A brief history of Pedro Roquet, S.A.
Pedro Roquet, S.A.
The early days: 1940's
In 1940 Pedro Roquet Vilá (see photo on right) and his two eldest sons Jaime (James) and José (Joseph) opened a small workshop in Tona (a small spa town 60 kms north of Barcelona).
The workshop (Talleres Roquet) started repairing agricultural machinery and making "gasogenes", which were systems mounted on the rear of cars in which coal was heated and the gas released was used to fuel the car engine. There was a large demand for these devices due to the scarcity of liquid fuel during the Second World War. The second product was a simple mechanical crusher used to crush coal for use in the same gasogenes.
In 1945 Pedro Roquet Jorda, the youngest of the three Roquet brothers (our current Managing Director) left school and worked during the holidays in the workshop. He then started a mechanical engineering degree in Barcelona.
In 1947 liquid fuel started to become more readily available and the demand for gasogenes dropped, so the workshop concentrated on re-building and up-grading agricultural machinery and specifically chaff-separators.
The photo below shows one of many chaff-separators re-built by the workshop in 1948. Two "blowers" were added to expel the straw and the chaff, whilst the wheat grain filled sacks below the machine. Pedro designed the blowers whilst he was still at University in Barcelona.
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A new direction: 1950's
In 1950 Pedro Roquet Jorda joined the workshop full-time, having completed his engineering degree and a brief period of work experience in "La Maquinista" - a manufacturer of marine diesel engines of 3000+ HP.
His first job in the workshop was to design and build a pastamanufacturing plant, including mixer, kneader, press and cutter to make noodles. - the kneader is shown on the right.
Unfortunately photos of the press have not survived - which is a shame as this used the first Roquet hydraulic components - a gear pump, valve and cylinder designed and made by the young engineer Pedro.
In 1952 the first tractor with hydraulic 3-point hitch arrived in Tona (a Fordson). The young Pedro was very interested in this and thought that there could be substantial potential building hydraulic hitches as retrofits for existing tractors. He spoke to the owner of the brand-new tractor who left the tractor with him for two days so that he could “look at it”. Pedro actually spent two days dismantling, inspecting and drawing the hydraulic components and re-building the tractor (which according to Pedro still worked later !).
Within 6 months the first Roquet hitch was ready. The complete hitch assembly included the lift cylinder and arms, chains, fan-belt driven radial piston pump (3 pistons), hoses tank and control valve. All of the hydraulic items were designed by Pedro and built in the workshop.
This product was launched at the traditional “Mercat del Ram” (Easter Show) in Vic in 1951.
Farmers in the area ordered hitches in increasing volumes and by the end of 1954 quantities had increased to 15 sets per week with versions for the 15 different makes (about 70 different models) of tractor available at that time - the most popular were the Lanz Bulldog, Massey Harris, Fahr, International, Field Marshall, Hanomag and Sole. The workshop was extended to 400m2 to increase capacity, new machines were purchased and the workforce increased to 30.
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In 1955 Lanz (a German tractor manufacturer, subsequently purchased by John Deere) decided to build a new tractor factory in Madrid. At that stage Lanz did not offer hydraulic hitches on their tractors, but found that this had become a requirement for much of the Spanish market due to Roquet. Lanz asked Roquet to produce a special version for their tractors - this hitch was denominated L36R (Lanz 36 HP, Reversible).
The L36R was supplied with a fan-belt driven Roquet radial piston pump (see left).
The catalogue for this hitch included crosssections hand-drawn by Pedro (see right)
Here we can see photos of Sr Jaime (on the left at an exhibition) and Sr Pedro (on the right, testing a Roquet hitch fitted to Massey Harris Tractor):
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In 1958 the demand from Lanz became too high (over 200 sets per month) for the Roquet workshop to fulfil, so Roquet sold Lanz the license to make the additional hitches themselves, although Roquet continued to supply all the pumps.
In 1959, with Lanz representing 80% of the Roquet turnover, the decision was made to build a new factory, expand production capacity substantially and sell much larger quantities to a broader range of customers.
The company was formally registered as Pedro Roquet, S.A. in the same year.
The above photo shows Pedro Roquet Vilá inspecting the building progress.
The photos below show phase 1 of the factory taking shape.
The new factory opened in August 1959 with a covered area of 1500m2 and the workforce was increased to 60.
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The SGRA hitch with cast-iron body was introduced in 1960 and started to sell in large quantities immediately. The first large customer for the SGRA was Hanomag-Barreiros whose requirements rapidly rose to 500 hitches per month.
For these tractors Roquet used, for the first time, gear pumps - which proved less expensive, but did not (at that stage) reach the pressures of the radial piston pumps.
In 1962 the factory in Tona was extended by a further 2300m2 to 3800m2 and a year later to 4500m2 to increase capacity. The workforce rose to 100. Roquet started to supply Motor Iberica with hitches for the Fordson Major – produced under license from Fordson and sold in Spain as the “Ebro”.
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Growth and diversification: 1970's
In the 1970’s demand for hitches grew substantially and the factory was extended in three phases to reach a total area of 9300m2 . The photos below show (on the left) the hitch assembly area in 1970 and (on the right) the pump transfer line in 1970.
