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NCR: 75 years in Dundee told in 75 incredible pictures

The story of 75 years of NCR Dundee told in 75 pictures.
The story of 75 years of NCR Dundee told in 75 pictures.

It is 75 years since Dundee NCR workers made their first cash register.

The company’s ups and downs in Dundee over the generations tells the story of industrial life in the city.

NCR transformed how factories were operated when it came to the city in 1946 and at its peak employed more than 6,000 in the early 1970s.

But by the end of the 1970s NCR was ready to pull out of Dundee altogether before the determined workforce created a revolutionary ATM.

Its success created NCR Dundee’s reputation for innovation which lasts to this day.

The company is still a major employer in Dundee, where it has its research and development centre of excellence.

NCR’s 75 years is the story of a city and Dundee’s move from industry to technology.

The birth of NCR Dundee

The expanding American company chose Dundee due to its good rail network and available pool of workers with engineering skills.

The Dundee move was part of the Marshall Plan, a US programme to provide aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II.

Perks such as a canteen, welfare department, sports clubs and good pay meant Dundonians queued for jobs.

Typical of the post-war spirit, production actually started a year before the Camperdown factory was finished in 1947.

In 1945 Camperdown was a dark brown potato field producing its yearly crop without knowing that agriculture would one day take second place to a vibrant new industry in Dundee.
NCR executives and civic leaders gathered to watch the first ground levelling in 1945.  Heavy products could also ship directly from the port.
The official opening of NCR Camperdown was June 11 1947, yet the factory began operations over a year prior. Tarpaulin separated construction work from areas where machines were being produced.
The completed Camperdown NCR factory, designed by J. Stanley Beard of Bennett & Partners. The canteen had views over Camperdown Park.
In the early days adding machines were one of the primary products. The tool inspection department in 1947. Mr S Marks, chief inspector, is in the foreground.
The NCR drawing office. At the beginning of 1949 there were 1,000 people on the payroll. One year later there were 1,500 NCR Dundee workers.

NCR Dundee 1950s – a golden decade

By the 1950s NCR had become one of the largest employers in Dundee.

Workers had a comprehensive programme of sports fixtures, social functions and theatrical productions.

NCR golfers even had their own club on the Monifieth Links.

This photograph inside the NCR Camperdown factory in the early 1950s shows workspaces are organised in crisp  rows. It led to a corporate clarity of purpose and sense of order.
The company had an image of a benevolent employer – workers were well trained and provided with medical care and sports facilities.
By 1954 more than half of the cash register machines turned out at the three NCR Dundee factories were for export. The Class 31 accounting machine accounted for 85% of the factory’s output in the 1950s.
NCR Camperdown in 1956. The tallest part of the building is still visible in Dundee today, opposite Dundee Ice Arena. The company was known in Dundee as ‘The Cash’.
The finished product. The Class 21 assembly line in 1958.
In the late 1950s, the transition from mechanical to electronic products called for a brand refresh. A new logo was introduced and the company name was shortened from National Cash Register to NCR.

NCR Dundee in the 1960s – the move to electronics

The 1960s was a buoyant time. A pioneering electro-mechanical accounting system, the Computronic, was designed in Dundee.

It compared its first answer with a second checking calculation. By the middle of the decade half a million machines had been made at NCR Dundee.

Britain’s looming conversion to a decimal system in 1971 led to a surge in demand for new cash registers and accounting machines at the end of the decade.

Accounting machine operator Dorothy Hutton with a Computronic.
The Dundee typing pool in 1964 helped to correspond with customers all over the world.
The NCR Canteen was one of the perks of being employed in Dundee in the 1960s.
The NCR Dundee canteen staff in 1964.
Workers queueing to get the freshly made food.
NCR had several sports teams, with one of the best amateur football teams in Dundee. The 1965 team lines up at Hampden Park before trouncing Jordanhill to win the Scottish Amateur Cup.
There was even an NCR Pipe Band, pictured in 1969.
NCR would hold an annual Christmas Party for hundreds of the staff’s children.
Ice cream and fizzy orange helped keep the youngsters happy.
A special dual version of the Class 100 register was produced in anticipation of Britain’s decimalisation in 1971. This featured two sets of counters and printers ready for switching on D-Day.
The export achievements of NCR Dundee led to a Royal visit in 1969. The Queen shakes hands with Mr Feerer.
Queen Elizabeth II in Douglasfield works with Sir William Walker and works manager Mr W Rae.

NCR Dundee in the 1970s – tough times

The Dundee operation expanded rapidly and at its peak in 1971, there were 6,000 NCR workers across seven factories.

But the 1970s saw a stark decline in fortunes as electronic cash registers from Japan flooded the marketplace.

NCR Dundee produced a wide range of products, including an early ATM which was a disaster due to its unreliability.

By the end of the decade staff numbers were down to 1,100 and NCR was considering pulling out of Dundee altogether.

The chairman of NCR, Mr Anderson, closed the decade by sending each Dundee employee a letter.

It warned: “Dundee has an outstanding opportunity to be one of the highest-ranked engineering and manufacturing facilities in NCR.

“However, should it undertake another self-destructive year like 1979, I shall close it down.”

Some of the NCR factories in Dundee. Clockwise from top left: Kilspindie, Broomhill, Lansdowne and Birkhill.
The decimalisation process led to more orders for new equipment and more staff. Workers leaving NCR Camperdown factory by bus in 1971.
After decimalisation, the 1970s were a difficult period for NCR Dundee. Century Series computers allowed Dundee to bring its design and engineering skills to redesign US products for a European market.
This photograph of NCR Dundee in the early 1970s was taken by Walter Simms, a student at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. It was part of an exhibition at Dundee University in 2017.
The NCR Basketball Team in 1975. Back Row: John McLaren, Alastair Campbell, Gordon Brownlee, Raymond Ritchie and Tom McArthur. Front Row: Denis Smith, Jim Simpson and Gordon Barker.
NCR Swimming Club Members, pictured at the Dundee Leisure Centre in 1979, before they tour America.
By the late 1970s the Dundee plant was turning out a wide variety of products that had little in common in terms of technology or target market. Dundee’s future was starting to look shaky.
But one of these products was the ATM. Anne Cant, shorthand-typist, poses with the new ‘robot bank teller’ in 1979. The Dundee ATM, known as the 1780, seemed to present a good opportunity to turn the factory’s prospects around.
Unfortunately the 1780 ATM was a disaster. Its unreliable performance damaged NCR’s reputation and sent morale to rock-bottom at the plant.

The 1980s – the ATM revolution

When Jim Adamson was appointed head of NCR Dundee in 1979 he was told he had “six months to stop the bleeding” or NCR Dundee would close.

He realised the only way to save Dundee was to create a world-beating product.

He had no budget for engineers but that didn’t stop him creating an engineering team to gamble everything on further development work on the ATM.

The result changed the market – the 5070 machine is to this day the most successful product in NCR’s history.

Factory manager Jim Adamson is the man who led NCR Dundee’s revival in the 1980s.
Work on the ATM took place while the Dundee factory continued to make products such as the 8200 computer, which boasted 10MB of storage. It would struggle to store five smartphone photographs today.
The 5070 ATM established new standards of excellence in terms of reliability, flexibility and customer requirements. Operator Neil Anderson tests diagnostic routines in 1985. When it launched few had confidence in the product other than Jim Adamson and his team.
When the 5070 launched few had confidence in the product other than Jim Adamson and his team.
The turnaround in Dundee’s fortunes had been rapid and it was known throughout the company for its world class innovations. The NCR assembly line in Dundee 1986.
In 1987, NCR Dundee staff were recipients of Chairman’s Special Award. Front row: Jim Adamson, general manager of NCR Dundee, Mrs Munro, widow of former manager George Munro, Donald Herman and Darrell Clark, senior executive from America.
NCR Dundee staff posing for the camera in 1988 as they celebrate the 50,000th teller machine produced by the company at its factories around the world.
A ‘flag of excellence’ ceremony in 1988.
A Branch of the Future installation on the factory floor shows NCR products in their intended setting. This model branch was an innovation which fostered collaboration and dialogue with customers.
NCR celebrate the production of their 10,000th 5070 ATM in Dundee in 1989. At the end of the 80s NCR Dundee was given the Best Factory in Britain award and had won the Queen’s Award for Export for the fourth time.
Another Royal visit in 1989. Peter Freeman and Lee Provow talk to the Duke of Kent in Dundee.

NCR Dundee in the 1990s

By the end of the 1980s NCR’s global competition was threatening to draw level again on ATM technology.

NCR pulled ahead again with its fourth generation machines, developed in Dundee, with new developments in electronics and document handling.

AT&T took over NCR from 1991 to 1996 and the Dundee operation was briefly rebranded.

Factory manager Jim Adamson pictured in January 1990 with some of the thousands of ATMs produced in Dundee.
Dan O’Brien and Bob Sutherland pose with the 100,000th ATM machine made at NCR in Dundee.
The fourth generation ATM’s official unveiling in 1991. Mr Neil Henderson, director of quality assurance, Peggy Clark and Bob Sutherland, product manager.
DIT mechatronics expert John Milne (left) working on a fourth-generation NCR cash machine, watched by Norrie Taylor, of NCR Manufacturing. June 1993.
The fourth generation family of products featured new architecture, new software, new currency and document handling technology.
The exterior of the NCR factory at Gourdie was decorated to mark the firm’s 50 years in Dundee in 1996.
Betty Cumming, circuit board assembly, NCR. Product advances continued in the 1990s with new models, as NCR sought to maintain its lead in the market by responding to the needs of banks and the modern consumer.
The Personas series was designed to meet global accessibility and usability requirements. Workers assemble the state-of-the-art machines in the mid-1990s.
Charles McAlpine of NCR setting the monitor position on an ATM. In the 1990s NCR Dundee embedded a culture of innovation. The principle of team working was introduced, small highly effective professional groups now completing the transition from an old-style factory to a modern technological manufacturing facility.
In 1996 it’s all smiles as NCR’s 200,000th ATM machine is made in Dundee.
Scott Murray working on a currency dispenser.
William Hay at work in the dispenser test area at NCR Dundee in 1997.

The 2000s – new research centre and end of ATM production

NCR made a statement of intent at the start of the new century with a £20 million investment in its research and development centre of excellence.

It was a dedicated space for the Dundee team to continue to create the next generations of ATMs.

Meanwhile a hard decision was made to close the Gourdie factory which had served the company so well for decades as manufacturing moved to Hungary.

The last ATM was made on May 20 2009, ending 63 years of manufacturing in the city.

In 2000 the framework of the new centre of excellence was completed. At the start of the 2000s, NCR had around 1,500 staff in the city.
The Discovery Centre was opened in March 2002. Helen Liddell, then secretary of State for Scotland, described NCR Dundee as a “beacon of excellence” at the opening of the building.
Awards continue to be bestowed on NCR Dundee. In 2002 Dave Ramsay, vice-president of global operations, received the Scottish Engineering 2002 award from Peter Hughes, chief executive of Scottish Engineering.
The Princess Royal chats with Don Scott during her tour of the NCR factory in 2002.
In 2003, around 120 primary school pupils took part in a basketball tournament to mark Dundee NCR basketball team’s 50th anniversary.
Testing the resilience of ATMs. Mary-Ann McKinnon of Abertay University and Mark Grossi from NCR putting the ‘robot vandal’ through its paces.
Imaging technology to allow faster and more reliable deposits was developed in Dundee. The SelfServ family of ATMs would be the number one choice of ATM for businesses around the globe.
Workers gather round the last ATM to be produced in Dundee in 2009.

NCR Dundee in the 2010s – most advanced products in the world

NCR Dundee has all of the company’s corporate functions but the focus is on innovation.

Today, NCR is a leader in software and services, ATMs and self-service technology.

Research and development account for around half the Dundee workforce.

In 2011, Ninewells Hospital’s children’s ward receives a cheque from NCR following a collection at the annual Christmas party for children. NCR workers Lorraine Gibb and Lisa Dickson, senior play supervisor May Duncan and Catriona Walker from NCR.
End of an era as the demolition of the Western Gourdie NCR building takes place in 2012. An Asda is now on the site.
NCR Dundee staff mark the company rebranding with a new logo in 2013.
Research and development is at the heart of the Dundee operation, introducing next generation technology and bringing many of the traditional banking functions to the ATM.
The global marketplace has embraced NCR’s latest product range, the 80 Series, which was entirely developed in Dundee.
Today the Dundee operation is led by senior vice president Adam Crighton.
In 2019, Jim Adamson, the factory manager who turned around the fortunes of NCR Dundee in the 1980s, returned for the unveiling of a painting in his honour.

The 2020s: New plans for growth

Adam Crighton, Dundee site leader, said NCR Dundee has recruited more than 100 staff in the last 18 months and is still growing.

Reflecting on the company’s long history in the city, he said: “People say that everyone in Dundee knows someone who has worked at NCR, or as it was known, The Cash. We’re very proud of our legacy in this amazing city.

“We are also really excited about our future. We have a plan to grow our workforce to be over 600 next year, with high skilled roles in engineering, finance and product management.”

Investment in young talent is seen as vital for the future of the Dundee operation. Adam Crighton is speaking to university students as the firm tries to recruit 50 graduates prior to the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020.
NCR marketing manager Leigh Duncan demonstrates next generation ATM with technology-rich features such as mobile phone access rather than card.
And the company continues to win accolades. It is this year’s Courier Business Awards 2021 winner for technology. NCR marketing director Fiona McDade holds the award.
NCR chief executive Mike Hayford (bottom left) takes a selfie as the Dundee staff recently held an event to mark the 75 years in the city.

Mr Crighton adds: “By focusing on innovation, we have a strong foundation for growth that will ensure our presence in the city for many years to come.”