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Van Guard marks 40 years of innovation after triumph at Express & Echo Business Awards

By May 19, 2016January 26th, 2021Member News & Updates

Express & Echo Business Awards winner Van Guard will celebrate its 40th birthday this year, marking four decades as an Exeter-based business.

The forward-thinking, family-owned commercial vehicle accessories manufacturer picked up the overall Business of the Year and Innovation awards at the ceremony at Sandy Park in April.

Managing director Barry Woodward said: “We were thrilled to receive the overall Business of the Year Award and the Innovation Award. We are all extremely proud of everything that has been achieved at Van Guard over the past 40 years.

“Van Guard is committed to supporting Exeter's manufacturing and we are looking forward to many more successful years ahead.”

Van Guard, remain at the original business address on the Exeter Airport Business Park, but a lot has changed since its beginnings in the mid-1970s. Founded in 1976 as GK Land Engineering, the original business supplied precision machined components mainly to the aerospace industry as well as industrial finishing for electronics, lighting and engineering products.

Van Guard's enthusiasm for innovation has been a huge part of the company's ethos throughout its 40-year history. In 1983, founder Gerald Land and his team worked alongside Tony Wood Rogers in designing the early prototype of the Sinclair C5, the C1.

And in 1986, national company SWEB commissioned GK Land to design bespoke ladder racks for its fleet, signalling the start of the company's transition to specialising in commercial vehicle accessories.

The company has come a long way since the 1970s and, as Van Guard Accessories Ltd, are now a leading manufacturer and supplier of a full range of accessories including roof bars and racks, pipe carriers, bulkheads, grilles and internal storage.

The early innovative spirit of Gerald Land has not been lost with Van Guard, who continually strive to innovate and invest in future-proofing its products and manufacturing capabilities. In 2015, and with a nod to Van Guard's creative spirit, the company introduced its most innovative product to date, the ULTI Rack. Using a patented Click and Lock mechanism, the revolutionary new aluminium, van roof rack is designed to make fitting quicker and easier than any other roof rack on the market. Produced from lightweight aluminium, the rack is strong, built to last, fuel efficient and the first rack of its kind on the market.

Van Guard have long supported UK manufacturing, something that was recognised last year when the company was presented with the Made in Britain accreditation by the Lord Mayor of Exeter.

The Made in Britain marque is a UK-wide initiative to highlight top-quality manufacturing in the UK and the important role that 'Buying British' plays in our economy. All of Van Guard's products are designed and manufactured at their Exeter base and sold via a network of national and European distributors.Van Guard's impressive manufacturing ability is made possible because of its £750,000 investment in a state of the art fiber laser cutter, in order to improve the quality of finish, and increase the speed, flexibility and capacity of production.

The major investment is evidence of Van Guard's commitment to designing, creating and manufacturing its products in Exeter and delivering world-class standards. The laser cutter has also opened up the possibility to increase sub-contract work whilst at the same time improving the company's green credentials, as it uses less energy to produce the same results and reduces wastage by up to one third.

Van Guard's continued dedication to the industry over the past 40 years is testament to their innovation and creativity.

Never a company to stand still, Van Guard continues to adapt and improve its product offering to a rapidly changing marketplace.

This ability to innovate relies on its dedicated team of designers and engineers, who support a culture of “continuous improvement”.

The firm is a solid example of a successful Exeter business, making huge strides to put Exeter's manufacturing capacity and capability on the map.

The past 40 years have seen Van Guard develop into one of the UK's leading van accessories manufacturers. Looking to the future, Van Guard aims to continue to evolve and adapt as a company by creating more innovative products along with investments in technology and people and this in turn will support the UK and regional economy.


Originally taken from the Express & Echo: