A collective effort

Since Schouw & Co acquired the company in 2017, BORG Automotive, Europe’s biggest independent automotive parts remanufacturer, has been launched on an impressive trajectory of growth

With more than 40 years of history behind it, BORG Automotive has experienced its fair share of important milestones on the road to becoming Europe’s foremost automotive remanufacturing company. In 1991, the company moved its production to Poland – a move that would give BORG a financial advantage over its competition for years to come. In 2004, the company was assigned the main European license for Lucas products and between 2007 and 2012, BORG made Borg 179 bey strategic acquisitions in the shape of competitors DRI and CPI.

Though all these landmark events have played a key role in BORG’s rise to prominence, none has been more instrumental than when Schouw & Co purchased the remanufacturer in 2017. A major investment group with a diverse portfolio of companies on its books, Schouw & Co boasts a turnover more than 20 billion DKK and is known for its active, value-creating, long-term ownership. As far as BORG’s Business Development Director Jesper Møberg is concerned, Schouw’s investment has been nothing but positive.

“It has enabled us to have a much more aggressive growth strategy,” Jesper reveals. “The good thing about Schouw’s ownership is that we know they are not in it for the short-term. They have a long history of being in projects for the long run and they have proved time and again that they are not a company that wants to just optimize profit and sell a business on.

“Schouw’s investment has boosted our growth, our development, and it has opened up opportunities for us to confidently tackle different markets. Most importantly, it has given us a solid foundation for taking BORG Automotive to the next level and I think that will be made abundantly clear in the coming years.”

Offering more than 12,000 part numbers across eight main groups, BORG prides itself on having one of the industry’s broadest and most diverse product ranges. Among its collection of starters, alternators, compressors, brake calipers, EGR valves, and three steering system components, BORG supplies a number of rare and specialty units to help secure the company’s position as the only supplier its customers will ever need to rely upon.

“The vast range of products we offer covers 96 per cent of all references and that is what sets us apart from our competition,” Jesper asserts. “We are able to go to a customer and provide a full programme of remanufactured products and services, so I think we have a huge competitive advantage. Product development is key to staying at the head of the market and the process we use is two-sided. When it comes to our existing products, we have a whole NPI process that is driven by technology out of the factories. We understand that we must extend our range at all times in order to maintain our 98 per cent market coverage. By carefully analyzing the sector, we can identify gaps in the market and then develop something that will soon move into the factories and onto our process line.

“In terms of new products, we are guided by indications from the market and by observing what is moving at the scrapyards. Collecting this information is what gives us an idea of what our customers require and from there we have a whole process of development and looking into individual business cases. Due to the fact that we are not developing brand-new products - we are remanufacturing existing ones - it is very important for us to reman what our customers need and then incorporate this as part of our product portfolio.”

Serving wholesalers as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers and Suppliers, BORG benefits from a network of modern production facilities located across Europe. All BORG remanufacturing sites adhere to the company’s focus on lean Borg 179 cassembly and thorough testing processes to ensure that all the company’s products are of an equal or superior quality to its competitors.

“I think what is important to understand during remanufacturing is that you are working in line with a huge range of preferences,” Jesper says. “The nature of our work means we produce small batches, so it is very difficult for us to use automation. We rely greatly on the skill of our workers and the efficiency of the layout of our factories.”

Core focus
Even through periods of severe market uncertainty, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, BORG is able to maintain high levels of efficiency thanks to some of the industry’s largest warehouse facilities and most comprehensive stock management systems.

“We want to ensure fast delivery on our broad range because if our customers have that competitive advantage, then we will be able to produce more products and make more money,” Jesper comments. “For us, it is important to use our warehouse and stock management strategies to enable us to be proactive with our customers. We truly believe that we are not just another supplier – we are more than that, we want to forge partnerships. We manage stock for customers, replenishing it when needed and helping them build the right stock profile in their warehouses to enable them to be competitive. We are trying to get much closer to the customer in that sense and also in exchanging data on inventory status. We believe in working together as part of an eco-system in a circular economy.”

Sustainability has always been a core focus for BORG and the company is committed to a business model that reduces CO2 emissions and works towards creating a greener environment for all. The Fraunhofer Institute has calculated that remanufacturing saves up to 79 per cent of the energy used when manufacturing an original product. When applied to the remanufacturing industry worldwide, this is an annual energy saving equivalent to the power generated by eight nuclear plants or 16 million barrels of crude oil.

“When it comes to creating a circular economy, we are a highly-advanced company because we do not just dispose or dismantle scrap, we prolong the life of the unit, keeping it alive again and again. This is the finest form of sustainability,” Jesper declares. “Studies show that remanufacturing uses 85 per cent less CO2 than new product manufacturing. I think this whole agenda is of critical importance and that is why we are an active part of the European Climate Research Association and similar organizations because we need to highlight the sustainability capabilities of the reman sector. We need to work out how to improve our visibility and change public perception so that someone who needs a new starter or alternator actually requests a remanufactured product.”

Although BORG has experienced a significant fall in demand since the Coronavirus pandemic began, the company is starting to see its order book filling up again and Jesper believes the company is now entering a period of revival.

“Yes,” he begins, “we are seeing an increase in sales again after a very difficult period in April and May, but there is still work to be done. We will continue to rebuild this year, but the impact of Covid-19 will be felt well into 2021 due to mobility issues and social distancing. Still, thanks to our progressive ownership that is keen to invest, we see opportunities to come out of this crisis even stronger. Before the pandemic, many companies were relying on Chinese suppliers, but I think this crisis will show that having a reliable second supplier in Europe is a good idea. As a remanufacturing company, we believe we can draw something positive out of this challenging period.”

A truly value-driven business, Jesper believes BORG will continue to build a better future by focusing on its key principles of responsibility, competence, independency, interdependency, and continuous improvement. Within the next three to five years, Jesper hopes the company will be able to expand its product range and ultimately, harness the power of its workforce to double the company’s turnover and profit.

“Our parent company believes that it is people who create profit,” Jesper states. “We are very much focused on the human aspect of our business and our workers’ ability to add value to the company. Going forward, we will be pushing for growth as a collective and we are looking forward to exciting times ahead.”

BORG Automotive
Products and Services: Automotive parts remanufacturer

The mask crusaders

Harnessing its years of experience in the manufacture of medical-grade compression garments, The Marena Group has turned its expertise to the creation of masks and gowns, to assist in the fight against Covid-19

Having commenced operations over a quarter of a century ago and starting from a humble garage, The Marena Group (Marena) now employs over 200 members of staff and serves customers in over 58 countries around the world. Created by the company’s founders Bill and Vera Watkins, the breakthrough product for Marena was a patented fabric, from which they designed and made medical-grade compression garments for use after surgery. Working closely with both leading US textile mills and surgeons, Marena continued to test its new inventions and improve patient comfort and care through innovation, winning a variety of awards along the way, and introducing products such as shapewear and activewear to its product line. In 2015, the company received private equity investment to enable its next level of evolution, and by 2016 it was partnering with NASA to develop compression garments for astronauts, and embarking on new medical and retail Marena 179 bpartnerships.

