Making its presence known at various shows and events throughout the UK last year, we get the story behind Slovenian machinery maker SIP. Geoff Ashcroft reports...
There is a new kid on the grassland machinery block – Slovenian manufacturer SIP.
With an extensive line-up of tedders, rakes and mower conditioners, the firm is planning to re-establish the brand in the UK.
Based in the municipality of Sempeter, in east-central Slovenia, SIP Stronja Industrija to call the firm by its full title, not to be confused with the well-known welding supplies company, has been quietly producing components for a number of years for several OEM’s (original equipment manufacturer) including Pottinger and Krone.
Having emerged from being state-owned, the privately run machinery business has invested in new technology to help it branch out and supply complete machines under its own brand name.
In the last few years, the firm has created an extensive range of grass machinery which should appeal to the contractor market in addition to livestock customers.
SIP currently produces two distinct ranges of equipment, and it was the lighter-weight Alp-derived line-up for low horsepower and compact tractors, which was previously handled by Twose.
This range also includes a portfolio of small loader wagons and muck spreaders, though they are unlikely to be of interest to UK farmers.
Its renewed enthusiasm for the British market follows a lukewarm approach through former importer Twose of Tiverton.
To move the business forward, SIP has employed Martin Holden – who has previous form among Kongskilde, JF and WestMac brands – to appoint a UK dealer network and link its dealers directly with the factory.
Mr Holden says: “It is my task to establish SIP sales and support in the UK.
“The UK market is hungry for cost-effective grass machinery which is backed up by a generous warranty. In this instance, it is a two-year factory warranty.”
The UK operation was launched in June 2017, with the firm’s 2018 target of circa 90 machines likely to double in 2019 as more dealers come on board.
Mr Holden’s latest dealer appointment is the Doe Group, taking SIP’s presence to about 12 dealers for far. And more UK outlets are being actively sought.
The firm is focused on being a grass machinery specialist. Its philosophy of being a relatively small company with a condensed machinery line-up is seen as one which is able to react quickly to customer needs.
Its range currently comprises tedders from 4.5m to 15m, single, twin and four-rotor rakes from 3.5m to 12.5m, and mowers and mower conditioners from 2.2m to 15m – the latter being a four-gang trailed unit used in combination with a front-mounted mower. Conditioners currently use nylon tines.
SIP has recently introduced a range of front-mounted and trailed swath mergers, which is the result of a co-operation and license agreement with Reiter.
The SIP Airswath range shares the flexible pickup and transport belt concept, but is combined
with SIP’s hydraulic headstock design.
Its flagship trailed model should be available for the 2019 season and offers a 5m working width, while its centre-pivot drawbar design enables an offset swath position to be achieved.
When used with a 3.5m front-mounted Airswath model, it can collect 8.5m of crop in one pass, and offers the potential to merge 17m of crop from making two passes across a field.
Expect to see a new Airswath model and a 10m twin-rotor rake at the forthcoming Grassland UK event.
With 15 design engineers based at the headquarters in Sempeter, the firm is hungry for growth.
When it comes to spare parts supply, the company has chosen to use bought-in warehouse and distribution services with a parts distributor already familiar with the seasonal demands of the agricultural market.
SIP Stronja Industrija’s origins can be traced back to 1954, when the business was known as Agroservice, where it carried out service and repairs for local farmers in the former socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
In 1967, the name changed to SIP Stronja Industrija, and its core business became the production of farm machinery.
By the mid-1970s, the firm had developed an R and D division and together with the acquisition of design licenses, a line of new products was created.
By the 1980s, the firm had become a well-known European producer of grass machinery, and in the early 1990s, when Slovenia split from Yugoslavia to become an independent country, SIP Stronja Industrija started to pursue business in western European markets.
In 2017, the company decided to take a direct approach to the UK, ditching its previous importer in favour of a UK operation which could continue to develop a broad dealer network and boost sales of the Slovenian-built grass machinery ranges.
“Dealers can get urgently required parts on an overnight service direct from our warehouse in Essex,” Mr Holden says, recognising that a bought-in parts storage facility can offer a more economical solution than having a bespoke UK operation with considerable overheads.
“This type of resource should also help to keep parts prices at a cost-effective level,” he adds.
While the business does out-source some components, including pto shafts, gearboxes and hydraulic systems, he adds SIP is one of few implement manufacturers which builds its own cutterbars for mowers.
“There are two types available, depending on the model of mower,” he says. “SIP builds a welded version and a bolt-together cutterbar.
“And its DDSS direct drive safety system uses a pin-reset system on blade discs to simplify repairs without having to break into the mower bed.”
While the UK element of SIP continues to evolve – and Mr Holden remains the firm’s sole UK employee – he says service and support will be added to the UK team, to reinforce dealer back-up at a local level.
“It really is an exciting time to be bringing a new machinery line-up into the UK market,” he says.
“Given SIP’s pedigree for component manufacturing for other grass equipment manufacturers, the switch to making its own range of kit that is backed up directly by the factory with a warranty, should soon establish the firm as a serious player for high quality grass