In December, woodchipper manufacturer GreenMech invited journalists to its production site in Warwickshire for an event with a festive feel, including an exclusive factory tour for essentialARB.

WIND, snow and weather warnings formed an inauspicious backdrop for a trip to Warwickshire back in December. Days after Storm Arwen caused untold devastation across woodlands and rural communities of mainland Britain, Storm Barra rolled in, with gusts of up to 97 mph threatening to create further disruption and causing nervous excitement for envoys of essentialARB journeying south to visit GreenMech.
Europe’s leading woodchipper manufacturer GreenMech invited guests from across the industry media to an event at a venue close to its production site in Alcester, for an update with a festive feeling.

Although Storm Barra caused some concern, it proved not to be as bad as feared and most of the invited journalists arrived in good time, assembling at the Kings Court Hotel, bordering the GreenMech industrial estate, to learn how the company has overcome numerous challenges encountered since the last press event took place five years ago. 
Founded in 1993, GreenMech puts its success down to the innovative nature of its products – all of which are designed, tested and produced in-house at The Mill Industrial Park.

Growing quickly from humble beginnings, today the manufacturer has 16 dealers with 39 depots across the UK, with distributors around the world. It has manufactured over 10,000 products for the global market, with over 90 per cent still in working order. 

In his presentation, sales director Martin Lucas outlined three major factors which have all had an impact on business in recent years. 

READ MORE: Forestry Journal given behind the scenes look at GreenMech's factory

The first of which, and perhaps the biggest challenge for the engineering team, was the introduction of Stage V engine compliance. The need to fit new certified Stage V engines required the re-engineering of around 20 GreenMech models – a massive task that he explained required careful consideration to balance customer expectations, unit performance and cost. 

“We’ve had to change the engine on anything over 25 hp in diesel format, because of the inherent cost of putting a DPF unit into new engines. It’s cost-prohibitive to do a 35 hp Stage V engine, so everybody in our market has gone down to 25 horsepower. But what we’ve done is compensate with a bigger flywheel process. 

Forestry Journal: Sales director Martin Lucas provided journalists with an extensive update.Sales director Martin Lucas provided journalists with an extensive update.

“The danger with that was a strong part of our market is sub-750 kg and we were going over that. So it was a major challenge to address. Back in 2019 we launched the EVO range and we’ve brought in some new sub-750 kg products in a petrol format.”

While the transition period of Stage V was extended due to COVID-19, the wider impact and knock-on effects of the pandemic were also discussed. With its own dedicated manufacturing facility, Martin detailed how GreenMech endeavours to produce as much as it can itself, but, like a lot of manufacturers, still relied on the availability of third-party components – some of which, including hydraulics and electric components, remain in short supply. 

He said: “All manufacturers are struggling to get the product to build our machines, engines, hydraulics, electrics and all the rest of it. And it might be a small chip at the end of the day that you need, but you can’t complete the machine without it. That’s really, really frustrating. Of course, some of the suppliers took the opportunity to put their prices up as well.”

All this meant lead-time management was another hurdle GreenMech has had to overcome, with the proactive efforts of its dealer network noted in helping to shorten customers’ exposure to long delivery times. Currently, customers seeking a new machine can expect a lead time of seven to eight months.

Forestry Journal:  GreenMech’s laser cutters can cut steel up to 25 mm thick. GreenMech’s laser cutters can cut steel up to 25 mm thick.

The third area discussed was Brexit. With exports accounting for roughly 70% of their business, the implications of the new European guidelines have seen added complexities and a big increase in the amount of paperwork GreenMech needs to complete to get a machine to its final destination in such countries as the Czech Republic, Poland or Norway (where GreenMech’s machines chip feed pipes on fish farms). 

However, there are indeed reasons to be chipper, as Martin explained that the appetite for UK-manufactured product is still strong, with a keenness from their European distribution partners to remain committed to the brand. 

Despite the adversity, the creativity of GreenMech shone through as Martin and members of the marketing team discussed the launch of the highly successful EVO series – with a new market image and approach meaning the EVO now accounts for a significant proportion of all orders placed. 