Already a US Class 1 medical device manufacturer, and no stranger to innovation, Marena was ideally placed to get involved in the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Nevertheless, its first foray into mask manufacture had a somewhat unconventional start at the kitchen table of Linda Burhance, VP of Product Development, as Dale Clendon, President and CEO of the business explained: “Linda’s career has spanned clothing and fabrics as well as medical devices, and she is a rock star in that world,” he began. “Back in March, just as Groupthis was starting to happen, and the wearing of masks came to the fore, Linda realized that the characteristics of our fabric in terms of it being cool, comfortable, wearable and easy to put on made it ideal for masks. So, she developed and designed a mask in her kitchen at home and came to me and said ‘I think we can do this.’

“I believed we needed to sell $100,000 worth of masks to make it at least worthwhile to the business – and no sooner had I said that, people started coming out of the woodwork asking for masks and when we started reaching out to businesses we discovered that the demand was actually huge!”

New opportunities
In fact, requests for its masks escalated to such levels that Marena had to create a new manufacturing facility from an existing warehouse, and form a relationship with a contract manufacturer in Mexico, too. “We thought we were trying to maintain our business and help some people, but it just went kind of crazy!” exclaimed Dale. “We had the credentials with our medical background, which gave us a lot of credibility, and we did spend a lot of time educating the buyers, which really helped us as well. We were supplying to a lot of businesses that were trying to get their people to continue to work during the pandemic, or get them comfortable so they felt able to get back to work, and some of the larger organizations literally had unions saying they weren’t going to work if they didn’t get protection. So, we have made masks for really large global business companies like General Mills and UPS, some of which we branded for them - we were in the right place at the right time I think!”

In just a few short months the company has sold millions of masks and this has now also lead the business into the area of gowns too. “We could transfer our garment manufacture expertise into this segment and because we are already a Class 1 medical device manufacturer we meet all the requirements and the diligence that is required so it has spawned another whole new business for us,” added Dale.

Going quickly from zero to over a million in terms of production numbers is not an easy process at the best of times, but add in a global pandemic and traditional processes like materials sourcing bring in a new batch of challenges to overcome. “For the masks, we are using our own unique, patented material, which includes a lot of Lycra and is warp knitted, which meant that we had to locate other warp knitters to create enough raw material, and we had to find other components as well, and this was extremely difficult,” agreed Dale. “As we have gone into the gowns side, we have found the same thing, where we have had to do global searches for materials, both on the reusable and disposable side.” This pursuit for materials revealed some unorthodox suppliers, particularly from the automotive sector. “We have found that a lot of the manufacturers who make fabrics for cars actually create very unique textiles that can meet the requirements for reusable and disposable gowns, which is highly regulated,” Dale revealed. “Another challenge was that many American companies and hospitals wanted to source their raw materials from America rather than the Far East, so we needed to find these materials close to home as well.”

The team at Marena took these challenges in their stride, because as Dale explained, not only were they getting to help people in a dire time, but they were also contributing to the continuing success of the business in what were very difficult circumstances. “I would say that my team here at Marena has been incredibly motivated and excited, and we created a lot of camaraderie and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm as we really felt like we were doing good things for a lot of people,” he stated. “Also, our suppliers were not only looking to help from an altruistic perspective, but they have a lot of employees as well and they need to make a living.”

From speaking to Dale and hearing of Marena’s continually expanding plans, the company’s suppliers will be very busy going forward. Mask production continues at pace with new products for children gaining in popularity by the day – for example, the State of Indiana recently purchased a million masks from Marena for all its children from first grade through to high school. “Our children’s masks come in three different sizes and ours are anti-flammable and they have to be comfortable for kids, too. We believe that is an underserved area and we are looking at doing education programs for that as well, to explain to children why they need to wear a mask – we are looking at developing a mascot and materials for teachers and schools in order to alleviate some of the confusion around mask wearing,” Dale highlighted.

“We are also in the midst of launching a material that is treated with an anti-viral and anti-bacterial coating, which kills any viral or bacterial material that comes into contact with it. It was created during the Ebola outbreak and given its ability to kill 99.999 per cent of bacteria and viruses we think in a consumer environment it would make people feel a bit more comfortable, particularly for children. You can rewash it up to 50 times and it still has the potency on the mask.Marena 179 c

“Another area where we are in discussions with a large university and a defence contractor is on a project where we are using some science to try and make an N95 mask out of a new material that we believe that could make it into a reusable product. That has never been done for an N95 before, and that has got us heavily involved with a whole lot of new people and areas and is creating a lot of new opportunities for us.”

Environmental impacts
Not content with introducing new innovations into the mask segment, Marena is keeping its focus on the compression garment side too, where it is investigating incorporating therapeutics into recovery products so they would deliver a form of pain medication while being worn. “This wouldn’t be a narcotic, but medication to reduce pain when you come out of procedures,” Dale noted. “That is new horizon and we have got a technology that would allow us to do that, so we will be looking at that in the future and expanding into other areas, as well,” he added.

As mask wearing becomes more commonplace and countries such as the UK enforce more rules about wearing these products in shops and public places, the environmental impact of disposable masks is becoming an issue that will have to be addressed. To this end, another of Marena’s activities is continuing to highlight the benefits of reusable masks and gowns – the company historically has always manufactured reusables, and while it is venturing into disposables with its gown manufacture, Dale and his team believe that reusable is the way forward. “Globally the gown business before the pandemic was about seven billion dollars a year, and they say it may be as much as ten times that now, so you can only imagine how much landfill that creates,” he said. “With reusables you can use them multiple times at pennies per use, so you reduce your cost and your waste and they are also biodegradable at the end of their life. We just think that is the right way to go and we have never made disposables up until now, so we believe that reusable is the future in the way the world is today.”

Having been extremely busy over the past four months, not just meeting many new manufacturing challenges but also checking in with staff working at home, participating in companywide Zoom meetings and making sure employees are rewarded for their hard work under such difficult circumstances, Dale now has his eye on the future, where he sees infection control products as a permanent addition to the Marena portfolio. “We have created an opportunity and I believe a quarter to a third of our business will be in PPE/infection control kinds of product, which I see as normal business going forward,” he confirmed. “We hope to make some acquisitions both in the US and globally to add technologies to our set-up, so that we can leverage our existing access to 58 global markets, and introduce our products to more people. For a small company our global reach is fairly rare and by continuing to look at acquisitions that can make us a bigger player we can look at our manufacturing and our cost situation and get to customers in markets that we are not in today.”

