BATTLESPACE Editor visited Jankel’s UK HQ at Hamm Court Farm, Weybridge, UK, to meet Andrew Jankel, Chairman of Jankel Group and Jankel Holdings Inc. and Vice-Chairman of the Jordan JV with KADDB. BATTLESPACE first visited Jankel in 1998.
Andrew Jankel is descended from a family of Russian Jewish immigrants who came to the UK in 1905 from Belarus, Russia. The family have some diverse connections, with Andrew’s maternal grandfather being the famous band leader Joe Loss, and his mother, Jennifer, now 78, running Charles Jordan, the UK arm of the French shoe makers in the 1980s, and is now a tireless charity worker and also a director of Jankel Group. Andrew himself, having finished his education at King’s College, Wimbledon, went straight into the business at the age of 18 to work under his father. Andrew has two brothers and one sister, and is married to Lara, also of Russian Jewish extraction. Andrew and Lara have three children.
Jankel was established by Andrew’s father, Robert Jankel, in 1955. Robert Jankel was an automotive engineer and passionate about cars. He developed the best-selling Panther sports car and then diversified into coachwork for the likes of Rolls-Royce, Bentley and Mercedes-Benz, specialising in armoured, Head of State vehicles. In 1997 Jankel branched out into producing vehicles for the UK MoD and Police. Jankel’s first vehicles were armoured Jaguars for the MoD in 1997, followed by a specialist fleet of Ford-based vehicles for the Met Police. Customers came from all over the world, with the Middle East being a key market. It was this Middle East connection that brought about the development of the relationship with King Abdullah II Design and Development Bureau (KADDB) in Jordan.
KADDB and Jankel formed Jordan Light Vehicle Manufacturing LLC (JLVM) in 2002.
JLVM is a joint venture between KADDB and the Jankel family to design, develop, produce, and market military vehicles. Its main products are the Al-Jawad and Al-Wahash armoured troop carriers for internal security use. JLVM won the King Abdullah II Award for Excellence in 2010. Their production strategy is ‘Build to Order’ and/or ‘Engineer to Order’ for the customer’s specific requirements, ranging from soft skin and special purpose vehicles, to fully armoured Internal Security Vehicles (ISVs) based on a variety of commercial off the shelf chassis. Other soft skin products, such as 4×4 utility vehicles, ambulances, and mobile medical vehicles are part of JLVM products portfolio.
“How did you find yourself at the helm of Jankel at such a young age?” The Editor asked.
“When I left school aged 18, and had little interest in going on to University, my father suggested that I work for him. He gave me the most amazing grounding in business. Totally unflappable, he taught me not only to listen to our customers but to react to their wishes and desires, and crucially deliver the end product at a profit. He was an amazing salesman, his one fault being was that he was prone to exaggeration on numbers of cars built, but we forgave him that! Everything was going smoothly until we suffered a tragic double whammy in the year 2003. David Wright, the Managing Director, collapsed one morning in the office and was found to have a brain tumour. He sadly died one year later. My father was diagnosed a year earlier with pancreatic cancer, which he fought valiantly for three long and painful years. I suddenly found myself at the helm of Jankel, with the huge support of my mother and the staff here in Weybridge, particularly Lesley Stone, my father’s PA, who provides invaluable support to the management.”
“What transitioned Jankel from a bespoke coachbuilder for Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Mercedes-Benz and other famous marques, to an international defence company specialising in armour and specialist vehicles for the world’s militaries and police forces?”
“Given our international customer base for our specialist vehicles we developed an expertise in armouring limousines for governments and high net-worth individuals. Business was good, about 30 plus vehicles a year, but lumpy, with some lean periods between builds, so we needed to diversify into new areas of automotive expertise. This led to some specialist work for MoD in the UK and Kosovo. We developed our Guardian Range of Police vehicles, supplied to the Met and Essex Police following a request from the Met for a replacement vehicle for the existing Land Rover fleet, which was found wanting in space and performance. The Guardian Range of vehicles, from counter-terror to anti-riot, is based on a Ford chassis.”
“You now have a comprehensive range of armoured vehicles developed for the home and international market. When did you get your first break in this market?”
