German Mayer & Cie is celebrating its 111th anniversary
With sales up by more than 10 % in 2015, a record order level in the first half of 2016 and a market share of around 20 per cent, there are no longer any signs of the difficulties that forced Mayer & Cie. (MCT) to file for scheduled insolvency in 2009
Anything but. This year the circular knitting machine manufacturer is likely to make 200 more machines than last year and to further increase its sales revenue. Capacities are being increased at all production sites. The new factory in Vsetín, Czech Republic, is nearly finished and the Czech subsidiary is about to move into the 5000 square metre production building.
Over the past ten years the circular knitting machine market has reached a volume of about 300,000 machines. The market is highly fragmented, with many small-scale manufacturers. Mayer & Cie.’s share of the global circular knitting machine market is between 15 and 20 per cent in value terms.
That makes the Albstadt-based knitting machine manufacturer the market heavyweight, and Mayer & Cie. has every intention of achieving this position in respect of the number of machines sold.
Benjamin Mayer, Managing Director of Mayer & Cie., says that “we have good preconditions for increasing the number of machines sold with our Double Jersey and Jacquard machines and with the S and the D line.”
In 2016 the knitting machine manufacturer can look back on EUR 91 million in previous year’s sales at the main factory in Albstadt-Tailfingen alone. Group sales in 2015 totalled around EUR 100 million. In Tailfingen 330 people help make circular knitting machines and around 450 employees are on the Group’s global payroll. The Mayer sales network consists of about 80 representatives all over the world. In 2015 Mayer & Cie. manufactured and sold over 1300 machines; this year’s total is likely to be 1500.
Capacities are more than fully booked at all production locations – in Albstadt, Vsetin and Shanghai. The new factory in the Czech Republic with a production area of 5,000 square metres was opened in early summer 2016. Mayer & Cie. China moved into larger and more representative premises in May 2015. The MSC 3.2, a machine specially developed for the Chinese market, is assembled there, as – since January 2015 – is the corresponding Double Jersey machine, the MDC 2.2.
Demand situation in 2016
For Mayer & Cie. the demand situation is currently outstanding. MCT Sales Director Wolfgang Müller says the trend to high-quality machines was apparent at last year’s ITMA industry fair. “The trend runs through the entire market, from Bangladesh to the United States, and the quality segment, such as Double Jersey or Jacquard machines, has always been our strong point,” he says.
In addition the tried and trusted MCT quality a variety of factors are increasingly leading customers back to the longstanding Albstadt-based company. One is the trend toward sustainability. More goods are being produced locally to local standards and requirements. In procurement the trend is toward closer to home, which eliminates long shipping routes and gives buyers greater flexibility. Time to market is the keyword, MCT Sales Director Müller says. The fashion industry is enormously short-lived and requires short response times that are virtually impossible over long distances. In short, “along with the increasing importance attached to quality more goods are being produced in the traditional textile markets, where Mayer & Cie. is very well established,” Müller explains.
When Wolfgang Müller refers to traditional nearby textile markets he mainly means Turkey, where customers are ordering many high-quality Jacquard and Double Jersey machines. More distant regions with a long textile industry tradition, especially in Central and South America, are also placing more orders. Economic circumstances, including exchange rates, are also responsible for the increase in demand from, say, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil. But the No. 1 market is China.
Mayer & Cie. and its customers
Satisfied customers and successful collaboration over many years are an important basis for Mayer & Cie.’s success. Worldwide the company has an estimated 2000 to 3000 customers who regularly buy MCT machines and whose machine park consists largely of MCT machines. They include a fair number of customers who have stood by Mayer & Cie. since the mid-twentieth century.
Hans-Jürgen Speidel, General Manager of the lingerie manufacturer Speidel in Bodelshausen, has relied on Mayer machines for years. Speidel knits its own fabrics and last year took delivery of the 70000th Mayer & Cie. circular knitting machine.
