2019 marks the centenary of Bison Precast, arguably one of the most influential and best-known brands in British building products.
In celebration of this special birthday, Forterra held a Family Fun Day at its Bison Precast facility in Swadlincote, Derbyshire, last weekend. Attended by local Cllr. David Muller and MP Heather Wheeler, the day offered fairground games, crafts, and site tours for the company’s staff and their families to come together and enjoy. Over £1,000 was also raised for local charity Rainbows Children’s Hospice.
Mike Nelson, Commercial Director of Bison Precast, believes its skilled and loyal workforce, many of whom have worked for the business all their working lives, is instrumental in Bison Precast’s ongoing success: “Any business is only as good as its people. Over the years, I have witnessed a deep sense of loyalty and identity within Bison’s workforce, and the number of staff we have who have received long service awards is testament to this. I think the pride our people have in the business can be traced back to Bison’s founders and their principles of professionalism and responsiveness to the industry’s requirements.”
The company was founded as Concrete Ltd in 1919 by two Royal Engineers who had developed their expertise in concrete while creating pillboxes used on the Western Front in the Great War of 1914-1918. After returning from the war, they opened their first factory in Leeds in 1919.
In the hundred years since, the company has contributed a host of significant innovations to UK construction, including the invention of the pneumatic core in the 1930s, which revolutionised the manufacture of concrete floors. In 1940, it developed concrete armour for WWII fighting vehicles, which would become known as Bisons for their strength and manoeuvrability, and from which the company would eventually take its name.
In the post-war years, the company played an important role in the rebuilding of Britain’s factories, hospitals and government facilities, its precast floors helping to speed up the repair to damaged buildings. In the 1960s, Bison received the Queen’s Award to Industry for its Wall Frame system, which was the first fully industrialised all-British system for the construction of high-rise flats that were key in meeting that decade’s enormous demand for housing.
Today, Bison supplies precast products to housebuilding, commercial, infrastructure and stadia projects all over the UK. Alongside innovative apartment blocks, this includes a number of high-profile projects, such as the Cardiff Millennium Stadium, the new Wembley National Stadium, and Alder Hey in the Park children’s hospital.
Acquired by Forterra in 2017, Bison Precast as it is now known – and which benefits from three manufacturing facilities at Swadlincote, Hoveringham and Somercotes – has continued to lead the way in concrete innovation and develop its expertise in offsite manufacture and Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA). Recent developments include the manufacture of insulated brick-faced sandwich panels, which combine Bison Precast’s concrete expertise with Forterra’s brick manufacturing know-how.
Peter Varnsverry, Managing Director of Bison Precast, commented on the company’s longevity and continued success: “As well as continuing to deliver on the pioneering products and methods we’ve honed over the last century, our focus is on diversifying our output by offering more offsite opportunities and innovative products. In so doing, I am confident we will achieve our goal of continued growth while maintaining our excellent customer service.”
To find out more about Bison Precast, please visit forterra.co.uk/bison-precast-concrete/.