
In addition, Bell Equipment is an appointed distributor in selected territories representing the manufacturers of several leading international brands. The company has also strengthened its trading base through trade and strategic alliance agreements with other global companies. As such Bell Equipment is strategically placed as a one-stop shop for earthmoving equipment with over 100 products well suited to all applications.
Whether it's Bell Tri-Wheelers and Tractors loading and hauling sugar cane on local farms or Bell Articulated Dump Trucks (ADTs) and other Bell products working in the Port, on nearby mines or delivering on infrastructure projects, the local impact of Bell and its products is far reaching.
As a Proudly South African company Bell Equipment is committed to nation-building. In addition to providing employment and opportunities for growth for employees, the company believes in 'growing its own timber' and has one of the sector's most accelerated apprenticeship and training programmes. Bell is also constantly looking at way to increase its global competitiveness through developing local suppliers and incorporating their components into Bell machines.
In recognition of the company's humble beginnings, and as a tribute to the founders, Bell Equipment is in the process of refurbishing the original workshop, on the Bell farm just outside Empangeni, to become a company museum. Artifacts include old tooling and earlier models of the Tri-Wheeler and ADT.