Better of British: Exporting excellence to all corners of the globe

Though New Milton-based collator producer Col-Tec was formally based in 2000, the origins of the enterprise could be traced again to 1975. That’s when Paul Bailey’s father Mike began making Setmaster collators from his storage and residential workplace in Manchester.

Within the early days the entire engineering and manufacturing was sub-contracted as Mike Bailey didn’t have the house to do it himself. However simply six months after organising the enterprise he invited a former colleague to affix him and round a yr after its creation the corporate’s merchandise have been promoting so properly the companions moved right into a small manufacturing unit.

Quick ahead to the late 1980s and John Bailey joined Setmaster recent out of faculty. He helped set up the corporate’s title as one of many main producers of collating tools globally, however then within the mid 1990s, Bailey and the son-in-law of his father’s enterprise accomplice turned second-generation homeowners of the enterprise.

“For us it was like an organized marriage,” remembers Bailey. “We didn’t select one another. We have been totally different folks, we have been a unique age group, totally different nationalities, totally different tradition and we had totally different concepts. I supplied to purchase him out however he didn’t need to try this.

The one decision I noticed match on the time – as a result of it was having a harmful impact on Setmaster – was ‘you purchase me out for a smaller quantity and I can strategy any member of workers I need to. I’ll arrange my very own firm and we are going to combat it out within the open market’.”

Bailey says he had a couple of essential issues in his favour when he determined to take the choice: he had youth, he believed he was extra decided and competent than his rival, plus he had his father, who he invited to affix the brand new firm.

“He was ‘Mr Setmaster’,” says Bailey. “The collating guru of the business and you can not purchase that type of expertise and information. Having his help and recommendation was fairly actually priceless.”

Bailey cherry picked 10 of the perfect Setmaster staff, which, he says, ripped the center out of his former enterprise.

“That’s not what I wished to do,” he explains. “I wished to purchase my accomplice out. He was in his late 50s on the time and I used to be in my early 30s, so it simply made sense that I might give him a pleasant sum of cash, we might shake fingers and every little thing could be properly with the world. He didn’t need to try this so I had no selection, however go down the route I did.”

New starting

Bailey and his new crew moved to a facility round 45 minutes drive from Setmaster’s manufacturing unit and instantly began engaged on a model new vary of collating merchandise.

“There was no level in being a Setmaster MK II, so I mentioned ‘what haven’t we performed at Setmaster?’ We have been providing the market a variety of machines, however these have been merchandise that we had determined to design and construct. So we had a complete bunch of merchandise on the shelf and you possibly can have a look at {the catalogue} and try to discover a machine that greatest suit your wants as a buyer.”

Nonetheless, Bailey wished to supply a extra bespoke strategy. He additionally realised there was a chance to enhance on the Setmaster and goal a brand new viewers.

“The Setmaster pace was getting a bit gradual so we went about redesigning the drive mechanism in order that we might get extra pace and that was a radical change in engineering,” he says. “Then we determined that relatively than go for the standard product – notably as a result of we have been ranging from scratch and from a smaller foundation than Setmaster – we might deal with {custom} builds. That was the trick as a result of {custom} constructing leads you into all types of bizarre doorways that you simply by no means knew existed, and by placing your self on the market and opening your self up, the market says ‘are you able to do that and might you try this?’”

Bailey admits that there was nothing notably revolutionary concerning the first machine to roll off Col-Tec’s new manufacturing line aside from the truth that the eight-station B3 format collator was quicker than Setmaster merchandise. He additionally intentionally determined to focus on B3 relatively than A3 as a result of this dimension machine was extra generally utilized in Europe.

Though he had left Setmaster behind Bailey didn’t totally lower off his ties to the enterprise. He was supremely assured that the brand new Col-Tec merchandise would acquire traction within the UK market, however globally the model was a whole unknown. Therefore within the first 5 or so years of the corporate’s existence he purchased, refurbished and re-sold plenty of used Setmaster machines to abroad clients.

As a result of we have been Setmaster folks initially we have been properly certified and capable of do a job nearly as good as, and fairly frankly higher, than the folks left at Setmaster,” says Bailey. “In order that was our technique. Let’s get the brand new Col-Tec machine properly established within the UK, let’s get into the abroad market off the again of the Setmaster model by promoting purchasers refurbished Setmasters after which over time these refurbished machines would get changed with new Col-Tec collators. This technique allowed us to introduce the Col-Tec model into a number of abroad markets.”

