VJ Tech Company History
VJ Tech has been successfully operating for over 30 years, manufacturing and supplying high quality, advanced and innovative equipment to the construction and geotechnical industry. The company now has 24 employees and 5 specialist contractors, with Headquarters in Reading in the UK near London, and is one of the top 5 manufacturers globally, with sales in over 90 countries.
BUT where did it all start? The answer - in a back bedroom and then a garage!
Nathan Vimalan, started as an apprentice at Wykeham Farrance in the early 1980’s. Once graduating from University as an Electrical Engineer, he was employed as Head of R&D, where he worked on the first controller for a Triaxial machine (pictured below) and foresaw the potential for the use of electronics in all areas of soil testing, which had previously been manual and laborious.
After being made redundant, Nathan left Wykeham Farrance and founded VJ Tech in 1991, initially working from a bedroom. He started selling products he had designed himself to interested parties - including his previous employer!
Year 1 (1991) - The First Products
As sales and the workload increased, it became clear that he required additional help, and the number of employees increased from 1 to three. More products were developed for the market including the MPX1000 and MPX2000 (both dataloggers), a Junction Box to connect Displacement Gauges and the Triaxial Load frame. A software package was developed, WinHOST for live data monitoring and control.
The French Connection!
One of our first customers was Sols Mesures in France. These pictures show some of the early VJ Tech equipment at a laboratory in Lille, France.
Other early customers were Neotek (Greece), Civilab (Australia), Humboldt (US), GDS Malaysia and WFS (Singapore), who are still with us today.
Year 4 (1995) - The First Office
As the business grew, Nathan expanded to a 500 ft2 office in Winnersh, Berkshire in 1995.
Growth continued steadily as the number of products increased. Amongst the new products were the MiniScanner, Automatic Hydraulic Pressure Controllers (both Hydraulic and Pneumatic), a Concrete Machine, Air/Water Distribution Systems, a Remote Display and WinCLISP, data processing software for live monitoring and display of tests such as Triaxial, Shear and Oedometer.
With the introduction of new products, sales increased and additional staff joined the team; 3 employees became 6.
Year 9 (2000) - Bigger Premises (3 times larger)
As space became an issue, it soon became clear that another move was required, this time in 2000 to Loverock Road in Reading– 3 times the size of the existing premises!
There, the research, development, design and manufacturing continued to be done in-house (as is still the case) with more and more products being developed, and being sold overseas as well as in the UK.
New Products and Software
The new products produced include: the Manual Oedometer and MPX3000 Data Logger (making it semi-automatic) (top left), the ShearSCAN 10 (using pneumatic loading to eliminate the numerous weights) (bottom left), the Triaxial Automation System for complete control of UU and CU/CD Triaxial Testing (the Advanced machine also having inbuilt data logging) (centre) and the Triplex, a low-cost basic frame with easy operation (ideal for CBR and Marshall testing) (right).
The WinCLISP software continued evolving to support these products, and Consolidation, Shear, Triaxial, Marshall, CBR and Concrete testing became easier and faster, with PCs becoming more important, recording and collating the data from our instruments.
With the workload increasing, Nathan started to recruit Agents in different countries. With agreements in place, the Agents were trained in using our equipment and began to sell our equipment in a number of countries. When necessary, our technicians (or even Nathan himself) would travel overseas to install whole Systems in laboratories.
Year 13 (1994) - The Move to Wokingham
Four years later in 2004 (and with 2 more employees), yet another move was required, this time to premises twice the size at the Metro Centre in Wokingham. As sales continued to increase, more employees were taken on (group photo below right).
The company evolved and responsibility became more defined. Different departments evolved, with procedures and quality assurance put in place to ensure that our products were always completely finished and fully tested before going out the door.
Showcasing Our Products at Exhibitions
VJ Tech started showcasing their products at exhibitions, starting with the Dubai ARABLAB in 2005, and we have since had stands at over 30 different exhibitions in 19 different countries.
Year 20 (2009) - Moving Back to Reading
The existing warehouse was brimming with equipment, both in the process of being made and ready to go out, necessitating yet another move. This time VJ Tech moved back to Reading, to Deacon Way. The building was adapted to suit our needs, and the move there was made in 2009.
The First Training Centre
The old Metro Centre could now be used as a Training Centre, so that our customers could receive hands-on experience of the System(s) they were buying, ready for delivery. It also provided the chance for our Agents to gain in-depth knowledge of our products, so that they were able to help customers in-situ.
Year 23 (2014) - Second Premises and New Website
The VJ Tech website (at www.vjtech.co.uk) was relaunched in 2013, making it much easier for our customers and any other interested parties to browse through our products. Datasheets were also produced, so that they could be downloaded for more information on the products.
Furthermore, customers were now able to download the necessary software for a product or System, and also had easy access to User Guides, System Guides and other Manuals. Gradually, informational blogs and white papers were added, as well as any Company news.
Company growth continued steadily year on year, and with the workforce now at 17 and the warehouse bursting at the seams with goods waiting to go out or be unpacked, it was decided to lease a second warehouse, just a 5 minute walk away, and move Production there.
More Advanced Training Centre
The new warehouse was in Norcot Road and was double the size of the existing building in Deacon Way, which now became the Headquarters – as well as a new Training Centre.
Year 27 (2018) - The First VJ Tech Open Day
In 2018, VJ Tech held its first Open Day, which was a huge success with over 30 people from the industry attending.
