Hydraulic Projects Ltd – The First 50 Years

Hydraulic Projects Ltd was incorporated by our founder, Dick Hammond, on 14th April 1966.  Following his degree, 15 years in companies like Rolls Royce and Hotpoint and working in air crash investigation, Dick decided to set up on his own and specialise in hydraulic design.

Dick’s first products were a range of hydraulic power units and a hydrostatic transmission system for canal craft.  The latter design allowed engines to be situated in the stern (instead of mid-ships under the table) and its manufacture was licenced to other companies for many years.  During the 1960’s Dick and his wife Irma worked from the Morgan Giles Boat Yard and later the Globe Hall Works in Topsham.

In 1969 Dick was approached by a local manufacturer, Twose of Tiverton, to design and make hydraulic valves for farm equipment.  At 250 relief valves per month, this was a daunting task and the poor economy and unfavourable climate for small business did not help.  With little capital for equipment, Hy-Pro relied on a sub-contractor for the bulk of its manufacture. During this year Colin Willcocks invested in the company, enabling real growth to begin. The business then moved to a former café, the Flamingo (later became M&D Hire), on the Dawlish Road.

By 1976, 50% of turnover was being used to pay the sub-contractors and Dick felt that our future was too dependent on that of other companies.  Dick was keen to invest profits in plant of our own.  With a rented machine shop, Hy-Pro began a planned programme of investment.  Dick’s policy at the time was to buy British, as much for the technical back-up provided as for the quality of the machinery.  These first machines were considered very advanced at the time and included plug board controlled EMI MECH lathes and Moog punch tape controlled vertical machining centres.  John Robberts with his experience from Centrax master-minded the introduction of the machinery.

By the late 70’s the company were producing 5,000 valves every month (including the popular relief valve range developed in the late 60’s), employing 20 people and turning over half a million pounds.  During the 70’s the first range of pumps was designed for the marine autopilot market and the V1790 3/8” ported valve was the first Hy-Pro bankable slice valve.

1982 saw the completion of the present purpose-built machine shop and by 1984 the present office block was completed.

Product improvements and advances followed in the intervening years, including electric solenoid control and the successful V5-60 and V3-100 slice valves.  In 1991, Dick won the prestigious British Design Award (sponsored by the Design Council) for the integral linear hydraulic actuator. A worthy tribute to Dick’s career in hydraulic design.

In July 1995, Mike Humpershon was appointed Managing/Sales & Marketing Director and in 2001 the new pump assembly building was completed in anticipation of increasing demand from Raymarine and the possibility of us setting up our own distributorship.  Unfortunately, 2001 proved to be a difficult year with an economic recession and Raymarine elected to build their own pumps under licence.

2002 was a very sad year for Hy-Pro as Dick passed away in June following a battle with cancer.  He has been greatly missed in the ensuing years.  We were fortunate that Colin Willcocks agreed to step in as our Chairman Of The Board to help ensure the continuity of the business.

Mike left the company in early 2003 and John Robberts and Elaine Slater were appointed as joint CEOs .  Alan Wilson became Sales Director later the same year. On John’s retirement in 2010, Elaine continued as MD.  The Willcocks family purchased the remaining Hammond shares from Dick’s daughters, Lisa and Anna, in 2014.  We are fortunate to include John, Irma, Lisa and Anna in our extended family and we are now privileged to have Colin’s sons, James and Ben on the Board.

Dick would have been proud to know that we are still developing new hydraulic valves in 2016.  His original pumps were re-vamped by Barry Wynn and by commonising parts, reducing costs and producing a 1 litre version, we were able to win back the volume Raymarine work in 2014.  The award winning actuator, with reduced backdrive, has also come into its own through Garmin’s patronage and Hy-Pro is now embracing electronic technology with the new radio remote  (designed by our own Ben Willcocks).  The company continues to regularly invest in cutting edge machinery and technology and we have come a very long way since Dick’s first pencil drawings.

Today we are pleased to say we are still working closely with customers from the early days, such as Teagle Machinery in Cornwall, and that our sales portfolio continues to grow.  We are now developing a network of distributors for both control valves and the marine industry, including distributors in Chile and South Africa.  With new products on the way, excellent quality, reliable delivery, sound investment and competitive prices , we look forward to the next 50 years.

See www.hypro.co.uk for more information about our products and the company