£20m Contract for Firm on the RiseNeil Hardie
After administrators were called to a historic Angus firm six years ago, no-one could have predicted the remarkable turnaround.
The prospects for John M Henderson looked bleak when the Arbroath firm ran into financial difficulties in October 2014 and all but six of the 94-strong workforce were made redundant.
It looked to be a sad demise for one of the town’s largest employers and a famous Scottish heavy engineering name that could trace its roots back more than 150 years to 1866.
But two months later the firm’s coke oven division was acquired by Otto Simon Holdings of Cheshire.
After that he business relocated to Forfar with 12 key workers and a new name, John M Henderson Machines (JMH).
Since then it has worked with some of the largest steel firms in China as well as commissioning two projects for Tata Steel in South Wales.
Now JMH has won a deal worth in excess of £20 million to supply and design industrial machinery to be used in a steel factory in South Korea.
The contract will take three to four years to complete and require the company to add four additional design engineers to its team.
The new contact is with POSCO, which operates the world’s two largest integrated steel plants.
JMH led a consortium with a local South Korean company for the contract. The Forfar firm said its share of the eight-figure deal was a “significant” part.
It will see JMH design, supply and commissioning of two machines to operate on a new coke oven plant.
Coke ovens – used to heat coal at extremely high temperatures – are an essential part of the process of steel production.
The machines are able to operate automatically and smokeless in the hazardous environment of a coke making plant characterized by carcinogens, dust emissions, high heat and demanding physical labour.
Managing director Gary McCombie said the contract came at a vital time the company.
He said: “This is a fantastic success story for the company at a time when there have been reduced opportunities in the marketplace.
“We are looking forward to providing excellent custom designed machines for POSCO, 15 years after our initial collaboration.
“This will keep our team extremely busy and once again underlines our position as the leading supplier of coke oven machines.”
The contract marks the fourth cooperation between the two companies in South Korea, after three successful projects completed by JMH in 2007 and 2008.
Henderson’s can trace its roots to Aberdeen in 1866.
Its factory was given over to supporting the war effort during the Second World War.
The firm became involved in the manufacture of coke ovens for the National Coal Board and British Steel in the early 1950s.
Subsequently the machines soon became the company’s principal product line.
They are world leading because of their pollution control performance and fully automated operation.
JMS has completed more than 200 coke oven machinery projects in over 30 countries since 1950.
The company also provided cranes used in the construction of the original Forth Road Bridge in 1959.