April 16, 2018

the interview | David Perry, Managing Director of Perry of Oakley Ltd

David Perry is the Managing Director of Perry of Oakley Ltd. The company has over 70 years experience in the manufacture and design of continuous flow grain driers, chain and flight conveyors and augers, square bins and grain cleaners for the drying and handling of most granular bulk materials.
Mr Perry explained of his experience in the industry, “Since I graduated, nearly 28 years ago, I have been in the business all my working life. I have been responsible for purchasing, production, workshop management, design, and sales. Also prior to this in my younger years I worked in all of the positions on the shop floor including welding, painting, assembly and sheet metal.”

How have you seen Perry of Oakley and the industry change over the past decade?
The biggest changes to the company over the last 10 years have been to become more global, expand our product range to offer larger capacity, more industrial specification products to a wider range of industries.
In our earlier years we were solely focussed on the UK agricultural sector with a range of lower capacity equipment. The strategy has been to expand the product range to allow entry into other more commercial sectors such as feed mills, large grain stores, breweries etc.
We increased the capacity of the handling machinery up to 800tph, added belt conveyors and screw conveyors to the range which means we offer the complete mechanical handling solution. At the same time we increased the capacity of our grain driers and increased the specification to a fully commercial level and more recently we added the belt drier to the range to increase the range of biomass, grass and other products that we could dry.
We worked hard to expand our export sales into new countries and we are still doing this. These things have helped make us a lot less at risk if a particular country market or sector has a turndown in fortunes.
During this time the industry has seen pressures to reduce production costs and increase output volumes. Farms and stores have become larger as a result and have installed more efficient, higher capacity equipment as a result.

Last year your company celebrated its 70th anniversary – does it feel special to be part of a family legacy such as this?
Yes it does, for any business reaching milestones is important.
History and heritage is something that you cannot buy or create, it’s something you build and my grandfather started to build it, my father strengthened that and now we are building further on that reputation.
To be running the family business does make you proud, and to see the equipment operating on site is especially rewarding. Pat and Nigel, my parents, made the transition over the years very straightforward and they still play a part in the background of business today.

As the third generation to manage the company, do you feel being a family business makes a sense of family important in your business practices? Will Perry stay a family heirloom so to speak?
My plans are to continue to grow the business and as such we will need to bring new skills into the business. But our reputation is one of making sure our products are well engineered, that they do what we say they will and if they don’t we work hard to make sure they do in the end. We will always support the customer well at home or in export markets. I think this is the extra level of attention that an engineering focussed family business can provide. We try to treat customers the way we would like to be treated as if they were part of the family.
The family term is different now as the key people are not myself and parents it is the family or team of staff that have helped the business grow to what it is today and that help us deliver on our commitments we make to our customers.

What do you think makes your grain and bulk materials handling equipment stand out in this market?
The specification, the value for money, the support from our engineers and how we interact with the customer. We try to build a relationship with the customer to make sure we fully understand their needs as we specify equipment, after all once purchased the customer will probably use the machinery for 20 years plus and they need to know they are purchasing from a reliable company that will still be here in that time to provide support, spares and further equipment as they expand themselves.

Tom Perry designed your first belt and bucket elevator in 1949 – do you still use features of these designs in the equipment you currently make?
This particular elevator is the base of our model 280 elevator today. The technology has moved on in terms of the design of the buckets that are used and the design of the heads and boots, but the basics are still the same.

Originally you trained as an Engineer. How much do you use this expertise on a day-to-day basis?
As I am still pretty hands on in my approach it still features. It is never the calculations etc., I am too rusty for that! But the overall engineering approach and training is used when considering design improvements or new products as we discuss these.
Plus, of course, as I am on the shop floor I am always looking at what we are producing and weighing up the design.

Focusing on grain and animal feed, how do you see your equipment developing over the next decade and in what general direction do you see the industry going in technologically speaking?
Our driers will continue to develop to improve energy efficiency to save fuel and operating costs. Also the range will get larger with higher capacities. Customers want plants to operate more automatically with remote access and monitoring via the internet, which are features that our products already have but these will become more and more important.
Our handling equipment range will have to incorporate ever greater capacities to meet customer demands and there will also be focus on minimising contamination between batches of product as end user demands for cleanliness increase.

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