“We appreciate the constantly high quality, the high level of machine know-how and the continuity of Mayer & Cie. Special requirements that we have of our new machines for production reasons are reliably taken into account and implemented in the course of development,” Speidel says.
Mayer & Cie. (MCT) is one of Germany’s most innovative SMBs. On 24 June the Albstadt-based knitting machine manufacturer won a Top 100 award – the most recent proof, but by no means the only one, of Mayer & Cie.’s innovative capacity. Others include the spinning and knitting machine, over 300 patents and registered designs, a succession of major developments for the entire industry and, last not least, longstanding loyal customers who are leaders in their respective markets. The claim always to be “a step ahead” of the competition, as the late senior director Emil Mayer put it in 1971, is as relevant now as it was back then.
Investing in innovation
Since 1965 Mayer & Cie. has maintained its own research and development department at its Albstadt head office location. Year by year the company invests about five per cent of its sales revenue in this area, and that is above the industry average. About seven per cent of its employees work in development and design. Sales staff and representatives – currently numbering 80 or so worldwide – travel around not only to sell machines but also understand what might gain customers a competitive advantage in the future.
“In principle it is always a matter of offering machines that deliver even better performance and greater efficiency,” says Managing Director Benjamin Mayer. “Speeds, outages and waste are the key factors on which we are constantly working. Another important aspect is the energy efficiency of our products. And sustainability plays an increasingly important role, regardless of the market.”
Innovation as the central corporate value
Mayer & Cie. currently holds 320 patents (i.e. patent families) and registered designs in its area of business, the oldest of which dates back to 1938. About 50 patent applications in recent years relate to the spinning and knitting technology alone. In this connection the most recent patent applied for was only published in June. It was for the Fancy module, a process that enables entirely new and unique patterns to be created on the Spinit.
These patents testify to the creative power that Mayer & Cie. sees as a central corporate value. It is one that is as old as the company itself. Back in the early years, between 1905 and 1935, the inventor
Johannes Mayer, who co-founded the firm, dedicated himself to technical improvement of the circular hosiery machines that MCT initially manufactured. When he and his son Emil Mayer decided in 1935 to develop and manufacture circular knitting machines of their own, it took them only three years to go into series production. With the electromagnetic pattern machine in 1971 or electronic single needle selection in 1983, Mayer & Cie. was likewise, in keeping with Emil Mayer’s guiding principle, at least a step ahead of the competition.
Innovation requires courage
“To be innovative means to be persistent,” says Benjamin Mayer. “It also requires courage. There is always a risk that the development expenditure will end up not being worthwhile. Along with great successes such as the OVJA 36 or the Relanit machines there have, of course, been blind alleys.”
Fears of that kind led to the spinitsystems spinning and knitting technology being put to the test. In the course of Mayer & Cie.’s scheduled insolvency in 2009 niche machines were eliminated from the product range. The reason why the spinning and knitting project was not axed was the prospect of at least being able to exhibit a prototype at the 2011 ITMA. In 2015 MCT exhibited the production- ready model – and a totally new approach to producing knitted fabric.
“Not every new development may prove to be a success, but we still benefit to some extent,” Benjamin Mayer says. “Many a customer prefers to buy from the most innovative rather than from the lowest-cost manufacturer. We noticed this effect after the 2011 ITMA, for example, especially among our Indian customers.”
Innovation for the future
“We will take care to ensure that we stay at the top with our new developments,” Emil Mayer said, underscoring the company’s claim in 1965. There has been no change since then. Today, his grandsons Benjamin, Marcus and Sebastian Mayer, the fourth generation of the family firm’s owners, back this promise. They are investing not only in the development of circular knitting technology but also, recently, in a start-up company that deals mainly in smart energy management. Interfaces with the circular knitting machine manufacturer are intentional and exist. An important feature of the solution developed by the start-up, GridSystronic Energy, is the possibility of connecting plant and machinery of all kinds and of servicing and maintaining them remotely. For an engineering company whose knitting machines are to be found all over the world that is, indeed, a highly relevant aspect.