As Dale looked forward to the coming years, Marena’s mask production numbers look set to climb to new heights, especially in the short-term, as with no national policy, it is up to individual US States to decide their approach to masks, and the number of States with a mask mandate is rising quickly. “It is great to be busy, but the circumstances are tragic and while it is good business, it’s not what we want in our hearts,” Dale confided. “We will help while we can and it is good for business, but at some time we hope that we can maintain this business in a normal world. We do think that people’s behaviour will probably change and in the West the propensity to wear masks will become much higher. We believe there is probably a retainable piece of the business, but probably nowhere near what it is now and that is fine with us!”

The Marena Group
Products: Medical grade compression garments, masks and gowns

Firing on all cylinders

From spare parts to multi-million dollar installation projects, Firing Industries is a leading distributor of complex industrial equipment, with the ability to deliver innovative turnkey solutions

Spread across the vast expanse of Canada, the ‘small and mighty’ team at Firing Industries is pleased to have defied the odds in a challenging year for businesses FI 178 aacross the globe. With most of the company’s employees already accustomed to working remotely, the Covid-19 pandemic has not greatly hindered Firing’s operation and, in fact, the company has thrived.

“We’ve done fantastically,” says Vice President of Business Development, Danielle Dubuc. “We take time each week to do team meetings online and we touch base with each other every morning to see what’s on the agenda for the day ahead. We’ve come through this pandemic stronger than we went into it. We never lost a beat.”

Firing has been serving prominent companies in the chemical, pharmaceutical, food, mining and other processing sectors for close to 50 years. Many products supplied by Firing are closely related and often occur sequentially in a manufacturing process. This means that, through use of a consultative, problem-solving approach, the company can assist in the overall planning and installation of its clients’ projects.

“We strive to combine various elements from our different product lines to help form larger solutions,” Michel Dubuc, Company President explains. “For example, a bulk bag unloader can Industriesbe combined with a vacuum transfer system, or a bucket elevator, or a screw conveyor; that is what we do. We’re not just a distributor, we do systems as much as possible. Our suppliers don’t do it, so that is why our clients rely on companies like us. We have our own engineering department that takes charge of drawing up plans and proposals – most of which are for projects over half a million dollars.”

Customized experience
Benefitting from a comprehensive network of suppliers, Firing works in partnership with a significant number of specialist equipment firms, for particulate monitoring, for classifiers and granulators, and for bulk processing equipment Always looking to expand its offering, in 2019, Firing added a bulk bag unloader manufacturer to its established base of world-leading suppliers. After less than a year of collaboration, Firing has already installed over a dozen pioneering bulk bag emptying systems. Michel suggests that a recent development in Montreal is a good illustration of how the company can incorporate products from multiple suppliers into the same project.

“We recently worked on a $2 million development for a plastic compounding facility,” he reveals. “We did all the engineering, purchased all the key equipment, and did all the installation. We were able to combine feeders, vacuum transfer systems, dust collection, bulk bag unloaders, and a large network of tubes and pipes. It’s like puzzle pieces. We know that next time we are approached for work, we can show the potential customer what we have done and they can pick and choose the FI 178 belements they like and those they don’t. They can customize their experience.”

Focus on turnkey systems
The success of Firing over the years has been driven by repeat business. Clients continue to return to the company time and again, and these long-lasting relationships are testament to the value that Firing places on high-quality work and dedicated customer service.

“Some of our customers have been with us for decades,” Michel declares. “We endeavor to keep in touch with our clients and they regularly contact us for spare parts or new projects. We represent more than ten major suppliers and we have a dedicated department for the spares, just to make sure that our existing customers are well serviced and receive all the technical support they need. By staying in touch with our client base, we know all about their next developments and are usually one of the bidders on these large projects.”

Building on a positive first half of the year, Firing’s plans for the remainder of 2020 include expanding the company’s workforce and solidifying the firm’s position as a major provider of turnkey solutions. This does not mean the business will be abandoning its core function as a distributor of industrial equipment, but in the next few years, Michel and his team are determined to prove to a wider audience that Firing is much more than just a provider of machinery.

“We’re going to concentrate more and more on turnkey systems in the near future and continue integrating our various product lines to create more complete solutions,” Michel states. “The core of our team is great right now and we’re going to be adding to it in the next few months, either by hiring new employees or enhancing our collaboration with our talented subcontractors.”

Firing Industries
Products: Industrial equipment solutions provider

A touch of glass

Operating from a facility capable of producing a finished window or door every two and a half minutes, Euramax is developing innovative fenestration solutions for today and tomorrow

When Euramax celebrates its 70th anniversary later this year, the UK’s leading manufacturer of PVCu windows and doors will look back on seven decades of irrepressible growth. What began life as a company producing aluminum for narrow boats and barges is now a thriving market leader with a national reputation for Eurmax 178 acreating innovative products to meet the needs of an industry that is constantly changing.

“Our main focus is on innovation,” Managing Director Nick Cowley says. “The thing that sets us apart is more to do with the services and solutions we provide, rather than just actual products. For example, we can supply products for fast, quick assembly on a manufacturing line, or we can supply products that are already pre-glazed. We are trying to solve problems for our customers.

“Since January 2019 when I came on board, I’ve been trying to capture what’s new or on trend in our adjacent markets and introduce those ideas to our own customers. A good example of this is smart locking technology, which is absolutely perfect for our current situation as Covid-19 means people want more Euramaxtouchless entry in the holiday home and rental sector. We’ve also got Endurawood,” Nick adds, “which is a really unique architectural system. It’s extremely simple to install and it’s absolutely perfect for offsite construction.”

Endurawood, Euramax’s latest product, is evidence of the company’s commitment to developing modern solutions to fit the requirements of a contemporary market. Primarily designed for customers who enjoy the appearance of wood but wish to eliminate the common problems associated with it, Endurawood is a range of wood-effect coated aluminum architectural systems that can be used for commercial, construction, residential and offsite building projects. Suitable for a wide array of outdoor products and systems, including cladding, decking, and pergolas, the pioneering material is already becoming popular as a simple installation, low maintenance way to transform projects with the natural finesse of wood.

“Endurawood is our product and we have it extruded for us,” Nick explains. “It has been designed for easy installation, and the fact that it is lightweight, non-combustible, and upscalable means it is a perfect fit for the offsite construction industry. Not only is it useful for cladding and decking, but we are also seeing it utilized by franchises that regularly rebrand because it is really easy to take Endurawood off, respray it, and update it with new brands, logos, or images. The benefits of Endurawood come from its aluminum properties, which mean it is structurally strong, repeatable for manufacturers, and low maintenance. As a consumer, once you install Endurawood, you can be safe in the knowledge that you’ve got 15 years of core stability and up to 25 years of life on the material itself.”

