Bateman through and through: Interview with Phil Brant
Special Projects Foreman Phil Brant has been part of our team since 1990. We sat down with Phil to talk about his career with Bateman.
You joined Bateman over 33 years ago, how did it all begin?
I met a friend when I was out one night who worked for Bateman and he suggested I joined the team; they were actively looking for someone to work on the hydraulics. At that time, I worked for TTB who built fire engines, water bowsers, oil tankers and different things like that. I had been with TTB for over 13 years and remember thinking that was long enough in a particular job!
I rang Richard Bateman, who invited me to Bycott and showed me around the factory. He explained what he wanted done, how it all ran, how the pipes had to look on the hydraulics, he was really keen on the hydraulics, getting them in the right position for the right flow. I remember Richard saying he wanted them looking like peas out of a pod. I was impressed by what I saw and took the job.
I built the hydraulics side of the chassis, put the wheel motors on, fitted the pipes, put the cab and the wings on drove the machine into the car park ready for the sprayer to be fitted. Later on, my role changed a bit, I looked after the sprayer side, hydraulics and the electrical bay, then I was promoted to Foreman.
Can you remember your first day?
It’s difficult to remember 33 years ago! However, I can remember coming in, Richard spending a bit of time with me, and my friend showing me the ropes, he was Foreman at the time and walked me around the machine, explained what they wanted to achieve and how they wanted it done.
I was also shown around the workshop, told what went where and what happened at certain points. But
apart from that, it was a very short induction, I would say within an hour we were done and it was on with the overalls and on with the job.
What motivates you to keep working at Bateman?
Well, I do four days a week now, I still enjoy it, the challenge, just coming in and being part of a team. It means a lot to me, I’ve had so many years here, I’ve become friends with the Bateman family, they’ve always been good to me. I can’t keep away and get very emotional just thinking about the company.
What do you like most about your current role?
Every day is different. Anything that’s new I get involved with it, one minute I could be looking at some new hydraulic pipes, we might be fitting a new pump or whatever. We’ll trial it on the machine, see if it works better and evaluate it for production, just small, incremental steps but they make a big difference to our customers.
I’m also involved with quality control, checking that everything looks as it should – how are the pipes running? Going back to the beginning really, maintaining our quality of design and build ethos.
What is your proudest achievement at Bateman to date?
I would say being Foreman and being able to play my part in looking at new things as well. We pride ourselves on getting the machines looking right when they go out, it’s always nice to see two machines loaded on the lorry, ready for customers.
Knowing what has gone into each machine that leaves the factory makes me proud. It’s a real team effort from start to finish. The fact that around 90% of parts are made in-house, I know we’ve got to buy motors and engines in, but our hydraulic pipes are made in-house, the cab is made in-house, we don’t rely on anybody else. It’s a massive achievement to be able to make our sprayers from scratch.
What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve faced in the time you’ve been here?
I think the biggest challenge is nothing other than progress. Things are moving all the time, so you’ve got to stay one step ahead. You go back to the early days when I started, it was a very basic machine, it had the spray lines at the tank, the pump, hydraulic motors and an engine. That was it.
Nowadays, you’ve got satnav, auto steer, booms which are self-leveling, different boom configurations, various spray systems and so on. All of the time there’s little things going on, there are upgrades being introduced nearly every week – different valves and different ways we pipe things up, it’s never ending.
What words would best describe Bateman?
Quality, Team, Friends, Driven, Fair.
What sets Bateman apart from everyone else?
I was at the LAMMA show earlier this year. When I looked at other machinery, there were things that I saw and thought, have you really done that? I may not know everything about spraying crops, but I like to think I know a lot about building a sprayer and our machines are at the very top.
We stand out for the quality of design, the way it’s built and the comfort that our customers enjoy, particularly when they are in the cab for many hours. A lot of people talk about designing a machine around the operator, but I think we’re the only ones that actually do it. The back-up we provide our customers is also the best in the business.
What advice would you give to anyone now starting on their journey with Bateman?
Bateman isn’t just any old sprayer, it’s an iconic brand within the farming community. It’s a massive achievement to be able to do what we do here, I would say understand what you are part of and be proud.
If you look at the company now to how it was when you joined, how different is it?
Very different, it’s grown massively, from producing the Hi Lo when I first joined, to the 3 machines in our range today and the high volume we now build. Because of this the way we work is very different, there are more health and safety regulations that we have to follow and unlike years ago, there’s a lot more training required as manufacturing technology is always changing.
Machines are much bigger, there’s a lot of technology in the cab, booms can be 42 metres wide, we’re fitting larger wheels these days, tank capacities are obviously much greater, there’ve been some huge changes over the years and there’s plenty more to come. But whatever changes have come in, I think a lot of people still like the ride of the Bateman, we’ve always got it spot on.
What would you like to see Bateman do in the future?
Keep building quality sprayers. I’m looking forward to the next model coming through, I’d like to think I may be part of its development. I just want to see Bateman go from strength to strength.