Forestry Journal talks to Mark Jibson and Lee Richardson, the men bringing Ufkes Greentec chippers, stump grinders, grabs and tree shears to UK customers.

A NAME that has quickly become synonymous with innovation, quality and reliability, Ufkes Greentec is one of the most exciting and dynamic manufacturers of biomass equipment – including woodchippers, stump grinders, grabs and tree shears – in Europe.

In the nearly two decades since its inception, it has grown in size and reputation to emerge as a serious contender to long-established global brands. So how did two self-employed engineers from Yorkshire end up its exclusive dealers for the UK?

Mark Jibson and Lee Richardson have been friends for over 20 years. With a background in agriculture, Mark got his start with a tractor manufacturer, before going to work for an agricultural machinery dealer and then a recycling sales company, carrying out repairs.

He returned to agriculture for a couple of years before going self-employed with Mark Jibson Mechanical Engineering Ltd, offering servicing and repairs across a broad range of machinery in forestry and agriculture.

It was back in the 1990s, while still employed by the agricultural machinery dealer, that he met Lee, then 16 years old, who had joined as an apprentice. Following a similarly varied career path, he began at the bottom, serving petrol and fitting tyres, gradually building up his skill set. After enjoying spells as an electrician and mechanic on a golf course, he was invited by Mark to join his team at the recycling company. Seven years ago, he too launched his own company, ADR Engineering (named in honour of his son, Arthur Doug Richardson), specialising in welding, fabrication and repairs for agricultural machinery, plant and the waste recycling sector.

Forestry Journal:  All drum chippers are fitted with a specially designed counterknife, with small branches being cut from a different angle, resulting in better chip quality. All drum chippers are fitted with a specially designed counterknife, with small branches being cut from a different angle, resulting in better chip quality.

It was in 2016 that the pair, both now happily self-employed, took a trip from East Yorkshire down to Warwickshire for the APF and happened upon a new opportunity. They met up with a former customer from Ireland who was in the market for a new chipper and had set his sights on an Ufkes Greentec 942 with crane.

With extensive knowledge of the biomass chippers already available on the market, Mark and Lee were similarly impressed with the Greentec machine and keen to learn more.
a trip to the netherlands

Founded by Jippe Ufkes in 2004, Ufkes Greentec grew quickly from humble beginnings. Operating in its early days from a shed in Sibrandahus in the Netherlands, it began by selling and servicing forestry machines including chippers, stump grinders, cranes and tree shears from renowned brands. To meet the increasing demands and high standards of its customers, the company began developing its own range of machines, specialising in larger chippers and combination units up to 600 hp.

Five years ago it opened a new production facility allowing for all aspects of the manufacturing process – from design and engineering to assembly, testing and delivery – to be handled in-house. This, coupled with their modular design, means all units can be tailored to meet the specific needs of each customer. A quick look on the website reveals dozens of different solutions and combinations.

The company grew quickly, achieving great success in the professional forestry and arb markets at home, in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and France. Word of its products’ robust build, high-tech control, easy maintenance and customised solutions inevitably reached the UK and Ireland, but at the turn of 2017 it was without a distributor in the market. 

Forestry Journal: One of the most impressive Ufkes Greentec machines to be sold into the UK market so far is this 962 track with side infeed, cab and crane.One of the most impressive Ufkes Greentec machines to be sold into the UK market so far is this 962 track with side infeed, cab and crane.

A few months after first discussing the brand at the APF, Mark and Lee made contact with the company to see about the possibility of becoming a dealer. In the spring of 2017 they took two trips to the factory in the Netherlands – the first to scope out the operation and talk about setting up a dealership in England, the second accompanied by their would-be customer from Ireland, who was ready to buy. It was enough to convince Jippe Ufkes these were two gentlemen he should be in business with.

SETTING UP SHOP

Their dealership, Ufkes Greentec UK Ltd, was established in May 2018. While it shares its name with the machinery manufacturer, Ufkes Greentec UK is owned outright by Mark and Lee, with no financial stake from its namesake. They decided to adopt the ‘Ufkes’ brand partly for name recognition, but also to reflect their intention to stick solely to selling Ufkes Greentec products. Rather than spreading themselves too thinly across multiple product lines, they aimed to devote all their energies to the promotion and sale of a single brand.

For most of that first 18 months, the focus was on getting the word out. Demos were offered up and down the country, adverts placed in trade publications and a presence established on social media. They made their show debut at APF 2018. In 2019, Ufkes Greentec UK took a stand at the very first Forestry Expo Scotland in South Lanarkshire, where its range of crane-fed chippers decimated a stack of logs to the delight of the crowds. Soon after, Mark and Lee were on the road to Gloucestershire with a truckload of chippers, tree shears and stumpgrinders for the Confor Woodland Show.

Forestry Journal: All machines are manufactured out of premium steel 355 (52-3), fully blasted and powder coated twice.All machines are manufactured out of premium steel 355 (52-3), fully blasted and powder coated twice.

