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The real thing! Aaron Blutstein spoke to John C B Jennings, managing director of L Robinson and Company (Gillingham) Limited--creator of the Jubilee Clip--about the key dates in the company's 85 years of British manufacturing.

British manufacturing is alive and well in a small corner of Kent. One product, which all engineers are familiar with and used over the years is almost definitely the worm drive hose clip, of which the original and most famous is the 'Jubilee' worm drive hose clip, manufactured by L Robinson and Company (Gillingham) Limited.

Often the 'Jubilee' brand has been mistakenly--and sometimes purposely--used to refer to the generic term for a worm drive hose clip. But the original Jubilee worm drive hose clip was conceived by Commander Lumley Robinson, the founder of L Robinson and Company, in 1921.

In today's industrial market, it is rare for companies, especially small to medium sized ones, to have been around for such a long time. The secret explains John C B Jennings, managing director of L Robinson and Company (Gillingham) Limited, is "competitors have diversified into other forms of clamping/ fixing technologies, we stick to what we know best--we make worm drive hose clips". Proudly Jennings emphasises "we know what we do and we do it well". He adds: "The other reason the company is still here is adherence to Commander Lumley's original ideas of quality, quality of product and quality of service. It's no good having the best product in the world if we don't give the best service, and that one of course is always difficult to live up to."

The continued dedication of the company to quality was further exhibited when during the 1960s it assisted with the formulation of the first Standard for worm drive hose clips BS 3628 and subsequently the move to the metric Standard BS 5315.

European expansion

Commander Robinson undertook the marketing of his product and by 1923 had not only established Jubilee in the UK, but also started exporting to Holland.

Having created a name for quality in both product reliability and service, the commander sadly never witnessed the full potential of his ideas as in 1939 he suffered a fatal heart attack.

Nineteen forty eight saw the creation of L Robinson and Company (Gillingham) Limited--one of the companies within the Lumley-Robinson Group. At this time the Commander's youngest son John, who joined the family business in 1941, was appointed managing director, later he was to become chairman--a position held until his death on 5 May 1999.

In 1999 Mrs G Lumley-Robinson was appointed chairman of the Board of Directors following the death of her husband. Mrs Lumley-Robinson had held a seat on the Board for many years and originally been employed by Cmdr. Lumley Robinson.

In 1980 the Board of Directors was strengthened when John C B Jennings joined the company, following a successful career as a foreign exchange dealer with a prestigious bank in the City of London. In 1988 John Jennings was appointed managing director on John Lumley-Robinson's retirement from this role.

John C B Jennings' first responsibilities after joining the company in 1980 was to oversee the many changes to the manufacturing processes that took place during the 1980s. In 1988 John Jennings was instrumental in establishing Jubilee Clips Deutschland GmbH, the first overseas company of the Group.

Jennings explains the background to the German branch of the company: "We set up a German company in 1982 at a time when a lot was going on in the UK. It looked like for a period that a new Labour government was going to be elected, and they were threatening to pull out of Europe. I managed to persuade our then managing director that whatever our personal opinions about Europe, this wasn't good for our business. So we set up Jubilee Deutschland to be able to supply the rest of Europe."

However he says what he didn't calculate for was the Falkland conflict, and Mrs Thatcher being re-elected: "We'd spent a lot of money setting up the German branch of the company so we kept it. It is now doing reasonably well for us. It was through Jubilee Clips Deutschland that first got us into the Polish market--another significant growth opportunity for the company. We now supply Poland through the vehicle of Jubilee Deutschland and indeed the domestic market in Germany."

The British company has also found highly lucrative markets in the Far East, Middle East, and other parts of Europe. Exports now account for more than 55% of turnover.

In 1970 Jubilee's reputation was further enhanced when the company penetrated the highly conscious Japanese market. This has proved to be a very successful area and one, which Jubilee is proud to be regarded as the benchmark for quality. The Japanese market is a very important part of the business explains Jennings: "The Japanese are very pedantic about the quality that they require. It is quite an accolade that in Japan the Jubilee is used as a bench mark for worm drive hose clip quality."

The high quality of Jubilee was again recognised in 1987 when it was one of the first companies to be awarded BS 5750 for its production system. This has since been further up rated to BS EN ISO 9001:2000 and covers products produced to national, international and customer requirements. This, together with approval by MOD, Lloyd's Register and many others, is testimony to the continued commitment of Jubilee to quality of product and service.

Quality Vs price

The biggest change in the worm drive hose clip market since 1921, according to Jennings, was in late 50s/ early 60s when competition increased and there was an influx of cheap products.

Jennings told me that it isn't possible to say what the true size of the market now is.

About 20 years ago, he explains, one of the company's competitors did a market survey and it came back that Jubilee Clips had 98% of the market. Which would have been extremely nice, he explains. But he adds that people were using the name generically. The problem Jennings highlights is the market is too diverse to monitor.

The main difference, says Jennings, between these 'cheap' products and L Robinson's Jubilee Clip is the actual quality of the product--the quality of the product is dependent on the materials used. You cannot make a high quality product of low quality materials.

He emphasises that for an engineer to "save a few coppers on a worm drive hose clip is ridiculous" when it can potentially cost you thousands of pounds if you get it wrong and use a cheap alternative.

Jennings comments: "You can always tell a Jubilee Clip, because it says so on it. And normally it's more expensive than anything else on the market--quality costs money."

The last 85 years has seen the company grow from one man's idea to a Group employing some 140 people with continued growth in the UK, Europe, Middle East and Far East.

With the fourth generation of the family now on the Board and planning for the continued success of the company, the future of at least one British product appears to be safe.

For further product information please visit L Robinson and Company's website:

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Title Annotation:INSIGHT
Author:Blutstein, Aaron
Publication:Plant & Works Engineering
Article Type:Company overview
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Previous Article:Vibration.
Next Article:Luxury or necessity?

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