The Launch of the Pro Series
Following our successful Open Day, the new Pro Series of instruments were launched, which boasted the latest electronics, giving a significant improvement in performance.
VJ Tech were then proud to have been chosen to feature in the 2018 publication of The Parliamentary Review, a prestigious, highly regarded publication, primarily aimed at directors, CEOs and those in positions of leadership. With forewords by the Rt. Hon Theresa May and the Rt. Hon Philip Hammond, and VJ Tech featured in the Construction and Engineering Edition. An abridged copy of the Parliamentary Review can be found HERE.
Our CEO Nathan Vimalan was invited to a gala evening to celebrate the release of The Parliamentary Review, held at the House of Commons on the 22nd October 2018.
The event was held as a thank you to all the representatives, and many notable individuals from the world of politics, media and construction and engineering were present, including the broadcaster and journalist Julia Hartley-Brewer introduced the keynote speakers; the Rt. Hon Michael Gove MP and the journalist and broadcaster Andrew Neil.
This was followed by a visit to both of our premises by the local MP (Alok Sharma), who was interested to find out the challenges posed by the political UK and world situation with regard to local businesses in the Reading area.
The Pro Series has been extremely successful and well received in the past 3 years. Covering the 4 main areas of Triaxial, Shear Consolidation and Dynamic, some instruments can also be used for testing in multiple areas of soil testing.
Year 29 (2020) Another Move - to Our Current Premises
With the demand for our products growing, a new move was required, resulting in our most recent move to Darwin Close, our largest facility so far.
We now sell our products in more than 90 countries around the world and our equipment is used in universities, laboratories and multinational construction companies, providing solutions to a diverse range of requirements.
Our Systems are installed in Laboratories and research establishments around the world, with many customers returning time after time for more equipment.
Thirty Years On, and Still Going Strong!
Our global network of experienced staff and agents can deliver after sales service and our technical support team can offer you remote support and assistance from here in the UK.
VJ Tech has even managed to keep growing throughout the challenges posed by the COVID pandemic which is still causing uncertainty throughout the world.
Our in-house design team are now busy developing new Instruments and Systems such as;
· an updated version of our temperature controlled Triaxial Cell,
· a Hollow Cylinder System,
· a Bishop Ring Shear with motorised axes
· a Resonant Column System.
Nathan and many other staff have managed all of this, 30 years of continuous growth, with more to come.
To finish, first, some words from the Head of Productions and Operations – Paul Whelan;
"I joined Nathan Vimalan’s three man team in the Electronics Department at Wykeham Farrance Engineering, Slough ‘England’ in 1983 at the tender age of seventeen. Here I continued my second year as an apprentice Electronic Technician Engineer. At the end of this four year term, I was supervising the Electronic Assembly and Test team.
Seventeen years later I was pleased to accept an offer to join him at his new company VJ Tech Ltd Reading. The company’s product range had the potential to expand rapidly and we soon saw the need to develop a Stock Control and Product Inventory System. Once this index was built, we installed a networked companywide computer system… now the business was ready to continue what became an exponential product development program.
As this program increased so did the need to develop our manufacturing facility. Today we have a great team of 12 factory employees working in a 18,000 ft2 facility. They have shown great loyalty and many years of dedicated service. Our team have one true belief, ‘that by assembling our products in house we can tightly control the quality, accuracy and performance of what we supply our customers’. We don’t rely on third parties to build and test our products we do it by ourselves; something the team takes great pride in.
With an ever increasing and more complex product range the next goal was to build a dedicated Technical and Product Support Team. The last ten years saw this grow steadily as the business employed a highly talented team of Young Graduates, Geotechnical Engineers and Technical Author to support, train and assist our client base.
As we look forward to the next thirty years we will endeavour to continue developing, designing and producing exceptional products using the latest technical advances in our three major disciplines of Electronic, Mechanical and Software Engineering. We do this with hope and ‘Great Expectations’ for the future.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my three great career mentors who continue to offer invaluable support and inspiration; Nathan Vimalan, Geoff Pelling and Julian Evans – truly first class chaps…"
And finally, the MD himself, in his own words on 30 years of success:
“In 1981, I was an apprentice on the manufacturing floor of Wykeham Farrance, trying to design our very first in-house developed Triaxial machine controller. It was the first job that gave me a challenging industrial experience. I certainly couldn’t have imagined that I’d be launching a company 10 years later.
In June 1991, VJ Tech Ltd was formed; it was a back-bedroom operation then, but has now turned into a successful international company. This year, as we commemorate our 30th anniversary, we are a recognized as a leading manufacturer of test equipment for the civil engineering industry, serving customers in more than 90 countries. I attribute this longevity to our dedicated employees and loyal customers.
Our vision, established very early on, was to view our customers as “Customers for Life.” We started as a customer-first company and 30 years later, it remains a strong part of VJ Tech’s DNA.
While we are taking time this year to look back, we’ve never stopped looking forward. The solutions we offer today leverage the latest technologies to help simplify and automate all facets of laboratory testing, as well as Geotechnical research.
Whether you’ve been with us for a few years or decades, none of this could have been achieved without your trust and loyalty.
Finally, it has been a journey full of challenges but we have made it through together.
As we celebrate this special 30th anniversary, I wish to convey my sincere and heartfelt thanks to everyone who has contributed to the success of the company.”