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In conversation with Duncan Hyde

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  • Duncan Hyde, past Leada Acrow employee
  • Acrow Panel 700 series bridge in Sarawak/ Sabah
  • 380ft Span Suspension Bridge - Jhelum River, Pakistan

Name:  Duncan Hyde

Duration and job roles at Leada Acrow:

I had three distinct periods and job roles working for Acrow (or ex Acrow) companies.

Firstly, from 1985 to 1987 as Project Manager for Thos. Storey Engineers in UK: -Supporting the sales team on specific projects both on the technical design aspects and negotiations on securing contracts; Managing a variety of Acrow Panel Bridge and Uniflote projects from outset to completion. This included a lift bridge, a bascule bridge and a floating swing bridge as part of £4 million of bridging supplied to Canary Wharf development.

Secondly from 1987 to 1990 as Engineering Manager for Acrow Australia (which became Boral Building Services in 1988). My job involved innovative, safe and efficient design of all company projects and products in Falsework, Formwork and Scaffolding; Designing and promoting specialised Formwork in the Civil Construction and Building Industry. Also, Designing, Selling and installing Acrow Panel Bridge equipment for Temporary Bridges and Temporary Works Structures.

Finally, from 1990 to 1995 as Regional Sales Manager for Thos. Storey I was responsible for selling Bailey Bridges and it’s derivative, Acrow Panel Bridges, into Pakistan, Far East and Australia. I achieved personal sales of £6 million per year and could use my civil engineering experience to provide temporary works solutions to some complex construction projects such as the Tsing Ma bridge in Hong Kong. My highest volume of sales was of a series of long span Acrow Panel 700 Series Bridges into Sarawak and Sabah.

What’s the most memorable project you worked on?

Client: Government and Army of Pakistan

Project Name: Jhelum River flood relief

Location: Kohala, Jhelum River, Azad Kashmir, NW Frontier Province, Pakistan

Overview: In 1992 following heavy rains the Jhelum river flooded destroying 7 bridges. In tendering for replacement structures, it was necessary to take into consideration the difficult terrain, the time restraints and likely construction methods. I made my sales pitch to a room full of army generals, majors and brigadiers who all had experience in use of Bailey Bridges.

The sale included 4 Bailey Suspension bridges. Whilst the Bailey panel was a standard production item many of the accessories hadn’t been manufactured for over 40 years.

I had included as part of the sales promotion free supervision for construction of the first 380 feet span Suspension Bridge. I had hoped to find a retired Major with experience in Bailey Suspension Bridges willing to undertake the task. Out of luck I had the daunting task of becoming an ‘expert’ myself. I arrived in Pakistan with a rucksack, sleeping bag, and a case full of army bridging manuals last used at end of WWII. I spent the next 3 weeks camping with a company of army Engineers in the small village of Kohala, on the Jhelum River.

Equipment was delivered in 5 tonne trucks and everything loaded, unloaded and constructed by hand. Traditionally a single Bailey Panel weighing 250lbs is carried by 6 men. Once the towers were built and the suspension cables in place and anchored we started building and launching the suspension from each embankment to be joined mid span.

There were many other memorable projects but this Bailey Suspension Bridge was probably the most challenging.

What’s your favourite memory about Leada Acrow?

Whilst I have great memories of important technical innovations, of sales made against the odds, of travel in exotic countries, my favourite memories are of the people. Colleagues and Agents remain friends for life. I met Major Generals from Pakistan, the King of Tonga, Politicians from Sri Lanka, Tribal Chiefs from Papua New Guinea, and Head Hunters from Borneo.

What’s your advice to Leada Acrow for the next 80 years?

Avoid being taken over by a competitor. Remember that bigger isn’t necessarily better: - In smaller companies the employee has a better chance of maintaining the freedom to be innovative, entrepreneurial and to provide the best possible customer service.

There are plenty of opportunities and enough business for all. Whilst it’s important to have a good product range you don’t always have to be offering the latest invention to win the business. The Acrow Prop is 80 years old and it will still be around for another 80 years.