‘40 jobs’ to go at Sleaford farm machinery factory

Great Plains EMN-160229-180337001
Great Plains EMN-160229-180337001

One of Sleaford’s biggest manufacturing companies has announced it has shed around 40 jobs in a move to compete with a challenging market.

One of Sleaford’s biggest manufacturing companies has announced it has shed around 40 jobs in a move to compete with a challenging market.

Great Plains UK, based on Woodbridge Road industrial estate has reduced staffing levels in its fabrication, welding and other departments through voluntary redundancies and the release of agency staff.

David Holmes, UK Sales Director of the American-owned company explained: “Through January we have had a restructuring process which was really based around the fact that for the last 40 years we have been manufacturing high quality tillage and seeding farm machinery and have managed to grow the business and increase our markets across existing and new markets worldwide.”

This has partly been down to the Sleaford site’s ability to bring all its welding, manufacturing and fabrication processes back in house since 2012 to make it more efficient.

Great Plains had acquired the Sleaford firm Simba and invested heavily in the site to make it its main base for Western Europe.

But Mr Holmes said the steel market, political pressures, the current overall slowing of the agricultural market and an unfavourable exchange rate had combined to work against the company.

He said it has been difficult to compete in the European market leading to a reorganisation of the manufacturing process in order to meet their long term strategy for growth.

Mr Holmes said: “We will be sourcing fabrication and weldments from markets with a more favourable exchange rate.”

They will continue to shot blast, repaint and assemble the machinery at Sleaford, but it will mean a reduction in jobs, mainly from the Sleaford site.

The manufacturing base will remain, as will preparation, parts, servicing, services and marketing teams.

He said: “The biggest driver is, we must remain competitive in our exports market which is difficult when things are outside our control, particularly the strength of the pound. In the last two years we have had a 22 per cent swing in the rate.”

Coun Marion Brighton, who has Executive Board oversight of financial matters at North Kesteven District Council, commented: “This is terribly disappointing news for a great Sleaford business, but the high value of the pound is making exporting tough for some UK manufacturing businesses while low commodity prices are squeezing arable farmers.

“Great Plains has come through worse than this in the past and I feel sure that when things pick up again and the wheel turns full circle, as a strong and resourceful company, they will bounce back.

“In the short term, given local skilled labour shortages, I anticipate that many of those who are unfortunately losing their jobs as a result of the difficult decisions the company is having to make, won’t be out of work for long.

“The Job Centre locally has been working closely with Great Plains and its affected employees and the District Council’s own business advisors are poised to offer every possible support they can to both the company and any employees pursuing the possibilities of business start-up and self-employment.”