You’ve heard it all before: “We’re back and better than ever” – The classic cry of a struggling British manufacturer risen like a phoenix from the flames.

Invariably, they fall unceremoniously back into the smouldering embers alongside so many other floundering firms.

But for Devizes-based Kidd Machinery things could really be looking up thanks to the backing of a major automotive player.

NEW KIDD ON THE BLOCKkidd machine + JD tractor

Once renowned for its “Double-chop” forage-harvesters, “Clipper” mowers, straw-choppers and toppers, Kidd slipped into anonymity when it was absorbed into the giant Kverneland group in 1993.

Before that it had been one of the best-known names to serve the livestock sector since it was started in 1959 by Devizes-based engineer Archie Kidd.

He started out making heavy flat rolls and soon progressed from pasture preparation kit into forage harvesting and feeding.

But times changed and Mr Kidd decided the days of trailed foragers and other low-tech kit were numbered. He sold out to Wolseley Hughes – the firm that now encompasses Build Center and Plumb Center – which, at the time, was buying up agricultural equipment makers including Parmiter and McConnel.

Fifteen years later the agricultural arm of this giant conglomerate was disbanded and Kidd caught the eye of progressive Danish firm Taarup.

The company saw Kidd’s dedication to the drum mower concept and liked the way the small-town British firm had managed to get such a strong hold on the domestic dealer network.

The Danes recognised that the product range needed updating and were prepared to bolster it with their own line-up, generating extra sales for themselves while helping to maintain Kidd’s position in the market. Kidd machinery was soon rebranded as Taarup-Kidd with its less distinctive red colour-scheme.

But just two years later Taarup was bought by Kverneland and soon the Devizes factory was building feeders and straw-choppers for nearly every brand in the European giant’s portfolio – Vicon,Taarup, and Kverneland itself.

Then in 2003 the decision was taken to sell off the Wiltshire plant and shift production to Denmark and Italy. A management buy-out took place under the banner of KFM.

The plan was that the old product range would be resurrected and those dealers that had once shifted so much Kidd tackle would once more see hundreds of Devizes-built machines flooding out of their gates.

KIDD TOPPER 

WIN A NEW KIDD PASTURE TOPPER

To celebrate the launch of a new range of pasture toppers, the Devizes-based firm is on the lookout for the oldest working Kidd Barber topper.

Have you got one that you still use? Send a picture of it, along with its serial number and a few details of it’s history to sales@kiddmachinery.com or call 01380 724 910 and you could win a 1.8m (6ft) rotary topper worth £795.

The reality was different. The market had moved on – self-propelled, precision-chop foragers were now the norm and the industry was going through turmoil with low prices and the BSE crisis to contend with.

However, after suffering production quality problems overseas, Kverneland soon reappointed Kidd to turn out its horizontal-auger diet feeders under contract – as it still does.

But the volume just wasn’t enough and in June 2006 the company ceased trading.

Within a month, however, there was interest from a local buyer. On an industrial estate just around the corner in Devizes, Omitec – the firm that makes Crypton tuning kits and other automotive testing equipment – was looking for someone to produce the steel cabinets that its diagnostic equipment is packaged up in.

The laser-cutting machines and steel presses in the KFM plant fitted the bill perfectly, so a deal was done that saw the old Kidd factory join the Omitec fold.

The management were wise enough to see that the agricultural products still had great potential and also bought the Kidd name back from Kverneland.

Kidd managing director Mike Dickinson is keen to spread the company’s activities and sees four key areas where there is potential.

“Our core business will be focused around our own straw-choppers and toppers. We’ve got new products on the way.

“We will continue with our contracts manufacturing for external customers.”

These include building hoppers for a firm involved in dry-mortar mixes for on-site concrete production, and the deal to make Kverneland feeder wagons.

“In another break from the agricultural angle, we’re looking at adapting our diet-feeder designs to suit the smaller green-waste processor and compost site.

“For the long-term Kidd’s future will depend on capitalising on new markets. The waste industry will be key to this.

“I believe there is a huge future in ‘Power from Waste’, whether that is anaerobic in-vessel digestion, biomass plants or whatever”

He believes that the high-tech electronic gadgetry from Omitec diagnostic kit and Kidd’s heavy-engineering expertise make the perfect marriage.

“We’re better equipped now than virtually any other UK company to tackle the challenges of sophisticated waste processing.

“Farm machinery will stay at our core but we’ve got some exciting developments ahead – Kidd is back.”lidd machie in shed

New Kidd on the block… Kidd machinery is back. For now the company is concentrating its efforts on toppers and straw-choppers, but plans are in place to widen the product range.

KIDD TIMELINE

  • 1959 Archie Kidd starts out building flat rolls in the village
             of Seend, near Devizes, Wiltshire
  • 1967 Double-chop forager introduced
  • 1974 Straw-chopper launched
  • 1977 Kidd is acquired by the Wolseley group along with
             Parmiter and McConnel
             Clipper drum-mower enters production
  • 1991 Kidd is sold to Danish firm – Taarup
  • 1993 Kverneland acquires Taarup, including Taarup-Kidd
  • 2003 Management buy-out acquires Devizes factory 
             from Kverneland, trading as KFM
  • 2006 Automotive testing specialist Omitec buys KFM
             and Devizes plant. Also acquires rights to manufacture
             Kidd machinery from Kverneland
  • 2007 Trading as Kidd Machinery the plant produces straw-choppers 
             and toppers plus 200 diet-feeders under contract to Kverneland