During last years holiday to Turkey I was very lucky to be invited for a VIP tour of the Hidromek backhoe loader and excavator manufacturing facility in Ankara.
We were staying in the resort town of Belek in the Antalya region and flew the 239 miles up to Ankara towards the end of our break, after over a week of lying and relaxing in the sun, it was great to get back into the machinery groove once more!
Our hosts for the day were Levent Karaagac (marketing manager) and Anil Bingol (export area manager) who gave us some background history on the company.
The Hidromek story is very similar to our own JCB's rise to fame from humble beginnings. The family owned company was founded in 1978 by Hasan Basri Bozkurt, as a small workshop for making hydraulic cylinders and backhoe attachments to fit farm tractors.
The company, which is still run today by Hasan and his two sons Ahmet and Mustafa, has experienced massive growth and is continuing to expand its range of products of backhoe loaders and hydraulic excavators.
In this photo we see one of Hidromek's very first premises with two examples of front end loaders which were fitted to farm tractors.
In 1986, the first Hidromek factory was built in Ankara and in 1989, the very first fully Turkish built backhoe loader was produced in the shape of this HMK80 model.
In 1990, the company started production of the HMK100 series, the 100 referring to the horsepower output on these machines. The following year Hidromek launched what they claim to be the world's first all wheel drive and all wheel steer backhoe loader the HMK100S.
In 1996, due to rapid expansion, a second factory was built in Ankara.
In 1998 the company obtained ISO9001 certification from TUV Nord GMBH. The following year saw the company launch an export programme, with first sales into Tunisia.
2002 saw the launch of the very popular HMK 220LC crawler excavator. This photo shows some of the latest models of this machine awaiting delivery in the yard.
Hidromek excavators now cover a wide range between 14-tons and 37-tons, with several attachment applications, also including specialized machines such as Material Handlers and Long Reach Excavators.
After extending the range massively, the company can now offer machines from 15-tons up to 37-tons. HMK220LC (22.3-tons), HMK300LC (30.5-tons) and HMK370LC (37.3-tons) are the Crawler Excavator models. HMK140W (15-tons) and HMK200W (21.6-tons) are the Wheeled Excavators.
Hidromek's production capacity reached to over 7.000 units of Backhoe Loaders and 3.000 units of Excavators per year. At this moment in time the company is exporting its backhoe loaders and excavators to more than 50 countries in 5 continents. Hidromek currently employs around 1000 members of staff at its four factories.
And so to the Ankara factory tour - first up was the backhoe loader manufacturing section and our guide for this was team leader Ibrahim Doganay, who was very keen to show us the impressive array of welding robots, of which there are currently 24 in operation.
It was great to see the stock of steel sheets of various thicknesses, steadily being cut and welded into the various components that are needed to build a backhoe loader.
Once completed, the individual components are taken to the assembly plants, one of which is based further down the road at Izmir.
At the excavator assembly factory, our guide was team leader Fatih Koreli, who explained to us Hidromeks' use of well proven Japanese components like the Isuzu engines, Kawasaki pumps and Kayaba hydraulic systems.
We were also treated to the first sight of the company's latest offering in the shape of a 14.5 ton tracked prototype machine which will be launched shortly. The machine can be seen in the background here while Fatih was showing us some of the trim from the new "Concept" cabs.
I was then invited to take the controls of a HMK370LC 37 ton machine in the demonstration area behind the factory. Unfortunately I was not able to put it to work fully as the team leader insisted on standing on the side of the cab while I was using it so I had to be careful that he wasn't thrown about!
I must say I was delighted with the feel of this machine and for its size it was very quick and responsive, and as you would expect with the Japanese hydraulics, plenty of power in the dig. This particular HMK370LC was the first model of this size off the production line and is currently being kept for demonstration purposes.
We were then treated to a visit to Hidromek's own research and development and engineering/design departments, part of the business that Mr Bozkurt is very proud of and encourages the young team in every aspect of their work.
We were given some presentations of the work they undertake for example stress testing of all vital components including booms, chassis, and cab strength.
The work of the engineering/design department was rewarded in 2008 when the Maestro Series backhoe loader cabin was awarded the Superior Design Award from Design Turkey.
Sadly by this time our visit was coming to an end and it was soon time to head back to the airport for the flight back to the resort.
I would like to thank everyone at Hidromek for giving us such wonderful hospitality during our trip and for organising everything for us in such a professional manner.
On a different note I would also like to thank the General Manager, Erhan Koca and Host, Rida Tounsi and all the wonderful staff at the Club Hotel Riu Kaya for giving us one of the best holidays ever! I can highly recommend this hotel for couples and families alike and can assure you will not be disappointed.