Giant, as a brand, is relatively new to the Irish machinery market. Part of the Tobroco group, this Dutch company has grown rapidly – from modest beginnings in a farmyard in the mid 1990s to a state-of-the-art factory making 3,000 machines each year.
How did the founder, Toine Brock, make this journey in such a short period of time? Agriland spoke to this inspirational engineer at the recent LAMMA show.
The first thing that strikes you about Mr Brock is how approachable and down-to-earth he is. While he now runs an international business, he is still a hands-on engineer at heart. In fact, he started welding on the home farm when he was just nine years of age.
So who or what is Tobroco? The name originally appeared as ‘To-Bro-Co’, which stands for Toine Brock Construction. The company’s origins are relatively recent, stretching back to 1996. That’s when Brock, aged just 26 years old, began making slurry injectors at his parents’ farm, which is about an hour’s drive south-east of Rotterdam. He built more than 2,000 of these machines over the years to follow.
In 1998, he began to make trailers.
First compact loading shovel
By 2001, Brock had set his sights on more challenging projects. In that year, he produced his first compact wheeled loading shovel. The Giant brand name was born. Giant stands for gigantic ant; an ant was chosen as the inspiration, because it can lift 50 times its own weight and is very agile.
By that stage, Brock had gathered up eight employees – all of whom were engaged in fabricating and manufacturing machines of one sort or another. Space was getting tight, however. A large tent was erected, to house the growing production area.
The loading shovels were well received locally; so much so in fact, that Brock moved to a 2,300 sq m factory in Oisterwijk. During the following years, it became apparent that loading shovels would become the backbone of the company. By 2005, 20 different models were offered. These bore the company’s new yellow and grey corporate colours.
Further expansion was to follow in 2009, with the building of a whole new plant. The production area now covered 10,000 sq m – half of which was dedicated to welding and the other half to assembly operations. The workforce had grown to 80 people.
Four years later, the company swallowed up the factory next door, as well as a new facility in Hungary – Tobroco’s first plant outside the Netherlands.
In 2014, the 10,000th Giant loading shovel rolled off the production line, followed soon after by the 25,000th attachment. That year also ushered in the first of Tobroco’s skid-steer loaders – a whole new product line.
Up to 60 machines per week
Nowadays, the firm produces 29 different wheeled loaders, three skid-steer models and two telescopic handlers. Each week, up to 60 machines roll off the lines.
Attachments and frames are now chiefly made in Hungary, where 80 people are employed. All other manufacturing operations take place in Holland, just miles from Brock’s home farm. 160 workers are based at the ‘main’ factory.
A North American subsidiary, based in Iowa, is busy promoting the brand across the USA. Giant also now has a growing presence in Ireland; the distributor is Ballyward Plant Services, Castlewellan, Northern Ireland.
What does the future hold? Ongoing projects include the further development of the E-Skid – a fully electric skid-steer loader. In response to wider market trends, bi-fuel engines will likely be offered across much of the shovel range.
What advice does Brock have for any budding Irish engineers or entrepreneurs? He replied: “I have a point on the horizon; I know where I want to be in 5 years time – and in 10 years time. It’s important to plan ahead.
“It’s important to stay ‘normal’. After 10 years, I was starting to make more and more money. However, I didn’t buy a bigger house or car or spoil my kids. Instead, I come into work each morning at 8am, with my packed sandwich. It’s important for staff to see me doing this; we are all working together.”