As well as offsite construction, Euramax supplies the DIY, new build, modular construction, holiday home, and leisure markets with a wide variety of window and door products, including French doors, bifolds, slides, conservatories, and showers. By utilizing several product profile systems, Euramax is able to offer quality-differentiated product lines that allow the company to serve more customers at different price points. The firm’s significant production output is made possible by a 205,000 square foot manufacturing facility that Euramax has called home since 2013.

“In terms of modern processes,” Nick begins, “we benefit from the use of an Epicor ERP system and that is integrated with another piece of software called Business Micros, which is made specifically for the window manufacturing and fenestration industry. We also take a technological approach to our solutions,” he adds. “So, for example, we’re currently preparing to introduce automated order entry. It will mean that when a customer sends in an order, a scanning system can be used to recognize all the different features of the order and input it into the system, allowing our customer service team to start talking and supporting our accounts almost instantly.

“In the factory, we have adopted a completely unique approach to our manufacturing compared to others in the fenestration industry. Typically, companies have assembly stations where people are manufacturing windows and doors as one complete unit, with one skilled person controlling the whole process. At Euramax, we have completed windows coming off our assembly line every couple of minutes, because we employ a one-piece flow system, which means one person performs a specific task they are absolutely efficient at and then moves the product on to the next stage.”

Aspirational living
As more and more businesses adopt automated manufacturing processes, the final stages still require assembly by hand. Nick argues that, among other benefits, one-piece flow offers the company more flexibility in its production than full automation ever could.Euramax 178 b

“As well as allowing us to switch quickly and seamlessly between different profile systems, one-piece flow can be used to speed up labor intensive elements of our manufacturing process by breaking the task down into individual sections. We are flexible,” he asserts. “I don’t have to do larger runs with CNC machines. We can have a few people that are skilled in two or three different areas and they can move around where necessary, but it doesn’t mean we have to have a deep skill base to be able to manufacture everything. It is quite easy for me to uplift capacity when needed by just bringing in additional resources on that assembly stage.”

Despite the challenging circumstances, 2020 has been a positive year for Euramax. In April, the company announced a deal with ilke Homes - the UK’s most prominent modular homes specialist - for the supply of doors and windows for 2000 modular homes. For many years, Euramax has supplied full window kits to the holiday home sector and by combining this experience with its expertise in the residential market, the firm was able to provide ilke Homes with a bespoke solution and service.

“Typically, offsite construction gets its deliveries from companies that are used to supplying construction sites,” Nick reveals. “Supplying to a modular builder is slightly different because it’s like delivering to an assembly line. Previously, ilke Homes had been receiving separate deliveries for glass and window frames, which would then be sorted into specific module requirements, increasing the risk of damage. Instead, we have provided ilke with the glass and window frames in one stillage, fully referenced and labelled, ensuring they have everything they need for each module, streamlining their process and saving them time and money.”

On the back of its project with ilke, Euramax recently reached an agreement with another modular housebuilder. Working closely with the client, Euramax suggested providing customized pre-glazed solutions to help speed up its construction processes. As well as continuing its work in the offsite construction sector, Euramax is encouraging builders’ merchants to use the idea of aspirational living to help create a vision for in-store customers considering the benefits of a product.

“We’re seeing more merchants now that are interested in moving to more dynamic visualizations and displays. They want to show off concepts and ideas of what your house could look like and then give you an indication of the products that could make it a reality,” Nick reports. “Traditionally, a lot of stores like Wickes have had static window displays, but by building showrooms that present aspirational living, you are selling the customer a lifestyle. For example, a kitchen showroom could include bifold French doors, new windows, and all the fencing and patio accessories that go with that outdoor scene. It means a merchant can upsell the whole project.”

Spurred on by the company’s recent success, and brimming with ideas for the future, Nick is upbeat about what the next few years will hold for Euramax. Eager to double the size of the business, Nick is confident that the firm’s manufacturing facility can support such considerable growth and that current market trends will continue to work in the company’s favor.

“We will benefit from growth in the holiday home sector next year due to a surge in staycations and I think the merchant markets will grow too,” Nick declares. “The big areas of focus for us will be in offsite construction. This is where Endurawood and our PVCu windows combine to give clients a really efficient solution.”

Products: Manufacturer of PVCu windows and doors

Engineered success

Proudly based in West Yorkshire, the historical industrial heartland of the UK, CarnaudMetalBox Engineering is world-renowned for its innovative can making machinery

Founded in the 1930s, CarnaudMetalBox Engineering (CMB Engineering) today focuses on the design, development and manufacture of high-performance metal forming and finishing machinery for the production of beverage, food and aerosol cans. Having evolved over the years thanks to a merger with Carnaud, a French manufacturer; and a further acquisition by Crown Holdings Incorporated, one of the world’s leading producers of metal packaging, CMB Engineering stands in 2020 as an innovative and customer-driven company supplying precision engineered can making machinery including canmakers, trimmers, beaders, die neckers, bodymakers and decorators.

As Marc Hoche, Head of Sales at CMB Engineering began by detailing, the business still draws a lot of inspiration from its proud history, and he explained how CMB 178 aimportant that heritage was in the design and creation of CMB Engineering’s first can making machine. “The company focused its attention on harnessing a century’s worth of engineering excellence, in order to develop a solution that would meet the needs of can makers,” he said. “This resulted in the invention of the Canmaker; a unique solution that combined both can making and trimming, in order to bring manufacturers a convenient and efficient machine with a reduced footprint. Launched over 20 years ago, you can still find our original Canmaker machines running like clockwork across can production plants around the world.”

Global trailblazer
Illustrating the standing of CMB’s technology in the market, its 5500 Canmaker is now the industry standard - based on the proven CMB Engineering 5000 Bodymaker integrated with the CMB Engineering 550 Trimmer in one convenient and reliable package. Manufactured in-house in its own facilities, CMB is able to focus on the production of the critical components, where it feels it can outcompete the supply chain. “To achieve this, we continually invest in the latest machinery and deploy some innovative techniques through our highly skilled manufacturing engineering team. All ‘in-house’ assembly is then carried out across our sites,” added Marc.

Built to operate at high efficiency, produce cans of superior quality and increase output, while minimising downtime due to changeovers or maintenance, the machines created by CMB Engineering are tailored to the requirements of the customer. As Marc elaborated, the technology from the company ranges from metal forming and trimming through to complex decoration: “These include Cupping Press Diesets (which form the cup from aluminum coil), Bodymakers (these take the cup and draw and wall iron to form a can), Trimmers (to ensure the top of the can is straight), Spray Machines (to coat the inside of the can with a lacquer) and Neckers (which reduce the end diameter and prepare the top to receive the lid).

“We also design and manufacture Seamer tooling, which forms the airtight seal once the can is filled and the end is in place, as well as aftermarket services for spare parts and service support.”

Having established its position as a global trailblazer in can making, CMB Engineering now works with can makers from all over the world, including large multinationals with high-speed production lines who make cans for sale to their customers, such as Coca-Cola, or Heineken; as well as smaller independent brewers and fillers that want to manufacture cans for themselves. “The world of the can maker is measured in minutes - we have machines that will run at 3400 cans per minute, and so everything is time critical, including the supply of machines to site, be it additional machines to speed up a line or a new installation, as well as the supply of spares,” Marc added. “Our reputation depends on delivering what we say and not letting our customers down. As the industry strives to reduce the amount of metal in a can or needs increased capacity as a response to a call from consumers for a more recyclable package, we need to constantly be able to engineer solutions for our customers.”CMB 178 b

In fact, Marc believes that some of the best projects CMB Engineering has completed have been where the company has been able to demonstrate its manufacturing prowess. “There is a certain satisfaction of listening to a customer who has a problem and then letting the engineering team come up with a solution that can then be turned into metal, machined and assembled,” he said.

Having described the foundation of innovation upon which CMB Engineering has built its success, Marc then highlighted the importance of new product development and product innovation, which recently has been an area of focus for the company. “We have been working hard to increase our product portfolio for the past few years, with an emphasis on research and development, which has been actively supported by ‘Innovate UK’ grants from the UK Government. The new products focus on innovations with the main themes of ‘efficiency’, ‘ease of use’ and the inclusion of ‘smart technology’. This will ensure that CMB’s products remain the preferred choice by a global customer base, as the important work of replacing plastic packaging with more environmentally friendly and recyclable aluminum and steel cans continues into the future.”

A perfect example of a new product that is being created by CMB’s R&D team is the Reformat™ Decorator, which Marc believes is a significant development for the organization. “This is a high-speed machine operating at up to 2000 cans per minute, which accurately prints an eight-color label onto beverage cans. It’s a complicated process requiring accuracy and control from the machine, and experienced plant operatives to run and maintain it,” he explained. “In line with our R&D strategy, we have included a number of innovations on the Decorator to ensure the machine is easier and safer to use (for example, with the addition of servo controlled print registration), more efficient (by the use of independent servo drives for all rotating parts) and also more productive (with print label changes taking just 15 minutes or less). After extensive testing in production, the Reformat™ Decorator is almost ready for sale as a crucial part of CMB’s product portfolio.”

The Reformat branding of the new Decorator is also an illustration of the pedigree of this piece of equipment – in 2020, CMB Engineering was awarded the Queen’s Award for Innovation, for its Reformat™ Spray machine – another new machine with a particular emphasis on efficiency, requiring just 25 per cent of the energy used to operate the previous model.

The business is no stranger to the Queen’s Award, as this is the fourth of its history, with the company having been recognized twice for its export success and once for technological achievement in the past. “Our sales have always been predominantly export, reflective of the global nature of the two-piece can making market. CMB machines are found in every industrialized nation, and the company serves its customers with an international team of sales and service engineers,” Marc elaborated. “This successful export business is reflected in the two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise in 2010 and 2014. Winning the Queen’s Award has always been something in which CMB’s workforce takes great pride, and the ceremonies associated with the events have gone down in the company’s history.”

Empowered people
CMB Engineering was also included in the Queen’s 90th birthday book, published for her 90th Birthday Celebrations, which were held at Windsor Castle in May 2016. Within its entry, Andrew Truelove, CMB Engineering’s General Manager attributed the business’ success to its ‘happy and engaged workforce and a management team that values inventiveness.’ “Our people are without a doubt our biggest asset,” Marc agreed. “Communication is definitely the key and keeping it open and honest. Share the good news but also, we have learnt not to shy away from things when they are not so good. We work hard to foster an environment that promotes innovation; this comes from ensuring there is no fear of failure as that is textbook stuff for stifling innovation.

“Empowering our people to make and lead change is also important. We invest significantly in training our people and have many studying degrees, as well as trade courses. We also put a lot of effort into our apprenticeship program and compete in the WorldSkills competition, where we have regularly achieved success representing the UK. We have many examples of apprentices going on to reach senior management positions; in fact, our MD is a former apprentice!”

The staff at CMB Engineering recently played an essential role during the Covid-19 lockdown period, which was a challenging time but as Marc put it: “the willingness of our people made all the difference in ensuring we could still meet customer demands. As we supply machines and parts into the food and beverage industry, we were able to continue to stay operational, of course having implemented measures according to government guidelines to ensure the safety of our people,” he continued.

CMB also assisted with the construction of ventilators required in the fight against Covid-19 after responding to a call from a fellow manufacturer, Altec Engineering Ltd. In a short time, the Engineering team was able to manufacture test component parts in the machine shop. These parts were delivered for validation to Altec and the production of the portable ventilator with CMB manufactured parts commenced in an amazing example of how companies can pull together during very difficult times.

With innovation as part of its DNA and almost a century of expertise in the design and construction of can making machinery under its belt, it is fair to say that CMB Engineering is looking towards the next stage of its evolution with confidence. “Having played a key part in developing advanced can making, and as the drive away from plastic begins to gather momentum, I am envisaging a bright future for the business, and one that will allow us to continually invest in manufacturing in the UK,” Marc stated. “Our decades of industrial knowledge and technical prowess is channeled through our designs and harnessed on behalf of our customers, and it is this which can help can makers meet any of the challenges that the future holds.”

CarnaudMetalBox Engineering
Products: Metal forming and finishing machinery for the production of cans

A blueprint for success

When demand for Bluetree’s core services dropped as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK’s largest online printing specialist transformed itself into a key manufacturer of surgical masks, and in doing so, added a lucrative new string to its bow

When James Kinsella and his childhood friend Adam Carnell launched Instantprint from a small and ‘freezing’ office in Newcastle, the pair aimed to make the world of print as easy as possible for small companies. After making a name for itself with initiatives such as advice for start-ups, artwork checks, and free design templates, BTG 178 aInstantprint joined forces with Bluetree Design and Print, a traditional screen printer focused on selling large format print to major corporate clients.

“Back in 2012, Bluetree dealt with large customers offline and Instantprint worked with small customers online,” James says. “We saw an opportunity to put the two businesses together so that we could sell large format products online and small format products offline. That was how Bluetree Group was born.”

Now Bluetree Group’s Co-founder and Owner, James has seen the business evolve significantly over the last decade. In particular, the firm has experienced rapid growth in its online sales, and as a result, has actively taken steps to improve the offline side of the operation.

“As we stand today, we’ve got two brands,” James explains, “Instantprint and Route1. These brands are directly targeted at two different types of customers. Print buyers want to buy in different ways, so in order to give the best Grouppossible experience, we want to give them more targeted platforms.

“On the Instantprint side, the customers are all small firms and microbusinesses and the real challenge there is trying to make it as easy as possible for them to buy print in a sector that can often seem saturated with jargon and complexity. Route1, on the other hand, is aimed at print resellers. These customers are very experienced print buyers and their business is reselling print. They might be graphic designers, small printers, and sign makers who have print as an additional service, so the type of experience they need is very different to that of the small business. That is why we run the two different brands.”

Comprehensive range
Over the past decade, Bluetree has established itself as the largest online print company in the UK, and alongside winning Company of the Year at the Sheffield Business Awards, the firm has twice been named in The Sunday Times Fast Track 100. Bluetree’s success has been built on its ability to deliver a comprehensive range of marketing materials, of which the company offers its customers a variety of production options including flexible run lengths.

“When it comes to marketing materials, our specialism is standardized products like flyers, leaflets, business cards, brochures, posters and roller banners,” James remarks. “We call our production process ‘industrial manufacturing’ rather than approaching it as a craft industry and our clients can choose from a handful of options to suit their needs. If you take our flyers for example, we offer three different stocks and 12 different run lengths, so obviously it makes the purchasing decision much easier for the customer. Run lengths tend to be on the shorter side - up to about 50,000 - because that’s the area of the market upon which we focus. From a manufacturing perspective, standardizing production and grouping products together is highly beneficial for us and our clients because it means we can produce a larger volume of product more effectively.”

Having solidified itself as a leading force in the market, Bluetree was expecting the firm’s growth trajectory to continue in 2020, but, like the majority of businesses around the globe the company was halted in its tracks by the widespread impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. As the virus took hold in the early part of the year, Bluetree saw its print sales plummet dramatically. With revenues hovering at around 20 per cent of the company’s regular takings, James and his team took decisive BTG 178 baction.

“The first move we made was to adapt our print ranges in order to serve companies fighting the pandemic,” James states. “We introduced new products to do with social distancing like floor stickers and signage. We then turned our hand to visors and it was at that point we began to consider manufacturing facemasks. At first, we wondered whether facemasks were actually something we could produce, but we soon discovered that we were really well positioned in that area. We’d recently purchased a new 45,000 square foot unit adjacent to our 100,000 square foot main site. With print sales dropping, we made the decision to convert this space for the mass production of Type IIR surgical masks, becoming the first company in the country to make these.

“I think we are incredibly fortunate because we’ve got an amazing team and they’ve been able to adapt really well to all the challenges that have come our way. We built the clean room environments, retrained team members, and moved people across from the print side of the business to the surgical mask side. The initial plan was to support local businesses and help them reopen, but we realized there was a much greater need in healthcare, so we focused on that as well. We’ve currently got six machines installed and are producing 1.4 million surgical masks per week, but we plan to add around 30 new machines by September, taking our weekly capacity up to around 20 million units.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge Bluetree has encountered throughout this period is a difficulty in acquiring the raw materials necessary for mask production, which, understandably, have been some of the planet’s hottest commodities. One key solution the firm has devised is to produce its own meltblown material, a vital and highly sought-after fabric used as a filter layer in all grades of surgical mask. James is confident that Bluetree will have its new meltblown facility up and running by August. It is the latest noteworthy event in what has been a transformative year for the firm.

“Both sides of the business are growing,” James asserts. “As we continue to expand the surgical mask side of our offering, the economy is beginning to open up again. For most of this year, our product mix on the print side shifted dramatically and we were almost exclusively producing social distancing signage and materials related to Covid-19, however, we are now starting to receive requests for our more standard, pre-pandemic range of products.

“We are confident that the work we’ve done this year will put us in good stead for future business. Certainly, in terms of surgical mask production, we’re seeing a long-term future ahead of us. I think Coronavirus has encouraged a lot of companies to look at the stability of their supply chains and we’re already seeing quite an appetite for domestic products. We’re hoping that will continue into the future.”

Tremendously impressed with the way Bluetree’s workforce has performed throughout the pandemic, James believes that the company’s values-driven focus is continuing to play a key role in the firm’s success. By focusing on values, rather than skills, in its recruitment, induction, and appraisal processes, Bluetree aims to ensure that the right people are in the right positions at the company, and in turn, futureproof the firm’s prospects for decades to come.

“At Bluetree, we are really focused on what we call organizational health, which is all about everyone in the team knowing how we behave as a unit and where we’re trying to get to as a business,” James reports. “Our management team endeavors to ensure that everyone truly understands our mission and goals. By doing this, we can delegate a lot more decision making to other members of the team and I think that has really helped us continue to grow and accelerate our expansion.

“We think the future is bright on both the print and surgical mask sides of the business. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve demonstrated how well we can adapt and I believe we’re well positioned to continue growing in both of these segments.”

Bluetree Group
Products: Printed goods and surgical masks

Keep moving

Dedication to innovation is embedded in the DNA of Titan International, and its UK division Titan Steel Wheels can draw on this vital resource to meet the needs of its customers

A global brand that is well known for its durable products and high quality service, Titan International, Inc. is today the global market leader in the manufacture and production of off-the-road tires and wheel technology.

Via its manufacturing operations and dealers located all over the world, the company produces and supplies a broad range of products to meet the specifications of TSW 178 aoriginal equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and aftermarket customers, in the agriculture, construction, forestry and mining equipment sectors.

Still headquartered in Quincy, Illinois in the US (and where it can trace its roots back over 100 years) Titan International has several other American sites, as well as those based in South America, Australia and the EMEA region. In this latter territory, Titan operates wholly-owned manufacturing and distribution facilities in the UK, France, Italy and Turkey, as well as being a shareholder in Wheels India (the largest wheel manufacturer in India) and has a joint venture in China.

In the UK, Titan International’s own historical legacy is matched by its subsidiary – Titan Steel Wheels, based in Kidderminster - which operates a factory dating back to 1650, and in the words of Managing Director Chris Akers is ‘probably one of the oldest manufacturing sites in the UK.’

“Of course, the product we manufacture today is very different from those first wheels, although we have kept to the basic principle of making them round!” he added with a smile. “The site we occupy today has moved through many product lines over the generations, but it has always been a heavy manufacturing site involved in forming metals. In its earliest days, it was puddling and slitting iron, moving through commercializing tin plate and latterly into press works and fabrication. Today, it is a very modern manufacturing facility.”

Customer partnerships
In fact, the Kidderminster site is equipped with some of the most state-of-the art technology and philosophies available, in order to create wheels that are not of the same breed that are found on a typical family car. “The processes we have onsite are rolling, welding, presswork, machining and painting, and approach wise, lean manufacturing is an important bedrock of our facility,” Chris stated. “My background is automotive and so I have introduced many ideas from that sector. We have moved from a batch building culture to more of a production and flow line system, and we have devised a layout that gives us great product flexibility while at the same time allowing us to line balance the work across the various production cells.

