As far as family ethos and personal development goes, Haith Group is unmatched in manufacturing.
From a farm equipment repair service operating out the back of a Land Rover, Haith Group (Haith) has grown to be the UK’s leading designer and manufacturer of vegetable handling equipment, pack house solutions, and material handling and wastewater treatment systems.
George Geoffrey Haith, Founder, established the initial business in 1946, but following the constant requests from local farmers for more modern and efficient solutions, he started developing his own vegetable washing machines not long after. As a result, Tickhill Engineering was born.
It’s believed that George was responsible for fabricating the first spoke-less barrel washer made from steel, as a replacement for the ancient wooden counterpart.
He was known for using a customer-centric approach and would always listen carefully to the needs and requirements of his clients, to help formulate and design the ideal solution.
As a result, the Haith name has been synonymous with innovation for many years, especially in the heavy-duty manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Similarly, the company is famed for its family-based working culture and the organic foundations upon which it resides. These have been crucial for the development of its employees over the years, and namely, Duane Hill, Managing Director.
“I was raised around agriculture and had always possessed a keen interest in the mechanization side of the industry,” he opens. “I almost went to university to study law but knew in my heart that I’d be happier following a path that I had more passion for, which turned out to be engineering. I first visited Haith during a week of work experience with a joiner’s shop, and on entering the building, I knew there and then that I wanted to be a part of the business.
“I sent out a prospective email inquiring about the company’s apprenticeship scheme and, low and behold, ended up joining as an apprentice in 2004. After starting in the workshop helping to assemble machinery, I worked my way through almost all areas of the business. I learned to weld and fabricate, cut and bend steel, prepare pieces for painting, and even serve components in the parts department, before spending six months on service and installation.”
Despite taking huge enjoyment from the customer-facing responsibilities, in 2006, Duane moved into Haith’s design office as a CAD design engineer. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to a technical sales engineer the following year.
“I struck up a good rapport with customers and agents, and people started asking me to visit their sites to discuss projects and quotations,” he continues. “The then-MD, Nigel Haith, set me up with a phone, laptop, and car, and I was ready to hit the road. I plotted every existing customer on a map and planned a route to visit them all. When travelling between clients, I would call on potential customers that I often identified by the stacks of potato boxes in their yards.
“Slowly but surely, I built up a significant customer base in the UK, Europe, and USA, until it got to the point that I was so busy, I had to build a sales team. Come 2014, I shared my vision and business plan with the Haith family, which included a steady path to growth through a new range of innovative products. By 2016, having met all my targets, I was invited to be Sales Director on the board – as the first non-family member to do so. When Nigel retired as MD in 2020, he asked me to succeed his position, and that’s where I’ve been since.”
Despite facing problems as a result of both Brexit and the pandemic, which caused Haith’s demand to dip, then rise once again, the company’s current most-pressing issue has been related to the ongoing labour shortage felt across the country.
“It’s a difficult one to face,” says Duane, “because I love to give people chances and watch them flourish alongside the business. When possible, I like to support people in their career path working their way up through Haith just like I did. Another aspect of my role that I find extremely rewarding is watching the transformation of truckloads of steel coming in through our gates and finished machines heading back out. It always makes me proud to think ‘we built that!’
“Our USP is our deeply rooted family-engineering DNA, which means we have long-tenured engineers designing and building our products. Coupled with our multi-skilled management team, which brings people from different commercial backgrounds and with different skillsets together, it’s really all down to our incredible workforce that we can facilitate our continued developments and innovation.”
In maintaining its stellar working culture, the organization issues quarterly newsletters and is currently looking to invest in a new communal break area to offer the teams somewhere to relax together. Similarly, the management team arranges whole company events such as sit-down breakfasts and barbecues for the workforce and made sure everyone was involved when the Lord Lieutenant attended the business to present their second Queen’s Award for Enterprise last year.
“Receiving such an accolade is a true testament to Haith’s innovative approach to solving industry problems,” Duane states. “We invest a significant amount of money each year into our R&D program, and there’s no better recognition to receive than an award from the monarch – I was even lucky enough to visit Buckingham Palace to accept it in person from King Charles.”
Having recently invested in a new parts-sales customer reception area, to share its excellent customer experience to that side of the business, as well as a new preparation and paint facility, and a 230-kw solar installation, Haith is certainly looking to the future.
“We will continue to invest in training and recruitment to grow each of our units: agricultural handling equipment, vegetable processing and packing, aggregate handling and packing, and wastewater treatment,” he concludes. “I’m excited to see the opportunities that our succession plan will bring; we’re known as a domestic market leader at the moment, which I would like to see develop into global market leader in the future.”
Manufacturing Today (2023) ‘Gotta have Haith’
To view article online click here