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Interviews with the top executives of manufacturers and end users of equipment for the industries served by FocusOn publications

In this edition, Roger Murrow interviews Hubert Watson, Sales Director of Maximus Screening and Crushing

An interview with Hubert Watson, Sales Director Maximus Crushing and ScreeninOne of the most important people in the world of mobile crushing and screening in the last thirty years or so has been Hubert Watson. Now approaching sixty, there is no sign in him slowing down despite a career that has seen him help build the Powerscreen brand into what it is today, as well as establish his own highly successful company Fintec (which along with Extec formed the basis of Sandvik’s mobile crushing and screening division).

Hubert qualified as cost and management accountant in 1982, joining Powerscreen as a company accountant. From this embryonic beginning Hubert became general manager of Powerscreen USA in 1984, before becoming financial director of Powerscreen International in 1988.

Continuing success saw him become managing director of Universal Conveyors 1989, managing director of Finlay Hydrascreens in 1991, and following its acquisition by Powerscreen in 1995, managing director of Pegson.

Following irregularities concerning Matbro, Hubert returned to Northern Ireland in 1998 as chief operating officer on the main Powerscreen PLC board. Here he played a major role in concluding the sale of the Powerscreen Group to Terex in 1999, which saw him subsequently leaving the company.

From here Hubert became managing director of Finlay Block Making. Following the completion of a state-of-the art manufacturing plant in Ballygawley, Northern Ireland, Hubert purchased the business from its owner, Stephen Finlay, and then in conjunction with Sandvik, launched his own range of mobile crushers and screens – Fintec.

Fintec was bought out in its entirety by Sandvik in 2007, and was then merged into a separate Sandvik business area, alongside Extec, which was acquired at the same time. Hubert then stayed with the new division as its sales director, and continued to help Sandvik’s OEM business as well as other Northern Irish companies.

Having worked out that retirement was not for him, Hubert soon found a new challenge, becoming sales director of Maximus screening and crushing in 2015.

A keen footballer all his life, Hubert is now in his 44th year as player, manager, and now chairman of Dollingstown FC which plays in the Mid Ulster football league.

In the early years of your life, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was at school, all I wanted to be was a footballer, but unfortunately, I was simply not good enough. I thought a career in accountancy offered the most secure route.

Is there one person in particular that has had a major impact on the direction you took professionally?

Many people over the years have influenced my professional development, especially during my 17 years in Powerscreen where I really cut my teeth in industry. Shay McKeown was MD in Dungannon, and he was very astute in business. I never forgot the words he told me way back in 1982: “I am going to make a man of you!”Others during the years whose acumen and support I appreciated include Stephen Finlay who gave me the opportunity to start my own business after leaving Powerscreen in 2000, and my right-hand man over all those years in crushing and screening, namely Paul Colton who as operations director always kept me right.

Can you briefly describe how you came to be Sales Director of Maximus?

I became sales director of Maximus in 2015 when I was asked by the owner of the company, Shane O’Neill, to try and use my contacts and experience to develop a dealer network for Maximus. This was initially meant to be consultancy on an ad-hoc basis, but this quickly became a full-time role as I am relishing helping Shane and Maximus develop its global market.

You spent many years at Powerscreen (the Group), what have been your personal highlights?

There were so many, but as well as my own personal development, it was probably being chosen by Powerscreen to be the managing director of the loss-making companies acquired, and turning them into highly profitable businesses.

What lessons have you learnt from your time in the crushing and screening industry? Is there anything you would have changed?

I have learnt a lot from this industry over my 35 years, and indeed still learning today from the likes of Iain Herity (former UK sales manager for Extec who is synonymous with the development of the mobile crushing and screening industry in the UK) on how best to sell a relatively new brand. In effect though, I would not change anything, as I have learnt that the biggest driver has to be yourself and your determination to succeed.

Maximus has a reputation for excellence of product; have you found competitive advantage from these? If so, can illustrate with some examples?

The Maximus brand offers strong, robust equipment, and continually looks to bring something more user-friendly or innovative to market (this will be highlighted as Maximus’s UK open day in October near London).

