U.K.’s largest machinery mattress supplier looking to North America for major expansion
BY DOROTHY WHITCOMB
MPT Group Ltd., a machinery supplier to the mattress industry based in Bacup, England, is leveraging its reputation for creating innovative equipment and the current success of its Infinity Sleep Support System to expand its global reach and fuel future growth. The company plans to do this while maintaining its commitment to continually develop machinery that allows mattress manufacturers to refine their own production processes and expand their capacity to create new sleep products.
The company was founded in 1986 by David Trickett and Paul Rodgers. Andrew Trickett, David Trickett’s son, is the current managing director. “My father sold natural fiber components to the bedding and seating industries. Paul did sewing machine repairs,” Andrew Trickett says. “Their first partnership was in a company called Remach, which bought, refurbished and sold used mattress machinery. In 1989, they founded Dimegrove Engineering to design and build their own bedding machinery.”
MPT Group’s first significant growth spurt came in the early 1990s when the company developed and produced two particularly successful machines. MATRAMAX, a high-speed tape-edge machine was introduced in 1993 and was quickly followed by BordaTac, the first machine on the market to simulate side stitching. “These machines were the real springboards for the business,” Trickett says.
Following a series of strategic acquisitions that included P. Fanghanel & Co. Ltd. and Matramatic Co. Ltd., two of the United Kingdom’s dominant machinery producers, the company began another period of rapid growth.
“After these acquisitions, growth came about quickly. We took on different skill sets from each business, which allowed us to diversify and enter markets that had previously been closed to us,” Trickett says.
The period also brought about a new name. About 15 years ago, the company changed its moniker to MPT Group (the MPT stands for mattress production technology) to better reflect its expanded scope.
Today, the company is the largest mattress machinery producer in the United Kingdom, exporting its products to 96 countries in Africa, Asia, Central America, North America, South America and New Zealand. Its business plan, however, remains largely unchanged since its founding.
“Our business model is simple and, perhaps, unique,” Trickett says. “We’re a machinery developer and assembly shop, that delivers products on time that do the job.”
Innovation drives development
That model has served the company well. Today, MPT Group produces 38 machines in several categories of mattress manufacturing equipment, including tape-edge, quilting, border processing/serging, label sewing, wrapping, tufting, spring unit roll packing and spring unit production. The company produces all of its machinery in a 22,000-square-foot facility in Bacup, England. About 10,000-square-feet of the facility is devoted to the company’s corporate offices and a showroom. With 32 employees, the workforce is small but steadily growing.
“Because there are not many of us, you work very closely with everyone,” Trickett says. “We’re very much a family here with everyone pulling in the same direction. We try to go the extra mile for our employees, and our retention levels bear that out. About 70% of the workforce has been here over 10 years.”
The company brings this same level of commitment to servicing the needs of its international customers. “We have a team of service engineers who look after our overseas client base and offer them free-of-charge service calls, only asking that travel expenses be covered,” Trickett says. “We also spend extra time with the client during installation so we can cover the more technical aspects of the machines.”
Although Trickett is proud of all the machinery the company produces, he says two MTP Group products offer especially notable innovations. He describes the company’s Auto-Tuft as “the industry’s only fully automatic tufting machine.” The patented machine, introduced in 2001, is capable of tufting more than 200 mattress in a typical eight-hour shift and requires only one operator.
Unveiled in 2009, the Infinity Sleep Support System has been a game changer for the company. It uses a patented two-stage process to produce continuous coils made from microgauge wire and then assemble those coils into finished spring units. The units, which can be up to 7½ inches in height, are highly durable and have body-conforming characteristics that can be configured in zones, according to the company.
“The spring industry is not an easy one to innovate in, but the Infinity Sleep Support System modernized springs and brought them into the 21st century,” he says. “We were concerned about introducing it during the worldwide recession but it turned out to be a good time. Because these premium coil units are 30% to 40% cheaper to produce than other open coil units on the market, they reduced buyers’ expenses.”
The Infinity Sleep Support System has been most popular in Central America and South America because manufacturers in those areas tend to be more vertically integrated, but “they are spreading worldwide and we’ve only scratched the surface of available buyers,” Trickett says.
Trickett believes products currently on the company’s drawing board will provide additional value to the mattress industry. “I think there are many opportunities in the market, especially in the area of high-speed, automated border processing,” Trickett says. “Most systems offer an automated solution, but they don’t always fit the needs of larger volume producers. This is an area that we’ll be focusing on over the next 12 months. We also have new developments in pocket spring technology, which we will launch at Interzum (Cologne) next year.”
Burgeoning bottom line
A commitment to continuous improvement has been good for the company’s bottom line. Trickett notes that MPT Group’s initial goal was to sell two or three Infinity Sleep Support Systems each year. In 2015, the company sold 15 complete systems “resulting in doubling our annual (sales) and record profits,” he says.
Such growth comes with its own set of challenges. “The demand is currently outstripping our ability to supply,” Trickett says. “We’ve been dealing with it by adding personnel, increasing our supply line and starting an apprentice program.”
Sales are up in other product categories, as well. “Our sewing equipment line is already 35% above projections for 2016,” Trickett says. He expects increased sales across machinery categories will push the company’s 2016 annual sales to 10% above 2015 sales of $10 million.
Fully 70% of the company’s current sales comes from sales outside the United Kingdom, Trickett says. Since MPT Group already is the main supplier into the U.K. market, international sales are, in fact, essential to the company’s continued growth.
To ensure that growth, MPT Group plans an expansion in North America. “We will open an office in the next two years in the United States and begin offering springs for sale into that market,” Trickett says. “However, we won’t position ourselves in the U.S. until we have the product range that suits the demands of the customer base there.”
Earlier this year, MPT Group created a new marketing program and brand platform, pulling all of the machinery and brands it introduced during the past 30 years under the MPT Group umbrella. It revamped its logo and website to better reflect the more unified identity. “It is a more contemporary presentation that gives clarity to the business,” Trickett says.
Trickett is clear about his goals for MPT Group’s future. “We will continue to expand our product range and open new markets,” he says. “In 10 years, we will be a company that has two very clear business channels—one being machinery supply and the second being a spring unit manufacturer with multiple sites in the U.S. and Canada.”