In February 2010, SKF celebrates its 100th anniversary in the UK. With a sales office initially established in London, the company's manufacturing facility began production in Luton in 1911. SKF has subsequently grown to become one of the UK's major industrial players, with manufacturing, sales and customer service centres around the country.
SKF was founded in Sweden in 1907 by Sven Wingqvist, inventor of the double-row, self-aligning ball bearing. The UK sales office and manufacturing facility were established just three years later and became the first in a long line of overseas operations that the company would set up in the following decades.
In the UK, SKF initially opened a sales office in London, in Lower Regent Street, in February 1910, with land being purchased for a production site in Luton; construction work started in Leagrave Road, Luton, just a few months later. In 1911, the factory initially employed 150 people and produced around 180 bearings per day; by the end of the First World War, this figure had risen to 24,000 units per month and continued to increase in the following years.
Further expansion over the next two decades led, in 1936, to the opening of a new factory in Sundon, a few miles from the existing plant; production at the Leagrave site continued until 1977, when all operations were centralised at the Sundon plant, which has now become the company's UK headquarters. Today, the Sundon factory produces spherical and CARB toroidal roller bearings for heavy industrial applications; SKF also offers a range of support services from the Sundon site, including machine tool spindle repairs and the refurbishment of Taper Bearing Units (TBUs) for the railway industry.
In addition, SKF has a number of facilities across the UK: in Aberdeen for the delivery of maintenance strategy and services to the offshore oil and gas sector; in Gloucestershire for the manufacture of high-performance bearings for the aerospace sector; and in 11 centres across the UK for the production of custom-engineered seals.
Phil Burge, UK Marketing Manager, states: "Although SKF is a major global corporation, with production plants around the world, our UK engineering base has always played an important role in the overall success of the company, both at home and abroad. Even during the recent economic recession we have still managed to maintain a strong level of output, which we anticipate will grow in future years as the pace of global recovery picks up. As a result, we anticipate continued investment and development of our UK manufacturing operations, giving us the basis for another century of success in the UK".