Johnston Sweepers

Issue 122


A clear path

A commitment to innovation, customer service and environmental responsibility is central to Johnston Sweepers as the company looks forward to a successful future.

Founded in 1904 as Johnston Brothers, a company that held a license to make road surfaces out of crushed stone, Johnston Sweepers is now the world-leading manufacturer of street cleaners. “Back when the company was formed the brothers started to build the business around road laying. As the company developed they bought some quarries and in 1924 they founded Johnston Engineering in Dorking to make equipment like tar boilers, trenching equipment, snow ploughs and so on. The pattern was that everything they made could be sold to a municipal,” explains David Bishop, Operations Director of Johnston Sweepers. In 1958, the company developed the first ever vacuum sweeper, which entered the market in 1960 and which has remained the template for sweeper design ever since.

True to its deeply entrenched roots as a British manufacturer, Johnston’s business today centres very much on the values of domestic manufacturing and supply chain management. “Up to 75 per cent of our production spend goes to UK suppliers,” says David. “In terms of our own processes we are a fully integrated manufacturer, producing our products from a single flat sheet of Founded in 1904 as Johnston Brothers, a company that held a license to make road surfaces out of crushed stone, Johnston Sweepers is now the world-leading manufacturer of street cleaners. “Back when the company was formed the brothers started to build the business around road laying. As the company developed they bought some quarries and in 1924 they founded Johnston Engineering in Dorking to make equipment like tar boilers, trenching equipment, snow ploughs and so on. The pattern was that everything they made could be sold to a municipal,” explains David Bishop, Operations Director of Johnston Sweepers. In 1958, the company developed the first ever vacuum sweeper, which entered the market in 1960 and which has remained the template for sweeper design ever since.

True to its deeply entrenched roots as a British manufacturer, Johnston’s business today centres very much on the values of domestic manufacturing and supply chain management. “Up to 75 per cent of our production spend goes to UK suppliers,” says David. “In terms of our own processes we are a fully integrated manufacturer, producing our products from a single flat sheet of have greater access in tight turning circles. We have introduced a four-wheel steer feature as standard as well, which allows for greater manoeuvrability and it has a range of features such as a larger water tank and larger hopper capacity for longer on-station time, so we think this C401 has a lot to help it stand out in the market.”

Launched to European dealers in June 2015, the C401 is Johnston’s cleanest, most efficient and most manoeuvrable midsized sweeper yet. “It predecessor was popular in certain locations but this new one, which offers a larger payload and smaller turning circles, gives us greater access to a larger customer base,” adds Graham. In addition to this, the company has also been working closely with its North American customers to develop the new ES351. “This is a new mechanical sweeper,” highlights David. “Whilst our vacuum sweepers do have very good market penetration in America, it remains a very traditional market and over half of sales are still mechanical sweepers. Therefore, our R&D department has had to design to compete in that market, which we have done in co-operation with our customers.” In addition to its new products, Johnston has also demonstrated its focus on continuous development with upgrades to its Euro 6 C201 Compact and V-Range truck mounted sweeper products.

“R&D is central to the future in developing further product segments, continuing to grow market share in new territories and continuing research to reduce emissions,” outlines David commenting on the importance of innovation at Johnston. Graham continues: “We listen, we engineer, we deliver. This is the slogan that really sums up our organisation and how we talk to our customers.”

One particular focus for the company’s R&D is into environmental responsibility, for which it has recently received two significant awards: the Green Apple award and the Scottish Supplier Excellence award. “Taken together these reflect the broad range of activities in which we consider environmental issues for the materials that we buy, the products we sell and the processes that we use to convert these materials into a finished product,” says David. “The Green Apple award is an architectural award for our new manufacturing plant in Surrey, which also achieved an ‘Excellent’ BREEAM rating for the sustainability of the building.” The new plant was opened in 2014 after a £11.4 million investment to consolidate the three UK sites that previously existed.

“We achieved this rating in a number of ways,” continues David. “Firstly, there are no light switches in the factory. Instead, the lights control themselves according to natural light and activity in the factory. We have also installed photovoltaic cells on the roof, which generate 42,000kW hours of energy per annum, and also heat cells that sit on the side of the building and pre-warm the air that goes into the buildings heating systems.” In terms of products, Johnston has focused heavily on developing products that offer superior efficiency and a reduced carbon footprint. “All our sweepers can operate at a lower RPM than other machines,” explains David. “With a lower RPM comes lower noise and fuel consumption so we believe we have the most cost efficient and least polluting machines on the market.”

This R&D strategy is core to the company’s activities as it moves forward, as too is its commitment to delivering an improved customer service. “It’s not solely about listening to our customers and developing solutions, but also making sure we are easy to do business with,” notes Graham. “We have become members of the Institute of Customer Service, which is there to help us support our customers and deliver a much better level of customer service.” Reflecting on the product launches and developments from over the past year, Graham is also hopeful that this will continue over the near future. “Parallel to this, from a manufacturing point of view, we will be looking at how to further the automation to ensure that we can remain competitive in a high labour cost environment with global competition,” he concludes. “To make our business more efficient and to allow us to deliver what the customer wants, when they want it.”

Johnston Sweepers

Products: Manufactures road sweepers for street cleaning

Sites: Dorking, Surrey, UK


Johnston Sweepers