STARTING life as a one-man operation servicing and repairing hydraulic equipment out the back of a van 34 years ago, Approved Hydraulics is now one of the UK’s top suppliers. From an initial focus on mobile truck equipment in the civil engineering sector, the business has evolved and now serves a variety of sectors including forestry, rail, industrial, demolition, subsea and offshore, to name but a few.

Based in Stockport, Approved Hydraulics covers the whole of the UK and Ireland and frequently exports items into Europe and beyond.

“As the repair business became less and less sustainable due to a lack of engineers and longer free service contracts from equipment manufacturers, the company decided to move into more of a sales role, using the years of hands-on experience to ensure customers would not only receive the correct parts for the job, but also the backup and knowledge support on how to fit and install the component correctly,” explained Adam Hindle, head of attachment sales and son of company founder, Geoff Hindle.

Forestry Journal:

Adam had wanted to work in the family business since the age of three, but he wasn’t just handed the job, despite being the son of the boss. He recalled: “I was not allowed to simply join the company. I first had to go and get a National Diploma in electrical engineering, then a Higher National Diploma in mechanical engineering, before finally getting a BEng degree in mechanical engineering.

“Coming into the business when I was younger meant I had always been around and was used to seeing hydraulic equipment and, therefore, had a slight leg-up on many my age at the time. Over the past few years I have worked my way through the company, from handling stock, to sales, and now head up the attachment sales department, along with also being a shareholder.”

Forestry Journal:

Approved Hydraulics holds eight UK sole dealerships, most of which offer forestry equipment. Of those, the three brands which focus mainly on forestry are Intermercato, Baltrotors and FEMAC. “To become a market leader in any market, you need to have good quality behind you, as well as support and knowledge. We believe these three dealerships offer all of this,” Adam said.

The firm has been the sole UK agent for Swedish manufacturer Intermercato for over a decade. Adam explained: “Intermercato offers the largest range of log grabs and tree shears on the market. They are predominantly known for strength-to-weight ratio and many in the market consider them indestructible.”

On Latvian brand Baltrotors, Adam said: “Baltrotors produce one of the most extensive ranges of rotators available on the market. These already have a great name in the forestry market and now all their GR range comes with a two-year warranty as standard.”

Forestry Journal:

Adam said of Italy-based FEMAC: “FEMAC produce one of the most comprehensive ranges of excavator-mounted flails and fixed-tooth mulchers. This year, they have increased the range considerably by making many of the standards or forestall flails interchangeable with a fixed tooth rotor.”

Forestry is, by far, Approved Hydraulics’ largest market when it comes to attachments, which Adam said has had a “huge impact” on the growth of the business over the past 10 years.

“It all started when we took on the Intermercato and Baltrotors UK dealerships. These brands took off really well in the UK and enabled us to gain some breathing space to look at expanding the range. The growth was predominantly customer led. Customers would buy log grabs and tree shears and ask us if we did other products such as stump grinders, flails etc. This quickly led us into more forestry products which took off just as fast, such as the FEMAC flails and mulchers, which are also one of the UK market leaders now.”

Forestry Journal:

So, what’s popular at the moment? Anything from the Intermercato range, according to Adam. FEMAC is always very popular as well. “We always have around 50–100 attachments on order at any one time,” he said.
Current top sellers include the TG 16 SR5 (5-tine) log grab from Intermercato, which features a small, rigid-mount rotator on the top; and the T3 90 from FEMAC. Reflecting on the latter, Adam said: “We simply cannot get these out of the factory quick enough. Last year, we sold 60 of this model alone.”

Not only does Approved Hydraulics supply these brands, it also offers its own full range of hydraulic components. Launched around five years ago, the HYDRA-Part range includes control valves, line-mounted valves, pumps, PTO units, tanks, motors, stabiliser pads and cages, to name but a few in what is an ever-expanding range.

The motive behind this venture was simple – competition. When the world migrated online to purchase parts, Approved Hydraulics had two options – compete or simply bow out.

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“We’ve never been the type of company to turn down a challenge, so we decided to compete,” Adam said. “Once we found all the right parts and the right price, we started an all-singing, all-dancing ‘buy online’ website. This has been very successful as we now sell a full range of standard hydraulic equipment to end users, dealers and original equipment manufacturers.”

Approved Hydraulics’ own range of products now also includes excavator/telehandler/utility vehicle cone splitters, floor-mounted log crackers, and crane and excavator-mounted log crackers. Adam added: “We have seen excessive growth and demand over the past six months to a year for our Approved Hydraulics manufactured cone splitters. This is mainly on the larger-size AH800CS unit, but we sell the smaller ones often as well.”

Forestry Journal:

Reflecting on the forestry market at the moment, Adam said: “We very rarely see a dip in sales. As we have such a wide range of equipment, if one item slows down due to the season, it’s very likely we are selling more of something else to compensate. However, there is always great room for manoeuvrability in the forestry market as customers are always looking for the next best thing and suppliers are always producing the next best thing. This gives us great scope for the future to keep expanding our services and keep offering customers great, innovative products.”

The business recently supplied attachments including two flails, a mulcher, two stump grinders and two log grabs to a new customer in Ireland in a deal totalling around £43,000.

The business has also recently undergone a slight reorganisation, with the aim of offering a better service to its customer base.  A new general manager has come on board and is updating many of the internal systems to provide better traceability and visibility on current jobs, quotations and aftersales support.

Looking to the future, Adam said: “We are very interested in getting into some more bespoke work as we have a great advantage over many suppliers, through our years of knowledge and hands-on engineering. We are always interested in customer input for this as this is essentially how we have developed new items over the past few years.

“We are always expanding our HYDRA-Part range and this year we are bringing on a full range of both lever and electric mono-block control valves. These can be used in many applications, from recovery trucks to forestry cranes, and are a cheap, easy solution for non-proportional hydraulic radio remote systems that we also sell.”