“When the Iraq War began, with its increased intensity of IED attacks, we were approached by the UK MoD to request that we bid for certain armouring requirements for Iraq and then Afghanistan. To achieve this, we had to undertake a complete upgrade of the business to accommodate the required ISO and Defstan. Our first armouring contract was to upgrade the Land Rover WMIKs, followed in 2006 by a comprehensive contract to upgrade and up-armour 700 Jackal vehicles, working with Supacat and the SUV IPT at the MoD. Given the new IED threat, we undertook a comprehensive armour testing trial lasting 18 months to find the optimal solution to not only protect the soldiers from shrapnel and blast, but also from blast acceleration trauma. As part of this process we discovered that all the seats available on the market were not fit for purpose to protect the soldiers in light vehicles from blast acceleration in particular. So, we developed our own patented armoured seat solution, BLASTech, in six weeks. We undertook extensive blast trials and the seat was accepted into service by the MoD for Jackal. We also developed our Hot Formed Armour technique which offers improved protection by significantly reducing the number of armored plates, which diminishes penetration risk at welds and joints. Structural integrity is improved by steel box construction reinforced by armored steel pillars.”
“What drove you to establish your US business?”
“Having developed and patented our BLASTech armoured seat design, we undertook a survey of other MRAP vehicles in the UK and the US and found that the majority of them were sadly lacking in the required armoured seat protection. We went on a fishing trip to TARDEC in Warren, Michigan, USA and discovered that the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) were undertaking an armoured seat study following a number of fatalities. We were asked to participate and supplied seats for testing. To comply with ‘made in USA’ requirements we established a factory in Duncan, South Carolina, where we now employ over 70 people. We have supplied over 90,000 seats to date, including NAVISTAR, Oshkosh and General Dynamics. In addition to seating we are also on the list to supply US Government specialist vehicles. Our US turnover is now in the region of $35 million a year.”
“The end of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, coupled to the 2008 financial crisis took many companies to the wall. Many have gone out of business or merged but you have thrived and expanded your business. To what do you owe this success?”
“My father taught me to listen, devise and deliver. In doing so we have retained the loyalty of our customers across the world as they trust us to deliver what they want, on time and to a price. Jankel has always prided itself on a strong work ethic, an entrepreneurial approach, good design and engineering, working with partners and customers to develop what they want at the best price and shortest delivery time. At the same time, we had to ensure that Jankel itself was making money and developing new technologies. For the former we have recently recruited a new Finance Director; for the latter we have a significant R&D budget, to take us into the next iteration of our business plan. Over the years we have also brought in new capability to keep abreast with developing technologies, and to this end we have continued to grow the capability of our team with a number of key appointments including recently Geoff Newman, Director of Product Development, who has joined us from McLaren; Leigh Hurrell, Director of Procurement who joined us from Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (subsidiary of Airbus); and Chris Hoskins, Head of QHSE who joined us from Vector Aerospace. We moved into our Rustington site in 2017, after we had outgrown six smaller facilities located in Shoreham-By-Sea.”
Jankel has won some significant contracts in recent years. Following the 2016 contract to supply the Belgium Ministry of Defence (BeMoD) with over 100 Fox Rapid Reaction Vehicles (RRV), this year Jankel secured a second prestigious contract with the country’s military to supply a new fleet of specialist Light Troop Transport Vehicles (LTTV). The contract will see Jankel execute on this specialty by using the Mercedes UNIMOG platform to deliver the 199 LTTVs to the Belgium army. The LTTV was designed by Jankel’s team of engineers to provide a modular vehicle solution that benefits from unique removable mission modules that enable the vehicle to be re-rolled for operational platform versatility. Alongside a fully integrated suite of military sub-systems, that includes a removable ballistic protection kit, a Roll-Over-Protection-System (ROPS), weapon mounts and communications fit, the platform will provide full interoperability with the Fox RRV fleet.
More than one hundred Jankel Fox Rapid Response Vehicles (RRV), selected after competitive tender by the Belgium MOD in 2016, are now in full series production, with the first batches completed and delivered. This significant milestone for the Jankel Fox RRV contract has seen Jankel successfully complete the Belgium programme trials, development and product sign off gateways. Jankel met the Belgium Ministry of Defence (BeMoD)’s requirement to upgrade their military fleet with vehicles offering greater mobility, tactile agility and protection while on the ground. The Fox RRV is designed with enhanced weight carrying capacity, internal CH-47 air transportability and increased off-road agility to push the boundaries of payload, mobility and performance. Having agreed the production schedule, entering the final phases of the contract is a great success for all parties involved. Jankel gained another European success, this time through its continued strong partnership with Technamm in France. The contract is to deliver Fox Long Range Patrol Vehicles (LRPVs) to the French MOD as part of the VPS 2 urgent requirement. On the back of the recent order from the Belgium MoD, this new request will see the Fox vehicle manufactured under licence from Jankel in the Technamm facility in Southern France. The vehicle, to be known as ‘Jankel Fox by Masstech’, enables 4 to 6 occupants to cover more distance for longer periods. Its platform firepower, manoeuvrability and supportability make it a highly versatile vehicle, ideal for many roles both in rural and urban environments. The vehicle offers a highly mobile fire-support and tactical force protection platform and caters for a range of weaponry, with configurable mounts at locations around the platform. The order is in response to an urgent requirement by the French MOD for vehicles that can operate in specific regions such as West Africa, where the LRPV is well suited to the terrain. In November Jankel was pipped to the post in Holland for a similar requirement by Mercedes-Benz.