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First launched at the 2019 ARB Show, the EVO 165D set a new precedent for GreenMech, in terms of the specification which delivered more aggressive torque, bite and throughput. A tracked version, the EVO 165DT followed, then shortly after a 37 hp petrol engine was introduced to bring the new EVO 165P into the sub-750 kg category.

More recently the ‘big brother’ came to market in the form of the EVO 205D – an 8” unit powered by a 50 hp Kubota diesel engine. 

Forestry Journal: Average machines use 5 kg of primer and 10 kg top coat.Average machines use 5 kg of primer and 10 kg top coat.

The newest launch, the EVO 205D Safe-Trak and Sure-Trak models, are designed to provide operators with exceptional safety and stability when working across slopes of up to 35o.

Looking to the future, Martin said the team was working on developing electric chippers, but until they can produce one that can operate for longer than two hours on a single charge, don’t expect to see any on the market.

Outside the hotel, the gathered journalists became some of the first to see the new EVO 205D Sure-Trak in the flesh as this was lined up, alongside other models from the EVO range, for a series of working demonstrations. 

Forestry Journal: GreenMech runs seven production lines with 30 people working on assembly.GreenMech runs seven production lines with 30 people working on assembly.

After seizing the chance to get hands-on with some of the equipment, essentialARB was given an insight into how the machines are made with an exclusive factory tour, courtesy of MD Jonathan Turner.

The son of founder Tony Turner, Jonathan marks his 20th year with the company in 2022.

He joined in 2002 following a stint in the Royal Navy and since then has helped guide the business through a process of development and expansion, taking its total number of staff from 25 to 112 in the UK, Germany, France and South Korea.

After donning face masks, signing in and sanitising hands, we began in the offices, meeting the staff who work across the various departments of sales and marketing, finance, procurement, design and production. Then it was on to a tour of the manufacturing process from initial design to end product.

Proud to be quality British manufacturers, GreenMech continues to invest in state-of-the-art equipment for steel cutting, folding, shot-blasting and powder-coating systems. In-house manufacturing of the majority of the machines allows the company to be in control of both quality and cost.

Forestry Journal: In the UK, GreenMech has 16 dealers and 39 depots, with distributors around the world.In the UK, GreenMech has 16 dealers and 39 depots, with distributors around the world.

It was evident too, from a quick walk through the site, that GreenMech is continually looking to expand and improve its facilities, with Jonathan detailing how the layout had changed over the years, with efforts ongoing to restructure the workshop to improve efficiency. Most recently, an office has been demolished to create a new free assembly area, with other areas targeted for expansion.

The manufacturing process begins with sheet steel, 25–30 tonnes of which, ranging in thickness from 3–15 mm, goes through the factory each month. GreenMech’s laser cutters can cut pieces of steel up to 25 mm thick, which can then be folded and fabricated. 

Steel components are shot-blasted, cleaned and painted, applying both a primer and top coat for durability.

The company buys in engines, wheels and other special parts, all of which are then sorted into batches ready for assembly. Kubota engines are used for diesel chippers, with Vanguard and Honda the preferred petrol options.

To keep things moving, GreenMech runs seven production lines with 30 people working on assembly. The company now offers a range of 25 different products, with a core of eight chippers (five of them the new EVO models), though different machines are more popular in different regions of the world.

Forestry Journal: There are now 25 models in the GreenMech range.There are now 25 models in the GreenMech range.

Each and every GreenMech machine is hand built, tested and cleaned before being despatched for sale. The factory produces just over 100 units a month, with the process from cutting steel to final product taking four weeks.

With the tour complete, it was back to the hotel for lunch and parting words.

Jonathan closed proceedings by saying: “We’re proud of our achievements and how we’ve overcome such a challenging couple of years, but now is the time to be even more positive and excited about our future. 

“We will be continuing to work on industry-leading new products, designed to perform without compromise with the support of a great network of colleagues and dealers around us.”