Mayer & Cie. (MCT) currently has about 50 machines in a product portfolio that offers the full range of machines required to manufacture modern textiles. More than 30 per cent of Mayer & Cie.’s circular knitting machines have been around for six years at most. They include the Relanit 3.2 HS, which sets yet more standards in its category. At the same time 60 % of the machines the company has ever sold are still in the market. That means 42000 knitting machines with the green Mayer logo on which knitters all over the world rely.
A quality promise
“Our circular knitting machines […] offer you a means of production that fulfils the highest demands. They are not just ‘knitting machines’ but new machines painstakingly designed from scratch in years of hard work using the latest technology and manufactured by the most highly skilled personnel.”
Reading like a quality promise from any current sales prospectus, these words are in reality nearly 80 years old. The statement dates back to 1938 and is taken from one of Mayer & Cie.’s first circular knitting machine brochures. “Today as back then, our aim is to offer our customers optimal machines,” says Mayer & Cie. Managing Director Marcus Mayer. “To quote my late uncle, Rainer Mayer, ‘We sell customer success and not just knitting machines’.”
A comprehensive young portfolio
For its customers’ success Mayer & Cie. currently has on offer a product portfolio of about 50 machines. With this comprehensive portfolio Mayer & Cie. covers the entire range of machines required for manufacturing modern textiles. Fabrics for household textiles, sportswear, nightwear and swimwear, seat covers, underwear and technical textiles are all knitted on MCT machines.
Just over one in three of the machines in the Mayer & Cie. portfolio have only been on offer since 2010 at the earliest. For single machines the proportion is even higher: over 40 % have been around for six years or less. In addition there have been continuous improvements to existing machines. Further development has also constantly benefited central components such as the drive unit, cam parts or the oiler. The improvements include energy benefits. The latest Relanit machine uses about 30 per cent less energy than a conventional knitting machine.
Mayer machines knit for longer
The OVJA 36, launched at the 1967 ITMA in Basle, was the first double piqué Jacquard machine capable of manufacturing Jacquard-patterned yard goods up to a fineness of E 24. The loop structure that it delivered was significantly more closely knitted than had previously been possible. Threads that were not looped on the front were no longer to be seen in the pattern. This machine quickly became the “knitters’ favourite” and about 7000 were sold. Customers were prepared to wait for up to three years for the machine. The OVJA 36 became world-famous and remains legendary to this day.
Since they were launched in 1987 the popularity of Relanit machines has been unbroken. Around 10000 have been sold, which amounts to one in seven Mayer machines ever sold. In a single machine with relative technology the distance the thread travels is halved because needle and sinker move toward each other. As a result there are fewer turning points for the yarn, which in turn leads to fewer sources of error. Even though the relative technology patent expired in 2003 it has yet to be imitated, and that cannot be because the machines are unpopular. The current model, the Relanit 3.2 HS, can be relied upon to attract attention at any trade fair and is one of the best sellers in the Mayer & Cie. range.
60 % of all MCT circular knitting machines ever sold are still in the market. With more than 70000 machines sold to date, that means about 42000 Mayer machines around the world are still knitting. Statistically, they should include 6000 Relanit machines and over 4000 OVJA 36s.
“Another interesting fact is that machines which went unnoticed for a few years suddenly become popular once more when somebody discovers a new use for them,” Marcus Mayer says. “But that only works because the machines are so well engineered that even after ten years they are anything but any old iron. The MCPE 2.4 is a current example of a ‘rediscovery’ of this kind.” An electronic machine, it produces Jacquard plush fabrics in up to 12 colours. It knits any design it is given as a free design or draft. Today the machine is used in the household textiles segment. After long years of a lull in demand it was on show once more at the 2015 ITMA.