In layman’s terms, can you please describe what makes the Maximus product offering the ‘special’?

What makes the Maximus product special is the attention given to the needs and requirements of the customer; I know everyone says this, but I honestly believe we are creating something unique in this (mobile crushing and screening) industry.

Why is the Maximus range so highly regarded?

Maximus is highly regarded essentially due to the quality of people we have recruited. We make ourselves available 24/7 for the customer no matter what the call is about as we insist on going that ‘extra mile’.

Where is Maximus now, and where is it going?

We are only at the start of our journey. We’ve just acquired a new factory site last year in Dungannon with over 60 acres so that we are not restricted as regards space for future growth. I honestly can see Maximus growing exponentially over the next 5 years in a similar way to the phenomenal growth experienced 15 years ago by Fintec and Extec. We now have a full product offering in screens and expanding our range of high quality crushers and sand washing solutions to enable us to grow and support our global dealer network.

What business segments have delivered the most growth in recent years?

Growth has come from our screening portfolio in last couple of years, and this coupled with planned product launches in crushers will take Maximus into the top 10 global manufacturers. We serve mainly the contractor market segment for recycling and quarrying, but are always looking to diversify as long as we can support new segments and not take away from our core product offering.

What is the most successful product that Maximus has introduced since you joined the company?

Our screeners are all highly regarded, but our planned launch in October of a unique new style jaw crusher will revolutionise the industry. Watch this space!

What other market segments do the Maximus products cater for?

As stated we cater for the contractor segment and this involves supplying our equipment to surface mines, quarries, construction companies, demolition specialists and so forth. Basically, anywhere a mobile crusher and screener are required, anywhere in the world.

Is there any particular Maximus product that really ‘excites’ you? If so, please can you tell me why?

Personally, I am really excited about our new unlaunched jaw crusher. Shane has spent past 2 years designing it, taking on board feedback from customers and potential users. This will save end customers over 50% on current annual fuel costs.

When we ask manufacturers, what is the number one request from the end user, we hear a variety of responses from better fuel efficiency, lower maintenance costs, higher productivity, immediate availability of parts and service. What do customers most commonly ask of Maximus?

The end customer must always be at the heart of new product development and not led by engineers or people like me, but rather the guy who operates the machines. With regards to crushers, I am afraid its wait until October when we launch our new jaw crusher; this has been developed with what the customers really want!

Looking forward, what are the major customer operating trends that will affect Maximus product development?

Customers want more ‘up time’ based on machine reliability, which is why Maximus’ machines are all built on a very solid steel I-beam philosophy. Shane comes from a structural steel background with building schools and hospitals etc, and he’s put this background to good effect developing the Maximus range. This means that all Maximus models are built on his philosophy of robust engineering with larger screen areas (for the screeners) overall than all our competitors, and generally higher HP on most models.Low running costs and after sales product support are of course key, though with the latter we prefer prevention to ‘cure’ as the customer only needs the manufacturer when his machine is down. Hence our emphasis on manufacturing quality.

When the workday ends for you, what makes it a ‘good’ day?

What makes me happy at the end of the day is looking at myself and saying have I done the best I can for both our customers and Maximus. Most of all keep it all in perspective; life is very short and best to enjoy the work that we do and not forget our family and friends in the process.

If you could give one piece of advice to the younger you, what would it be?

The same as I try to give to all young people in whatever walk of life, either through work or sport or outreach. My advice is to always strive to do your best, be honest with yourself, and enjoy what you are doing no matter what that work involves.

About interviewer Roger Murrow:
Roger is an editorial contributor to the FocusOn Group to offer interviews, insights and comments on the latest developments in the industry.  

Roger has been involved in the quarrying, tunnelling, construction, demolition and recycling industries for 25 years. His experience involves senior marketing roles in a number of manufacturers, then as the founder of internationally renowned PR Consultancy MMC 2100 Ltd. In recent years, he has been using this experience to write articles for numerous international magazines on a variety of industry subjects.