The doors were yesterday thrown open to a multi-million pound customer attraction at JCB designed to generate new business from all over the world.
A unique and permanent exhibition called 'The Story of JCB' has been developed at JCB's World HQ at Rocester charting the company's links to industry back to the 1820s.
Today JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford spoke of his pride at the new £5 million customer experience centre's development and its pivotal role in winning new business, particularly in the emerging markets.
He said: "This is an extremely exciting development. It is the first time that the history of our company and my family's roots in manufacturing has been told in the form of a permanent exhibition.
"We are an innovative company and our success over the past 66 years has been driven by innovation and that is at the very core of 'The Story of JCB.' It is a showcase of our unique story and something we can all be very proud of.
"The 'Story of JCB' exhibition is also a very powerful selling tool for our customers, especially in the emerging markets where a greater appreciation of our heritage and pedigree will help them understand our business and why we are the right choice for their future machine requirements."
Among those given a tour of the new exhibition were members of the Boot family, who have a combined service to JCB of more than 400 years.
The tradition of working for JCB was started by the late Bill Boot in 1949 and it now extends to the 4th generation of his family. Eight of his sons went on to work for the company, including retired employees Bob and Ron Boot, who attended the preview yesterday. They were joined by Bill's grandson Gary, who works at the World HQ, Rocester and Bill's great-grandson Leigh, who works at the World Parts Centre, Uttoxeter.
The exhibition covers 2,500m² of floorspace and includes 14 zones which take the visitor on a journey through time, starting in the 1820s, when the Bamford family were blacksmiths in Uttoxeter through to the present day and JCB's ECO range of fuel-saving machines.
It includes a section highlighting the engineering prowess of Bamfords Ltd, the firm of agricultural engineers based in Uttoxeter, whose Director Henry Bamford famously sacked his nephew Joseph Cyril Bamford by sending him a note that "his services would no longer be required."
Mr Bamford's subsequent success and the huge global growth of the company under the stewardship of his son Sir Anthony, Chairman for almost 36 years, are highlighted in the zones.
The area occupied by the 'Story of JCB' exhibition housed the JCB Design Centre and Production Drawing Office from 1970 until the early 1980s, when product-specific business units were introduced and designers and draughtsmen relocated.
Visitors today are taken past Mr Bamford's old office, which he used from 1970 until his retirement in 1975. Always at the centre of engineering design and development, it gave him a complete window on the world of JCB.
From this side of his office he could access his design management and draughtsmen and from the window at the rear he could view the progress of product development in the research workshop situated below. The office still contains Mr Bamford's original desk, chairs and conference table.
Visitors will also see a bronze bust of Mr JCB on his desk, which was a gift from the JCB workforce in 1964, the year in which he presented in excess of £250,000 in productivity bonuses to his staff.
The exhibition is also populated by 10 of the landmark JCB machines through the ages which had to be craned through the roof as the attraction took shape. They include one of Mr Bamford's first products, a hydraulic tipping trailer, and a 1962 JCB 3 backhoe loader which has been restored.
The centrepiece of the exhibition is a giant skeletal model of a JCB JS200 tracked excavator built to scale out of 8mm steel rod and created by renowned artist Benedict Radcliffe, some of whose work is currently on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The finished artwork took five months to complete, used around one kilometre of steel rod and weighs around two tonnes - a tenth of the weight of the actual machine it represents.
The exhibition also covers sections on how the JCB name was built into a global brand; JCB's design and innovation ethos; the expansion into a global manufacturer; its growth as an agricultural machinery manufacturer; JCB's worldwide service and parts back-up; JCB military products and the development of the JCB engine and the record-breaking Dieselmax car.
JCB currently welcomes around 15,000 visitors from all over the world and this figure is expected to rise to 20,000 from next year as a result of the exhibition's development.
Arrangements are now being made to open the exhibition to JCB employees and their families over the next few months.
There will be some limited opportunities for the general public to visit the attraction, details of which will be publicised in advance via www.jcb.com.