“We produce a specialist and niche range of wheels designed for machines in the Earthmoving, Construction and Lifting industries,” continues Chris. “Typically, these are called the ‘yellow goods industries’, presumably because most of the products created for them are painted in various shades of yellow.”

What makes the yellow goods industries stand out is that each manufacturer has individual requirements and applications for wheels, and therefore they are all unique and they can’t be built to stock. “The product is individually designed for the customer application and built to order,” Chris confirmed, before going on to identify what really sets these products apart from more run of the mill automotive wheels. “Our wheels are designed to operate in the toughest and harshest conditions. They travel to places you can’t even walk, and likely wouldn’t want to. They have to endure huge forces, be that from the tire inflation pressures or simply the payload and torque of the machine. Although our wheels are significantly larger and heavier than those found in the automotive market they are often built to tighter tolerances, and we hold a number of unique designs and patents for our wheels, too. In effect, we are the silent partner of our customer, although we fill a critical role. Without the wheel the machine wouldn’t exist, and a tire without a wheel is not that useful. We are all familiar with the name brands on the vehicles and the tires, but we should spare a thought for the vital importance of the wheels too.”TSW 178 b

It has not gone unnoticed by the yellow goods manufacturers that the wheels from Titan are something special - to the extent that Chris was able to claim that ‘probably everyone in the industry is wearing a set of Titan shoes on one of their products.’ “We have worked diligently in partnership with a number of major OEMs over the years evolving the product to meet changing needs,” he elaborated. “So, one example might be a brief to reduce weight and improve safety, and we designed and created a completely new wheel design that shaved some 25kg weight off per fitment. On some larger machines with numerous wheel fitments, this was a saving of over half a ton to the vehicle weight, just from the wheels. That’s a large and valuable weight saving to a customer, and at the same time performance was not reduced and safety was enhanced. In another area, we have been ‘fine tuning’ the product design again to remove weight of material, but also cost was important for this customer. We created a solution with less process steps and less material, and delivered a more cost favorable product without reducing performance.”

Heart of innovation
It is clear from Chris’ examples that each application and machine has its own design problems that need to be overcome in order to meet customer expectations, and it is here that the heritage of Titan really comes into its own. “Our long history in designing and developing this product is very helpful, and when a customer comes to us with a problem (which is how many of these projects begin) the first thing we will do is use that long history to see if we have made something similar in the past. That is always a good and safe starting point, but if we haven’t then we do a ground up redesign.

“But the design freedom for the wheel is quite limited. The wheel forms the interface between the tire and the machine, and standards dictate the rim profile, in order to ensure it will fit a tire. The machine hub and braking system then sit inside the rim, so our free space is fairly restricted. Having said that, our engineers do a brilliant job. We have regular design review sessions involving not just engineering, but a cross section of the Titan team. At these reviews, we will pull out existing drawings and products and analyze them for opportunities for innovative change. It’s actually quite staggering how much you can find from this process. When you think you have exhausted all the opportunities someone says ‘what about if’ and off you go again.”

This heart of innovation is combined with the biggest testing capability in the world, and that is another string to Titan’s bow. “It’s actually very hard to test this product to destruction and simulate actual working conditions, so the best test subjects we have are the millions of wheels we have out in the field successfully meeting the customers’ expectations,” Chris pointed out. “Over the years, we have developed many small design details that finesse the product performance, so it’s really a bit like a heavy-duty Formula 1 car, each season builds on the last and every season a newer, better design arrives.”

European launch
Having already become the maestro of heavy duty steel wheels, Titan is now embarking on another exciting journey - to bring back one of the most famous agricultural tire brands to Europe. “This is something the company is really excited about – for many years Titan International has been the holder of the Goodyear Farm Tires brand in North and South America and now it is going to launch the brand into Europe. Titan not only holds the brand, but also makes the tires at two very large ex-Goodyear facilities in North America, an ex-Goodyear facility in Brazil and we also own the largest tire plant in Russia,” Chris explained.

“The Goodyear Farm Tires brand was stopped in 2012 by Goodyear with the closure of its agricultural tire plants across Europe. Shortly after, Titan was granted the licensing rights for the brand and also acquired all the tire molds and technology. It has relocated those molds into its facilities, refreshed the designs and now embarked on that journey.

“Titan is still a small player in this market, but in the last 12 months, sales have increased by over 50 per cent and as more new products are added to the portfolio, the future is looking very bright.”

Chris is clearly enthusiastic about the potential growth of Goodyear Farm Tires, and looking further ahead he believes that the business will maintain its position as a world leader, and also predicted quite a significant change: “At the moment we are a wheel maker that sells some tires. Based on the adventure that we have started with Goodyear, I think that narrative will change to us being a tire maker that sells some wheels.”

After highlighting the growth in demand for Goodyear Farm Tires products, and the exciting potential that it could bring to the business, Chris balanced the news with feedback on the impact that Covid-19 has had on Titan Steel Wheels, causing the order book to take a fall. “It is now stable and we are really looking at what will happen going into 2021,” he added, reassuringly. “The negative news has stopped and we are starting to see some small positive shoots popping their heads out. Let’s just hope that continues and the variety of stimulus packages offered by various Governments turn into a rapid recovery to growth.

“During the crisis, the plant shut down for a few weeks, as we followed our customers. We are now back up and running and just this week introduced a third shift in one area of the business. My fantastic team here did a great job preparing the facility and then adjusting to working in a new socially distanced environment. When the plant re-opened after the short closure period we didn’t miss a beat and hit the production numbers from day one.”

Having mentioned his team and their attitude in response to the pandemic, Chris also credited them as being a pivotal contributor to Titan Steel Wheels being awarded a Queen’s Award for International Trade in April 2020. “We export nearly everything we make, mostly into Europe, but also further afield. There won’t be a country in the world that doesn’t have some wheels from Titan rolling around it somewhere!” said Chris. “It makes you very proud to think that a product from the small village of Cookley in the Worcestershire countryside is supplying the world.

“The Queen’s Award was for Outstanding Short-Term Growth in Overseas Sales, and I see that win as a demonstration to the employees that they are part of a successful team,” he continued. “We really do have an amazing group of employees here at Titan Steel Wheels. I can’t pinpoint one secret behind the creation of a great working atmosphere, but I do always try to treat everyone how I would like to be treated. That’s something I use daily in any decision I make, and I think another essential element is that all staff feel like that they all play an important part in the overall company. I can truly say this is the nicest place I have ever worked and I would really like to thank the entire Titan team for making this plant the great place to work that it is.”

