MasterMover Talk Handling Equipment To HSS
Passion For Traction -
Andy Owen has been managing director of MasterMover since 2007. Here, he talks to Simon Duddy about the company's ethos, new products on the horizon, and how he has developed the company in recent years, expanding into new industries and territories, such as Brazil.
Simon Duddy: What makes MasterMover tick? Andy Owen: We think a lot about traction, it's important to us. If you want to put extra weight on a unit to develop traction, it's a restrictive and inefficient way of doing it. What makes us stand out is our patented design that allows customers to move heavy loads with relatively light equipment.
Our industrial tug range uses a weight transfer principle, and utilises a hydraulic lifting device, which sits over the top of the drive wheel.
When our interface connects with the coupling system, it creates an upwards force. We're using some of the weight of the load to generate a tractive effort.
But it's not just about moving the load, smooth operation is key and we deliver this. The operator only needs to concern himself with steering, if he wants to stop he simply lets go, and in a controlled manner, the tug comes to a stop.
All products are AC driven. This allows us to programme the machines. For example, for in the pharmaceuticals industry we could be moving a 1,500kg load carrying fluid. The customer doesn't want abrupt stops that move the fluid, they want very controlled movement.
In essence, a machine can have a host of technologies - motors, control systems, electronics, to create power and drive, but if the wheel is spinning on the floor, the power is worthless. Traction is key and that is what we have mastered.
In addition, we are proud to be a UK owned manufacturer that designs and builds its own products.
SD: Can you tell me other ways in which your products are used? AO: Our equipment is perfect for where people are. The machines are pedestrian operated, safe in comparison to forklifts and easy to pick up and use. They don't have the restrictions of licensing associated with forklifts. We're seeing customers say they want to move away from using forklifts inside premises.
There is greater demand for space, it cannot be wasted, companies want to use space for valued production, not as space for forklifts to operate.
It can be expensive to add extensions and buy new premises, so there is an imperative to maximise space. These companies can achieve this with our smaller machines.
In factories that manufacture high volume products, our tugs are used to move products and components from point to point in the manufacturing process. Interestingly, in low volume, high value manufacturing (such as aerospace), the tug can become the semi-automated track. The product becomes a low cost 'conveyor', if you like.
SD: Tell us more about the safety benefits of using your machines? AO: The use of the tugs reduces the risk of manual handling injuries. We do a lot of work in the healthcare and retail sectors, which are very reliant on roll cages. One person generally will move one roll cage manually and these can carry 500kg.
Our Smart Mover takes the strain off operatives. In addition, it increases efficiency. It is a small device and is capable of moving multiple cages. We've had feedback from retail users saying it resembles a hoover, it's dead easy to use, hooks up to the first cage, and we've developed systems to allow the tug to pull a train. We find that safety and efficiency improvements go hand-in-hand.
SD: Can we expect to see any new products soon? AO: We will launch two new products next year, one for the industrial market and one for the healthcare market.
We're also always looking at new conversions and adapters for the machines. The attachment side is very important, and has to be designed well. We test our attachments thoroughly as customers may want to move 8 tonnes point to point, and will want it to work in a straightforward way.
It is important in the healthcare market, for example, to make sure machines can interact with the various equipment clients have, while at the same time being as intuitive and easy to use as possible. After all, lots of people in healthcare are not accustomed to using industrial equipment. There is a learning curve.
SD: As a business, how have you coped with the downturn? AO: In a number of ways. For one, we feel in slower times companies spend longer on the procurement process, which works in our favour.
Companies are looking more closely at improving efficiency and this gives us the opportunity to present our offer and get them to look at their processes differently.
Exports have also been important.
We've always exported but in 2007, when I took over as md, we began to push the exports side more, albeit that we decided to take it in bite-sized chunks. We built the foundation before the recession, so that after 2009 when the manufacturing side slipped in the UK, we were already growing exports. For example, we now have over 100 machines in Brazil, and we started that connection in 2008. Our business has been growing at about 15% per year since 2007, with exports contributing significantly. In 2007 less than 5% of our business was exports, this year it will be close to 40%.
Thirdly, our diversification into other sectors, such as healthcare, helped when the economy slowed.