Matbro lays the foundations for a full recovery

30 April 1999

Matbro lays the foundations for a full recovery

Almost overnight, from being

one of the UKs largest

telehandler manufacturers

Matbro sank into relative

obscurity. In a frank and

open interview with the

companys new managing

director, Andy Collings

discovered what went wrong

and where the future may lie

THE last 18 months have not been an easy time for Matbro as it struggled to recover from the financial fracas of last year – a scandal which not only threatened to close Matbro down but one which rocked parent company Powerscreen to the point that its share prices tumbled virtually out of sight.

It is a situation which is still being investigated by the fraud squad.

Sale of design and manufacturing rights of Matbros telescopic handlers to John Deere meant production ceased and employees at the companys Tetbury site was reduced from over 400 to just 41.

Overall, it was a gloomy situation new managing director Michael Rice inherited when he was brought in to rescue the company last year.

"The place was in a mess," he concedes. "Communication bet-ween dealers, customers, suppliers and staff was bordering on the non-existent."

With no machine production the only source of revenue for the company was going to come from its parts and service business and sale of refurbished machines.

"You have to remember that since 1992, Matbro produced 10,000 loaders and we still have a commitment to supply parts and service for these machines," he says. "We decided we would market the parts through dealers, rather than selling direct. In this way we have retained important links with our dealers."

But even the parts department needed some drastic attention to get it to achieve an acceptable turn round. New stacking and computer recording systems had to be installed and the whole system retuned.

Mr Rice now believes Matbro offers the best parts service in the business.

Good as it may be, no business can survive indefinitely on supplying parts for machines that will ultimately reduce in number and eventually fade from view.

"When John Deere bought the design and manufacturing rights one of the stipulations was that Matbro did not design and build a telescopic loader for three years – that will be in April 2001."

There was no clause however affecting the production of loading shovels and over the last year Matbro has updated its 170hp LS 350 loader – improving, among other things, loader geometry and front axle design.

Currently under evaluation through months of demanding work in a local stone quarry, Mr Rice hopes board approval will result in an April, 2000 launch date with assembly taking place at Tetbury.

"In some ways the slump in machinery sales has worked for us," says Mr Rice. "It has meant people keeping their loaders longer, which has created extra spares business, and it has also given us time and the funds to design and develop new machines which we would hope to manufacture in the future.

"We have also learned some severe lessons from the past. The first is that a company cannot just manufacture and sell machines, there has to be a complete package of servicing and customer care to go with it. The second is that machines have to be built with a high degree of quality control, and the third is that new machines have to be tested extensively as prototypes before production starts."

Mr Rice believes Matbro does have a future in loader manufacture and that, with the lessons learned, his company can once again become a major player.

"We have had, and will have some quality products," he insists. "We still have substantial dealer support and, by definition, a good customer base."

A new millennium – a new Matbro? &#42

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