The strategy paid off, to the extent {that a} struggling Setmaster ultimately fell into administration within the late 2000s and Bailey was lastly capable of snap up the enterprise he had initially hankered after. Focusing on the personalized facet of the collating market additionally labored out. Bailey says the corporate’s machines are utilized by a variety of companies and market sectors, from POS supplies by means of to firms that wrap tissue round flowers, and though some folks select to purchase an off the shelf mannequin, it’s the bespoke machines which have served the enterprise properly.

“20 years in the past we used to get the remark ‘you’ve solely acquired one other 5 years supplying collators as a result of the market is altering, it’s turning into a paperless world, so you could consider one other product’,” says Bailey. “That might have been true if we had stayed doing what we did 20 years in the past, which was supplying collators for enterprise types for calendars, for booklets and brochures. However right this moment we’re one minute supplying a collator for a particular construct Braille utility, and the subsequent we’re supplying a machine that’s collating a set of sandpaper with totally different grades of abrasive rub.”

He provides that finally he sees the corporate as a provider to the printing business and “allied trades” as a result of among the customised collating options Col-Tec delivers don’t contain paper merchandise.

We are saying that we’re collating specialists versus providing collating machines,” continues Bailey. “It’s in our titlewe provide collating know-how options.”

He admits that among the customised builds the corporate has undertaken have at instances been daunting, however as a result of Col-Tec has been delivering custom-built fashions for almost 20 years, he says that most of the time he can have a look at a earlier job for a unique buyer and apply these learnings to the brand new fee.

“So relatively than begin with a clear sheet of paper nowadays we’re drawing on a earlier consumer’s construct for 50% or extra of the design that we want. It’s by no means simple, but it surely will get simpler the longer and the extra you do it.”

Bailey says that basically the machines the corporate manufactures right this moment are related in some ways to the early iterations. However one mannequin that’s radically totally different by way of what it could actually obtain in contrast with the corporate’s authentic collators is the Sensible collator Col-Tec launched round 4 years in the past.

Traditionally, no matter you collated, the sequence you have been delivering on the finish of the collator was repeated,” he explains. “So if you happen to have been collating a calendar you’ll collate January to December with a back and front cowl and each set coming off was the identical. The distinction with the Sensible collator is the sequencing of the set coming off the tip of the collator could be – at its most excessivea unique set each single cycle of the machine, so no two units want essentially be the identical.”

Going ahead he has excessive hopes for the Sensible collator and he’s already working up plans to increase the corporate’s present facility in New Milton to accommodate a step up in exercise. At present, the enterprise, which employs 30 folks and has an annual turnover of round £2m, operates from a 1,100sqm facility, however he intends so as to add an extension taking the manufacturing unit footprint to round 1,400sqm subsequent yr.

Bailey anticipates that most of the orders for the Sensible collator will come from all around the globe. The export market at present accounts for round 80% of Col-Tec’s turnover and the corporate has bought machines to locations as numerous as Iran and Sudan. Regardless of this reliance on exports Bailey is fast to level out that the UK stays the corporate’s single greatest market and he’s extremely happy with Col-Tec’s British heritage.

“I do really feel that each time we put a machine abroad we’re planting a British flag someplace,” says Bailey. “I’m very proud that it is a wholly made British product and I really like saying that we’re selling model GB and exporting it across the 4 corners of the globe.”


A prototype of Col-Tec’s Sensible collator was unveiled at Ipex 2015 and though it took a few years to get the machine to market, for the previous two to 3 years Col-Tec has been “promoting the Sensible collator in anger” to clients within the UK, the US and Australia. Bailey thinks that the machine goes to be a giant a part of the corporate’s operations over the subsequent 5 years or so. On the different finish of the spectrum, Bailey singles out the personalized Braille collator the corporate initially developed for the RNIB within the UK. The corporate has already bought a handful of fashions of the Braille collator into Brazil and the US and Bailey says every time Col-Tec undertakes a customized construct for a person buyer he’s all the time looking out for different world markets he can promote variations of the machine into.

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