It was announced in September this year that Jankel had achieved certified Direct Partnership approval from Mercedes Benz. The certification came at the end of an extensive and exhaustive Due Diligence process, where Mercedes-Benz has fully assessed Jankel’s capability to market, sell and support modified Mercedes Benz commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) chassis systems; a significant achievement for Jankel. This partnership arrangement gives Jankel access to otherwise unavailable levels of technical information and support from Mercedes-Benz, as a COTS chassis system OEM, significantly strengthening the offering to the end-user.
“The list of recent contracts won has shown a number of key wins in Europe, Belgium and France in particular. To what do you owe these successes, and will Brexit affect this growth?”
“Jankel specialises in fully engineered solutions that utilise commercial off the shelf base platforms to meet exact military customer requirements, standards and operational needs. Working with Toyota and Mercedes in particular, we were able to design, develop and build a range of vehicles to meet a number of key requirements in Europe. Given the competition, pricing and performance were key to our success. We see Brexit as an opportunity to strengthen our European base and to that end, we are actively looking for a European facility where we can support our existing customers and build on these successes. As part of our strengthening brand in Europe we are developing partnerships and licensing deals for the Fox range. Our flexible and tailored offer is proving valuable and is encouraging more localised Fox fleets across Europe. In Belgium, in particular, we saw that the customer required a vehicle based on existing civilian mainstream automotive technology. To that end we continued to develop the Fox vehicle with its Toyota Technology and ensured local sourcing through technology transfer to local companies, so our bids are cost effective and meet sourcing criteria. We are also working on a 6×6 Toyota variant with an Australian partner, with further details on that coming later this year.”
“You have developed Jankel from a niche vehicle supplier to an international defence company specialising in vehicles, armour and systems. How do you see the business progressing from here?”
“We now have a clear vison of the future and are bolstered with a three-year order book. We are developing a five to seven-year vision concentrating on a number of key capabilities which include, armour, seating and crucially, Through Life Support which we see as a large area of growth. In addition, we will continue to plough money into R&D to develop new products. We have all services under one roof: modelling, prototyping, blast testing, homologation, EMC, and ECM/EW fits, so can quickly and cost effectively deliver our customer’s fully integrated solutions. We keep going until the job is more than done, providing through life support services from delivery to disposal. We have established key partnerships across the world, a leading range of vehicles and specialist tactical vehicle sub-systems, and a flexibility to transfer the technology to build anywhere globally, including our already established KADDB and North American plants. Our eventual goal is to integrate all our UK capabilities into one facility. We are also looking for bolt-on acquisitions to broaden and strengthen our existing capabilities.”
“Your growth is certainly impressive at a time when others are failing, what is the Jankel Mission Statement?”
“Whatever your problem, Jankel will solve it. OEMs who need a trusted partner rely on Jankel for our ability to develop cutting edge, fully integrated solutions that position our partners to win. We are constantly evolving the company bringing in new systems, techniques and employee experience to keep ahead of the game. We go further than the brief, adding value each time, as we challenge ourselves to drive innovation for Jankel, our partners and our industry. We maintain a strong family ethos indeed, my wife Lara, a trained lawyer, is now working with us to lead our Organisational Development strategy and to assist us with effectively managing global change as we evolve. With over 200 (and counting) solutions to some of the trickiest industry challenges, our comprehensive knowledge means the answer may already be on our shelves or within our research programme. We are respected and trusted partners on government research initiatives, so have a deep understanding of industry trends.”
Andrew Jankel is a candidate for BATTLESPACE Businessman Of The Year 2019. When Andrew took over the reins from his father, Robert, the company was no more than 30 people working on one site in Weybridge. Now, Jankel is a $100 million business, employing over 500 people globally; 150 people in the UK, between their two facilities, Weybridge and Rustington, 270 people in Jordan and 70 in North Carolina in the USA.