“I HAVEN’T cut my grass in more than 12 years.”

Paul Coates stands proudly, boasting about the benefits of a Husqvarna robotic lawnmower to an audience at their Newton Aycliffe showroom.

Those he is addressing, which include business leaders and the local MP, are surrounded by the company’s creations, including its Flymo, Gardena and McCulloch brands.

But it is their electronic creations that are attracting the most interest.

Husqvarna has been manufacturing robotic mowers at their factory on Aycliffe Business Park, in County Durham, since 2005, and last month, they celebrated the one millionth production of such a creation.

However, Mr Coates, after sales manager, admits the journey to reach such a significant milestone has not been a straightforward one.

He said: “Our work in 1995 started as a glorified research and development project, and it took a lot of commitment to get to the stage we are at today.

“We had to stick by it even when we thought we were not making progress.”

Ten years later, the robotic lawnmowers began being made in Aycliffe ready to be sold the following year.

Mr Coates said: “It really started to take off – we had a brilliant factory and good, flexible staff.”

The company now sells its products in more than 100 countries, many of which began life in its Aycliffe plant.

Bosses say the biggest obstacle they face is without question the seasonal demand on their workforce.

“It is a huge challenge”, explains manufacturing director Caraline Robinson.

“In peak season, we can manufacture as many as 34,000, but in the autumn it can be as few as three or four thousand.

“We are always well supported by the community and the local pool of workers – they are key to our success.

“40 per cent of them come back the following year, which is really helpful and saves time on training.

“But at the same time, we value our training so highly, because the quality of the product has to be perfect – it is a very expensive product.”

Such a challenge may not be an obstacle for much longer though, with Glen Instone, vice president of the Husqvarna Group, confirming to The Northern Echo last month that the company was considering taking on more permanent staff and creating a more “streamlined” manufacturing approach.

Staff levels at Aycliffe can reach at around 1,300 during peak season, which Mr Coates, described as “sizeable” for the local community.

He added: “Easter is usually the time when everything starts.

"I think with it being the first bank holiday weekend, people begin to think about their gardens for the first time.”

Earlier this year, the Echo exclusively revealed Husqvarna was taking on around 800 temporary staff to meet seasonal summer demand, as well as 75 permanent posts.

Anne Marie Gardener, HR director, said: “There is still the 75 permanent workers planned for this year, and we always have seasonal workers at the busiest of times.”

And it is the younger workers they are looking to appeal to the most.

Mr Coates said: “We ask students to walk around the factory with a handful of granules.

“When they come to the end, and they see the finished lawnmower and look back at what they have carried around, they can’t believe it has been created from that.”

Around 5,000 tonnes of plastic granules are used per year, and around 16 million plastic components.

Greg is one of the workers who has been there since he was an apprentice.

He said: “I didn’t think when I left school I would be working for a company that makes lawnmowers.

"I wanted to be a car mechanic, but it has been great.

“I have been able to go to Shanghai in China, Stockholm in Sweden and the US.

“I have been here for six years and I have been supported right through my apprenticeship and eventually to do a degree.

“90 per cent of my friends went to university and it has taken them much longer to find a job.”

It is 22 years since Husqvarna first started developing its robotic lawnmowers but it is not always about such equipment.

The company has also been involved with making car parts for Nissan, Land Rover and Jaguar.

And since it was founded back in 1689, Husqvarna’s product line has changed substantially.

“It has been 327 years of heritage", said Mr Instone.

“We have changed over time, we haven’t always been about robotics.

“Over the centuries, we have always had to adapt to the changing world in which we live in.

“It wasn’t always easy, we have faced many challenges over the years, but we have always believed in our products as well as the people we employ.”

The company began by making guns, which Mr Instone explains is how Husqvarna got its name.

“After the guns, we went into sewing machines, bikes and motorbikes", he said.

“We then moved into chainsaws, as we used the same two stroke engine as we’d used in the motorbikes.

“It was then we began to specialise in outdoor power products.”

With such a varied history, will Husqvarna consider moving into new sectors?

Ms Robinson is keeping her cards close to her chest.

“We have got some exciting things we are working on”, is all she will say.

However, bosses can provide some details of their latest venture, which sees them exploring the use of smart technology, enabling consumers to use the lawnmower via a mobile phone.

Mr Coates said: “You can watch where the lawnmower goes on Google Maps, and you can even track it if it gets lost.”

Between 250 and 320 individual components are used to make each lawnmower, which takes less than an hour to assemble by 72 people.

“Collectively, we very much have a ‘what can I do’ attitude,” said Ms Robinson.

“We work collaboratively and look to help out all departments.

“There is very much a customer focus, everything we do we have an order for.

“We are always looking for feedback to improve our products – whether it be with the research and development or physically changing something ourselves.”

Sustainability is also a key part of their work.

They used green electricity from a company in Denmark – all of which is wind produced.

Mrs Robinson said: “We are gradually investing in new machinery.

"Some of our equipment is 17 years old, but we are buying new injecting machines as well as increasing our physical lines.

“People cannot believe how much change there has been at the site since their last visit.”

Ms Robinson began as an engineer 37 years ago, before rising through the ranks to become manufacturing director.

She doesn’t see herself as a role model, but she would definitely like to see more girls involved in the industry

She added: “We definitely need to get more girls involved and raise the awareness of what the possibilities are.

“Every day is different and it is great fun.

"We are already doing some work with the University Technical College in Aycliffe to try and get this message across.

“There are some other great businesses on the park, like Hitachi Rail Europe, but they are not the only ones and we can be just as appealing.”

If Husqvarna carry on their success of the last decade, there is no reason why it won’t be as appealing in the years ahead.