In 1975 Roquet was supplying Motor Iberica with 110 sets of pumps and hitches per day for the “Ebro 470” (another design licensed from Fordson – specifically the Fordson “Major” – also manufactured in England as the Ford “Thames”) and Massey Ferguson. At this stage approximately 90% of the turnover of the company was from the sale of pumps and hitches for tractors, which exposed the company to substantial risks and very seasonal demand, so the decision was made to seek other applications and develop other hydraulic components. The new applications were forklift trucks, excavators, bulldozers, loaders, combine harvesters, cranes, presses, hatch-operating systems for marine applications, food processing machinery and the early plastic injection moulding machines. The new products developed included hydraulic cylinders, a range of slice and monoblock directional control valves, a wider range of gear pumps, hand pumps, solenoid valves, flow, pressure and check valves, filters, oil coolers, bell-housings and drive-couplings, power packs, servo-steering cylinders, tube couplings and hydraulic clamping devices for machine tools.
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A new world: 1980's
In the early 1980’s the substantial changes in Europe, combined with the recent political changes in Spain (from a dictatorship to a democratic monarchy), had a dramatic effect on Spain and the Spanish market.
Until this stage Roquet had enjoyed a virtual monopoly in the Spanish marketplace – due to the fact that (a) the company had developed the required products of good quality and never charged excessive prices, which would have invited local competition and (b) the previous Spanish political situation combined with import tariffs had not encouraged competition from abroad.
Roquet started to concentrate on export in 1981 – this was the first year that Roquet attended the Hannover Fair in Germany (see photo below).
This exhibition proved very fruitful in terms of establishing distributors in countries all around the world and Roquet has had a stand there every other year since.
In the 1980’s the exhibition also attracted many German OEMs – several of whom then purchased from Roquet when they set up divisions in Spain.
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Finding our path: 1990's
1990 and 1991 were sensational years for Roquet – our main Spanish customers enjoyed massive growth in demand for their forklifts, dumpers, excavators, loaders etc. due to the substantial boom in the construction and related industries. Much of this was related, directly or indirectly, to the large projects associated with the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1992 World Fair in Seville.
Many competitors of Roquet entered the Spanish market at this time - either directly, establishing their own office/warehouse, or indirectly via a distributor – primarily due to the fact that Roquet was unable to expand capacity sufficiently quickly to meet the enormous increase in demand.
In 1990 Roquet started construction of a new foundry – attached to the old foundry in Roda de Ter which they had purchased in 1980. This foundry was designed specifically to produce high-quality SG/ductile/nodular cast-iron without porosity etc. – which is critical for hydraulic components. The foundry started full production in 1992.
In 1990 Roquet also extended the pump factory (Tekor) from 3000 to 4800m2 and completely separated the machining section from the assembly/test section.
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In mid-1992 the recession that hit Europe in 1990, finally reached Spain – with dramatic effects for the hydraulics industry. Many of the principal OEM’s saw their sales fall massively – due to the fact that all the large projects mentioned above had been completed and there were therefore a large number of virtually new second-hand machines parked all over the country. The total Spanish market for hydraulic components dropped 40% and, for the only time before or since, Roquet total sales also dropped. In fact the drop for Roquet was only 12% - due to the fact that many of the recently opened competitor’s offices and many recently appointed competitor’s distributors – closed as demand fell.
Demand recovered in 1994 and grew substantially in the following years – with export taking a progressively larger percentage of capacity each year.
Major investments in machinery started again in 1995 – mainly machining centres, lathes (see left) and a fully automatic (and very fast) spool grinding facility (see right).
The decision to focus on specific core products - pumps, valves, power packs and cylinders – was taken in the late 90s. However, this decision was taken in the environment of a company with a long-standing philosophy of “if some-one wants it, we’ll make it” so the most appropriate way of forcing focus on specific products was to separate production facilities (where feasible), with centralised design and development facilities with broad experience.
The first step in this direction was taken in 1999 when work was started on a new cylinder factory – Dinacil (Centelles). This factory, with a floor-area of 3500 m2 was planned to have a production capacity of 100,000 cylinders per year by 2004.
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Investment and growth: 2000's
During the period 2000 to 2003 major investments were made in the most up-to date machinery for the production of our core products: Pumps
Machining centres for pump bodies (left), improved assembly area with computer-controlled test rigs for pumps (right)
Valves and power packs
Machining cetres (left), thermal (explosive) deburring machine (tright) Improved assembly area (partial view below).
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Cylinders The new cylinder factory started production in July 2000.
Demand for cylinders exceeded expectations; so two extensions of the factory were then necessary in 2002 and 2003:
Extension 2 16 January 2003
Extension 1 – 15 May 2002
During this period massive additional investment in new production machines, robots and people was also necessary. As a result of these changes the production target for 2004 has increased from 100,000 to 400,000 cylinders.
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Castings Most of our core products (even many cylinders) rely heavily on the quality and costeffectiveness of the castings we use, so our foundry has also had a fair share of investments in recent years:
Automatic mouldfilling system - (seen from within control station on left). Robot fettler (right)
New spectrum analyser (left). Large automatic shotblaster (right).
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