The UK Coal production peaked in 1951 at 228 million tonnes from 92 opencast and 1334 deep mines.
Between 1942 and 1997 over 1000 mines were closed and production fell to 50 million tonnes.
For Mining Equipment Manufacturer’s, it was essential for their survival, that new export markets were identified and developed.
For the Mining Division of Dowty, a massive opportunity materialised in the 70’s from China, which generated tens of millions of £’s worth of work for the UK.
For Dowty Mining Equipment (DME) supplying powered roof supports, it was the biggest single order they had won to date and a Queen’s Award for Export followed in 1973.
Subsequent orders from China, acknowledged by the incumbent institutions in the UK, saw further Queen’s Awards for Export being issued in 1980, and in 1981 (Contract value £30 million).
In 1982 Dowty Meco supplying longwall face conveyors and belt systems, received its first Queen’s Award for Export following another order from China valued at £45 million.
The Export Sales Director at DME was duly awarded the OBE.
Recognising a possible risk with doing business in China, the reward was too great to consider declining such a valuable opportunity.
The Chinese Coal Market then had a relatively quiet spell, however Dowty Meco restructured to focus on the new opportunities and won a Queen’s Award for Technology in 1988 for the Cast Line-pan ~ which was soon to become a global standard.
To take best advantage of the opportunity required a strategic plan which led to a Technology Transfer Agreement.
The payment was by the purchase of 9 complete AFC Systems.
This surge in activity saw other opportunities materialise in China, with sales growing well to help offset the decline of the UK Coal Industry.
In 1989 the Dowty Mining Division, following a Management Buyout, became Meco International and then, in 1993, Longwall International, when it merged with Dobson Park’s Mining Machinery Division.
In 1995 Worcester was awarded the Queen’s Award for Export, in part due to its success in China. Six months later Joy Mining Machinery, the largest US manufacturer of underground mining equipment, acquired Longwall International.
Joy had complementary equipment, and the merger created a full product range offering to the industry.
The integration of the two businesses was achieved successfully and growth continued with the wider product offering paying dividends.
Exports to China from the UK/USA in the period from 1994 to 1998 averaged $4.6 million/year, then from 1999 to 2002, $46.3 million/year.
These additional sales contributed hugely to business investments and operating costs as well as providing employment to several hundred in the UK/USA and many more in the up-stream supply activities, which numerically could be six to ten times greater.
During that period the contribution that Joy’s UK business brought to the country was recognised by a further Queens Award for Export as the contracts were of great benefit to the economy.
It was an exciting era and the adage “nothing ventured nothing gained” was often the driver for going forward.