Titan Steel Wheels
Products: Manufacturer of wheels and tires

Launching a revolution

A customer-focused print solutions firm with a ‘never say no’ attitude to service, Catapult Print is harnessing the power of technology to redefine the US market

As Catapult Print prepares to celebrate two years in business, there is a lot for CEO Mark Cook to be excited about. An ambitious start-up founded less than 24 months ago, Catapult is already turning over $15 million a year and recently acquired its fourth new printing press. Such rapid success is rarely achieved by maintaining the status quo, and Mark is very open about the firm’s mission to defy convention.

“From the moment the company opened its doors, we wanted to be a disruptor,” Mark declares. “If you are going to be a disruptor in this marketplace, you can’t be the same as everyone else, you have to be different. As a result, everything we do at Catapult revolves around five key pillars. We promise to deliver higher quality, lower prices, shorter lead times, unbelievable service, and innovation that makes a difference. This is the foundation upon which we have built our success.”

Mark’s formula for business was devised after years spent working his way up through the print industry. A former professional footballer, Mark retired early due to Catapult 178 ainjury and took a job packing boxes at British printing firm, Paragon Print and Packaging. As he climbed the company ladder, Mark operated printing presses and worked in the sales department before becoming a shareholder. In the year Mark left Paragon, the once small business recorded a turnover of £180 million, an achievement Mark believes was down to the way the company treated its customers.

“My early years in the print industry were so important because they helped me understand the importance of focusing on customers,” Mark reveals. “Everyone at that company knew about, and appreciated, its ‘never say no’ attitude to business. As a workforce, we were all pointing in the same direction and aware of what we needed to do. The momentum it generated was phenomenal.

“Later on, when different people came into the business, I got disillusioned and frustrated because the company I knew, and the values I’d learnt and believed in, were beginning to disappear. I had seen how successful a customer focused business could be and so when things moved in a more EBITDA, profit-driven direction, and you were forced to chase customers for money, it just didn’t work. It was a key part of my journey and I feel my time at the business gave me true grounding in terms of what works in this industry and what doesn’t.”

After successfully applying his philosophy during a four-year spell with Equator Design, Mark decided to act on a burning desire to use his considerable expertise to revolutionize and rejuvenate what he saw as an ailing US print sector.

“I’d worked with a lot of printers in the US during my time at Equator and it was clear to me that so many of the beautiful designs we did were completely falling apart at the print stage of the process,” Mark recalls. “We were getting some horrendous print samples back from the US and it didn’t take us long to realize that there was not only a lot of poor quality out there but very long lead times too It was so alien to the UK market and that’s what encouraged me to start Catapult.

“In many ways, the plan was simple,” he adds. “All I wanted to do was take the values and principles I’d learnt in my early days - do more, do more for nothing, just do it better than everybody else - and apply them in a new market. Companies like Virgin often go into a crowded marketplace and just do things better; that’s what my philosophy has always been - it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in, just do it better.”

Following a careful assessment of the market, Mark concluded that investment in the latest technology would give Catapult a significant advantage over competition that was predominantly using outdated equipment. As a result, cutting-edge technology has, and always will be, a cornerstone of the business.

“If you are competing with a company that’s got 20 or 30-year-old printing presses and you have the latest equipment, it’s not hard to see the huge advantages that lends you,” Mark says. “With the way technology has moved on in terms of the benefits it can offer, I was shocked when I found out that many companies weren’t reinvesting in their equipment. We all know the technology is out there, but how many people are using it? We wanted to come into the marketplace and truly disrupt it by saying, if you’re not doing quality like us, and if you’re not doing lead times or price like us, then you’re going to fizzle away.”

Catapult’s technological revolution began when the company entered into partnerships with some of the industry’s leading technology firms. MacDermid Graphics Solutions supplies the company’s photopolymer printing plates, and with the help of Nilpeter’s advanced clean down systems, Catapult has only had to make ten new plates since production began. Nilpeter has also provided Catapult with four of what Mark describes as ‘the Rolls Royce of printing presses’, and INX ink technology means that the company is proud to have logged zero downtime for color matching. UPM Raflatac supply Catapult with innovative materials for its self-adhesive and Catapult 178 blinerless label products, and finally, Hamilroad’s Bellissima screening technology is considered a jewel in the crown of the company’s state-of-the-art studio.

“We’ve always believed in technology,” Mark proclaims. “Automation processes play a massive role in what we do, especially in terms of speed. If we get a file in today, it will go out today. Thanks to automation, we can turn things around on a knife edge.

“We’re lucky,” Mark adds, “because our partners have supported us from day one. Technology like Bellissima has been a game changer for us. We are the only print business in the USA that has Bellissima screening technology. It’s out there, but no one else is using it. The reality is that the US marketplace would want to sell it at a higher price because of the superior quality it offers, but we’re not doing that. Actually, if you order from us, it costs less. It’s like having a choice between buying an HD TV and a non-HD TV, but the HD TV is cheaper. That’s what we’re offering the print world. A lot of the business we’ve won is the result of unbelievably good quality and low prices.”

Always innovating, in the coming months Mark will be working with AVT on further developing Catapult’s internal system. An intelligent task management tool, the system will provide the company with real-time data and enable Mark and his team to track every order as it makes its way through each facet of the organization. It is all part of Catapult’s aim to become a total solutions provider, from design through to completion.

“Our system will provide us with live information that gives us the ability to keep improving,” Mark claims. “We will constantly receive data in terms of make ready times, material waste, and run speed. We can pinpoint the areas we need to focus on to get better, while still investing in technology.

“Similarly, it will offer an unprecedented level of transparency and visibility to our customers. In the world we live in today, if you pay for a service, you want to know how much progress has been made, or when it’s going to be delivered. With the same simplicity as websites belonging to companies like Amazon, the system will help us inform our customers about whether their order is on the panel, in print, or on its way to their doorstep.”

Though pressure-sensitive labels remain Catapult’s core business, the company also produces narrow web film and linerless labels, and by the end of the year, the firm aims to expand its design capabilities and add shrink sleeve technology to its portfolio. No matter what the future holds for Catapult, Mark and his team will continue to say yes, when other businesses say no.

“The culture of this business has been deliberate since day one,” Mark asserts. “From the janitor through to myself, it’s all about how we can get things done for the customer. The customer is king.

“As a company, we’ve come into the labelling market, which is a crowded sector to say the least, and we’ve disrupted it through high quality, low prices, short lead times, and great service. The goal for us now is to continue to disrupt. We have the ability to be a $60 million firm, if not bigger. In the near future, we may even be able to start looking at starting up new locations with the same sort of model.

“We’ve been one of this industry’s best kept secrets over the last two years and we’re just starting to breakthrough and breakout. We’re nowhere near the business we want to be yet, we’re still working hard every day to get better at what we do, but it just shows that with technology and a culture that is so customer focused, you can win new business and be highly successful.”

Catapult Print
Services: Print solutions company specializing in labels

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