Norfolk firm celebrates 30 years of smarter cleaning

A reputation for reliable products that are built to last has made Hugh Crane Ltd a force to be reckoned with in the pressure washer market. Graeme Kirk went to the company’s Norfolk base to find out more about this impressive operation

A chance diversification into selling pressure washers three decades ago was the starting point for a business that today employs more than 60 people and is considered by many as the go-to company for cleaning solutions in the farming and food sectors.

Hugh Crane (Cleaning Equipment) Ltd originates from a farming business that grows cereals and vegetables about 10 miles east of Norwich. Back in 1983, when forward-thinking farming operations were learning about the importance of good livestock building hygiene, to reduce the chances of harbouring disease, Philip Crane – the company’s managing director – became aware of the new generation of K.E.W. pressure washers from Denmark, which were just starting to be sold in the UK. He was so impressed by the machines, he became the company’s distributor for Norfolk and most of Suffolk.

The quality of the Danish product helped the business take off, and as it grew Philip’s brother Robert also joined the cleaning side of the operation.

Soon after the new business started, it became clear there was demand for very-high-output pressure washers from the food and farming sector that weren’t being catered for by existing manufacturers. Norfolk was home to the Bernard Matthews turkey business and the contractors charged with cleaning out the vast turkey sheds weren’t slow in expressing their opinions on pressure washer design.

The Hugh Crane business rose to the challenge and developed the Commando range of heavy-duty machines. Today’s Commando 1030, which is the firm’s best-seller, typifies the approach the company took in developing these washers.

Built at Acle, the machine’s heavy-duty chassis is constructed from laser-cut and folded steel that’s welded and shot blasted before being given a zinc undercoat and a powder-coated and baked top coat. The chassis is then mounted on four good-sized wheels for manoeuvrability.

It has a Cat 650 pump operated with a slow-running German-built Hatz twin-cylinder diesel engine that drives through a speed-reduction gearbox. The engine and pump are mounted on a bed plate that’s insulated from the chassis by rubber mounts to minimise vibration, and they’re linked by a flexible drive coupling that reduces shock loads on both components.

Then there’s the Commando’s performance; compared to a typical single-phase electric pressure washer that might produce 100-130 bar of water pressure at 10-11 lit/min flow rate, the Commando 1030 offers 205 bar at 28.2 lit/min. And because the engine isn’t being pushed, it will happily work all day.

According to Robert Crane, the productivity of the Commando pressure washers means: they turn sheds round more quickly; they use less water; and, as a consequence, there’s less effluent to deal with.

“They allow our customers do a better job more quickly with fewer men,” he adds. “The Commando range really comes into its own in the pig and poultry sectors where they’re faced with a heavy-duty workload and long working hours, and the need to turn sheds round efficiently. You’re putting more power in the operator’s hand to get the job done.”

That extra power doesn’t mean more damage to buildings, however, which concerns some customers.

“Whereas a typical pressure washer has a 15-degree jet, the Commando can be used with a 25-degree jet so there’s no more pressure on the surface being cleaned, it’s just doing more work,” Mr Crane says.

As you might expect, support for the Commando range, and indeed all of Hugh Crane’s products, is second to none. The company holds over 17,000 line items in stock at its Acle and Peterborough branches, and now has a team of 23 mobile engineers that operate across the country in fully fitted service vans that also carry a comprehensive selection of spares.

With many customers in the food sector, same/next day support is available where needed, and the company is also fully geared up to meet the biosecurity requirements of today’s pig and poultry units.

“Our engineers observe a rest period between pig units, and the service vans are thoroughly steam cleaned between farms as required,” Mr Crane says. “We also run our own fleet of delivery vans for sending out chemicals and consumables, and the drivers follow each customer’s biosecurity protocols for every drop.”

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