THE HISTORY OF BAKER PERKINS CHEMICAL MACHINERY LTD.
The end of WW2 saw Baker Perkins Ltd. with a limited number of machines whose application fell outside the core 'food' business. The Saginaw operation had a somewhat wider range of equipment which was being sold quite successfully through their 'Chemical' Division and, as a consequence, a Chemical Division was set up in Peterborough in 1954 under J.M. (John) Peake.
A number of potential growth opportunities were explored resulting in, among other things, the acquisition of Steele & Cowlishaw in 1958, entry into the foundry machinery market (see History of the Foundry Business and Baker Perkins Ltd. Foundry Division) and development of plastics machinery and the acquisition in 1960 of The Granbull Tool Company (See also Baker Perkins Granbull.) An office was set up in Letchworth in 1960 to design equipment to exploit the use of tetrabromoethane (TBE) from the Dead Sea for mineral dressing but, due to the toxicity of this material, the venture was terminated on 28th April 1962.
In 1961, John Peake became drawing office manager at Peterborough on the retirement of George Wilson and Peter Francon-Smith was made manager of the Chemical Division.
The first use of the name "Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery Limited" was in 1962 when a company was formed to include the new acquisitions, Granbull and Steele & Cowlishaw together with the existing chemical and rubber m/c departments at Peterborough.
In the mid-1960s a small team including Arthur Ferns, Ken Hanson, Tom Digby and Jim Kemp was engaged in the design, manufacture and installation of plant for bulk storage, and transportation of particulate solids (powders, granular materials, etc.) by pneumatic means within BP Chemical Machinery Division, during which time many complete plants were installed in UK and abroad. More information on these may be found in History of Baker Perkins in the Chemical Business.
An Export Division of BPCM was established in July 1965, under J.S.H. Rodman, that operated from the Baker Perkins Export Co's offices in London. It was responsible for the overseas sales of all equipment manufactured by Baker Perkins Granbull and all equipment used in the plastics industries manufactured by Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery Ltd. and Steele & Cowlishaw.
Werner & Pfleiderer was a prominent German machinery manufacturer with headquarters and works located at Stuttgart-Feuerbach, with whom Baker Perkins had a long association. Around 1968, WP parted with their then agent in the UK, Kimball and Company, and appointed BP to act as agent for the WP range of continuous compounding machines for processing thermoplastic polymers such as polypropylene, polystyrene, polyethylene, etc.
WP found that twin screw extruders (ZSK) offered a number of advantages over conventional single screw machines, especially for the more complex compounding applications. These ZSK machines incorporated a number of advanced features such as co-rotating, closely intermeshing, screws assembled from various different segments (e.g. screw bushings, kneading discs, etc.), which were keyed onto the bare shafts. By this means, it was possible to build up a screw configuration of great flexibility, tailored to suit the particular requirements of complex processes. Process variables such as kneading intensity, mixing input and retention time could all be closely controlled by selecting the appropriate type and sequence of screw segments. Likewise, the extruder barrel was built from a series of figure-8 shaped sections which could be bolted together to enable machines of different processing length to be assembled. Some sections incorporated vent ports for venting gasses released during processing. The barrel sections were each drilled for independent water circulation, so that heating or cooling could be provided at exactly the right point as the polymer proceeded along the length of the barrel.
Typically, an extruder multi-hold die plate with a rotating pelletiser device could be fitted to the discharge end of the ZSK to provide a continuous discharge of discreet plastic pellets as the end product.
These machines, although highly expensive, were technically sophisticated and offered unique features. This was recognised by the major plastic chemical producers and processors throughout the world and they were widely adopted in the UK by Shell Chemicals, BP Chemicals, Porvair and many other leading producers in the plastics industry.. Mention should also be made of the Plastificator PK machine, which found a ready market in the UK. This machine was developed specially for processing Plasticised Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). For more information about these machines see History of Baker Perkins in the Chemical Business.
In 1974, the decision was made by BP to disengage from the WP agency agreement in the UK and WP subsequently set up their own subsidiary company in the UK, which continued to offer machines imported from Stuttgart.
The era of the WP agency in the UK was an interesting and memorable period for all concerned and marked a close practical co-operation between Peterborough and Stuttgart.
From Jan 1st 1970, a new Chemical and Foundry Division was formed at Peterborough with: R.C. Dean – divisional manager, J.C. Hucklesby – technical manager, A.W.D. Ferns – manager W+P equipment sales, J.H. North Sales – Manager and G.C. Chestney – office manager.
1974 saw the formation of a new Baker Perkins Chemical Ltd. under C.R.A. (Bob) Senior as chairman and managing director, still based in Peterborough but now a subsidiary of Baker Perkins Inc., Saginaw. Baker Perkins Inc., which employed 900 people at the time, had sales almost equally divided between food and chemical machinery, with a strong position in the chemical market, and it was logical to give Saginaw prime responsibility for world-wide marketing, engineering and development. The UK operation took over the European marketing organisation of Baker Perkins Inc. and was responsible for sales to the chemical and process industries throughout Europe and adjacent countries. The UK company was given access to Baker Perkins Inc's $1m research and demonstration centre (see also History of Saginaw), but also re-equipped an existing building in Peterborough whilst also using existing facilities at Stoke-on-Trent. Following the death of Bill Tudor at the end of 1973, Dr. G.J. Shaw became general manager of BPCM Ltd.