“I think a lot of people were waiting to see if we were going to stick around,” said Lee. “We needed time to establish ourselves and prove we weren’t just a flash in the pan. We know we’re not. We know how good the products are. And now people have gone away and done their homework we have no trouble selling them. We have been receiving regular enquiries in the last few weeks.”

Garnering the most interest have been chippers such as the 942 (available with two or four rollers, featuring an infeed of 420 x 710 mm with three knives distributed along the drum), 952mega for large-scale contractors (425 hp with an infeed size opening of 600 x 1060, four-roller infeed and hydraulic clutch) and Cheetah 30 for smaller contractors (100 hp disc chipper with infeed of 300 x 580, vertical rollers and full remote control).

Tracked machines seem the most popular, but all units can be trailed, PTO, engine driven or truck mounted. PTO combination units can be fitted with bin sizes from 8 to 25 cubic metres with hp requirements from 70 to 450. Some models can also be fitted with the special UK LH infeed allowing work to be carried out safely within traffic management.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Mark and Lee both handle servicing and repairs where required, but day to day, it’s mostly Mark who deals with the sales side of things. Not a natural salesman, he made clear from the start he doesn’t like cold calling, but in an industry that values honesty and straight talk, his honest, no-nonsense approach has proved to be an asset with customers.

Forestry Journal:  The Greentec 942, available with two or four rollers, has an infeed of 520 x 710 mm (max. infeed 450 x 710 mm) and has three knives distributed along the drum. The Greentec 942, available with two or four rollers, has an infeed of 520 x 710 mm (max. infeed 450 x 710 mm) and has three knives distributed along the drum.

“I don’t give anyone any bullshit because I don’t know any,” he said. “I’ll just tell you what it is and what it can do. If you buy it, you buy it. I’m not going to fill your head full of rubbish. Our engineering background helps. As I said, I don’t like cold calling, but I do enjoy speaking to customers who are interested in what we’re selling. And it obviously works, because I’ve sold machines to customers who I’ve only ever spoken to on the phone.”

Asked why demand has skyrocketed in the last year, Mark and Lee were unsure, but willing to hazard a guess the reputation they worked so long and hard to establish – both for the quality of their equipment and of their customer service – is finally paying off.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” said Mark. “It looks like we’ve been pushing along quite gently, but we’ve invested a lot of time, money and energy to get where we are now.

“A lot of it could be down to the service we provide. You’re guaranteed a quick reaction, because there’s only two of us to call. You can either get hold of me or get hold of Lee. And we don’t clock off at 5pm.”

Call-outs are infrequent, however, typically for minor issues quickly identified via the touchscreen Greentec Control System and easily fixed. 

“We know, with an Ufkes machine, we can sell it and not see it again for a while,” said Lee. “We don’t have to go traipsing all over the place to deal with repairs. We had that in the past, working for other companies where we were travelling the length and breadth of the country to mend stupid little things. With these machines, if we ask the right questions on the phone we can usually save ourselves a trip.”

Forestry Journal: The Cheetah 30 on the stand has seen plenty of action in the field. It boasts a 75hp Kubota Stage V engine and self-loading crane.The Cheetah 30 on the stand has seen plenty of action in the field. It boasts a 75hp Kubota Stage V engine and self-loading crane.

On the rare occasions a part does need to be replaced, the modular design of Ufkes Greentec equipment makes the job simple and ensures parts are always in stock.

“The feedback we get from customers is that the service is impeccable,” said Lee. “You don’t have to ring five different numbers and get shunted from person to person to get a hold of someone. And any issues are sorted fast. 

“From our previous roles, we’re used to working night and day. Even when we worked for other people, the way that we viewed it was it might not have been our business, but it was our livelihood and our future, so you’ve always got to do that extra little bit every time. That’s even more true now, because it is our business and our reputation and there’s only the two of us. But it’s bred in us to make the customer happy.”

If they keep adding customers at the rate they’re doing, it might soon be time for Mark and Lee to add a third body to the team, but for the moment they’re making a success of running Ufkes Greentec UK – alongside their still thriving engineering businesses – between the two of them.

Last month’s Yorkshire Agricultural Machinery Show afforded them the chance to showcase some of their most popular and eye-catching pieces of equipment they’ve brought to the UK market in the last few years, from the 942 track to the Cheetah 30, Jaguar 40/80 and a mighty 962 track with side infeed (equipped with a 425 hp John Deere engine, Palfinger M70F101 crane and heated cabin).

Now they’re looking forward to making their return to Ragley Estate for APF 2022 in September. They’ll have a bigger stand than four years ago, with plans to show their machines working – and perhaps some new innovations from Greentec (which has plenty in the works).

In the meantime, as the reputation for their machines and their customer service continues to build, and as contractors across forestry and agriculture look to diversify, improve efficiency and get more from their materials, it seems they’ll both have plenty to keep them busy.

For more information about Ufkes Greentec machines, call Mark on 07977098432 or visit www.greentecuk.co.uk or www.ufkes.net.