In early 1975, on the resignation of Fred Giordano, vice president and general manager of the chemical machinery division of Baker Perkins Inc., Bob Senior assumed that position, continuing in his role as chairman and managing director of BPCM Ltd. Dr G.J. Shaw was appointed deputy managing director of BPCM Ltd., also in early 1975.
With the programme of expansion begun earlier in the year, all of the BPCM personnel at Peterborough transferred to Stoke-on-Trent in 1977, where the new laboratory for customer demonstration, development and research had become operational in September. The company was now firmly established as the European distribution centre for the Chemical sub-group products – twin screw mixers, Podbielniak Contactors (centrifuges) and vertical mixers. The greatly increased workload meant that the factory had to be equipped with many new machine tools.
Stoke was involved in the pioneering days of twin-screw extruders and had begun to manufacture small (2") twin-screw extruders, firstly for the plastics industry, later for food applications. The company remained in the forefront of this technology for over 30 years, with a considerable installed base throughout the world.
Peter Bryant was appointed as general manager of Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery Ltd. in April 1978. Dave Baumann, previously manager-industrial of the chemical machinery division at Saginaw, was appointed managing director of BPCM Ltd, Stoke-on-Trent in 1980.
The Apprentice Bay at Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery Ltd, Stoke was set up by Peter Bryant, (with help from Jim Deboo), on his appointment as managing director in 1980. Well equipped with machine tools and fitting benches, the training scheme was administered by a Training Committee of senior managers and catered mainly for craft apprentices.
At 1st April 1980, the management organisation was as shown here.
Saginaw's Chemical Division was restructured again in December 1982 into two divisions – the Plastics Equipment Division, under C.R.A. (Bob) Senior , comprising the former Plastics business including Baker Perkins Chemical Machinery, Stoke-on-Trent, and the Process Equipment Division, under B.H. Bernie Liberman, made up of the former industrial and centrifugal business including Baker Perkins Guittard, Chelles.
Following the return to the United States of Dave Baumann and the re-organisation of the Chemical Division of Baker Perkins Inc., USA, Peter Bryant was appointed managing director of BPCM Ltd. in December 1982.
A satellite manufacturing unit was opened in 1985 on the Parkhouse Industrial Estate, a few miles from the company's main works in Cooper Street. Part of a £1.25m expansion scheme the additional manufacturing capacity had become necessary because BPCM Ltd had doubled its sales in the previous two years and its number of employees had risen from 120 to 200. The new unit was equipped with the latest Computer Numerical Control machine tools. The Cooper Street factory was re-developed to create more space for assembly. £170,000 was spent on computer aided design/computer aided manufacture equipment (CAD/CAM), the CAD installation linked to Baker Perkins, Peterborough's computer by optical fibre transmission. This was provided by British Telecom and was the first link of its kind in Britain.
The management believed that the change would relieve the pressures of success – everywhere from the busy shop floor to the cramped office car park. Peter Bryant, managing director said – "We have grown by 50% in each of the last two years. In that time we have increased both our export markets and the size of our workforce – from about 120 to 200".
Also in 1985, the rapid growth of both BPCM and BP Guittard prompted the creation of a new chemical machinery sub-group having four profit centres - one of them being BPCM at Stoke-on-Trent.
In Autumn 1986, work started on a £1m, 14,500 square feet customer demonstration centre, also on the Parkhouse Industrial Estate in Newcastle-under-Lyme. Customer tests and demonstrations formed about 20% of the company's business and the purpose- built facility eased many of the problems caused at Stoke by lack of space and allowed more research and development work to be carried out. The new facility nearly did not get built. The local council had only a short time before agreed a policy that they would have no trading or investment with companies associated with South Africa. Fortunately, Baker Perkins directors had, earlier in the year, disposed of its investments in South Africa (see also History of Baker Perkins South Africa Pty. Ltd.) and Planning permission was given. The centre was opened in 1987 and employed 20 people.
Following the merger between Baker Perkins and APV in 1987, the company's name was changed to APV Chemical Machinery. Paul Parkinson was given supervisory responsibility for the Process Technology division based at Stoke-on-Trent and the Pumps and Mixer Division based at East Kilbride. Brian Harris was appointed Director and Division Manager of the process Division.
At the end of April 1987, the plastics business of BPCM, including design engineers, electronics engineers and the commercial department was moved to Etruria, about three miles away from the existing business in Cooper Street, Hanley.
The company's operations were moved from the original factory in Cooper Street, Stoke-on-Trent to the Parkhouse, Newcastle-under-Lyme facility in 1991. The manufacture and assembly of twin-screw extruders was re-located from Stoke-on-Trent to Peterborough in 1994, to take advantage of the state-of-the-art design and manufacturing facilities available at APV Baker's headquarters.
The 1995 APV Group Annual Report states that the business of APV Chemical Inc was sold in April 1995 for £1.6m.
(See also History of Saginaw).
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