A newly engineered lifting system is raising the bar when it comes to the manual handling of goods thanks to Desford-based business, M J Products. The advanced manufacturing business has used a grant from the Leicestershire Collaborate project to purchase equipment which is proving to be a significant game changer for the company.

M J Products was formed by engineer Mark Jackson in 2009. With over 25 years’ experience in the design and manufacture of products for handling Mark set up the business to design and develop a bespoke lifting solution, initially for Dunelm Mill. His products primarily use patented foot operated lifting technology with lightweight manoeuvrable lifting equipment for handling loads – whatever it may be – of up to 250kg, removing the need for manual handling.

The business operates as a design and supply business creating bespoke solutions to companies including Euro Car Parts, Decathlon, Argos as well as Dunelm Mill with over 30 different products in their range designed to specific customer requirements.

Mark brought manufacturing in-house in 2017 and one of the key drivers in doing this was the development for VanMate, a version of his products which uses an innovative lightweight modular lifter. VanMate can be quickly disassembled and loaded into the van to enable remote delivery of goods without the need for a separate handling device at customer or satellite operations.

A Collaborate grant of £25,000 has helped towards the purchase of a press brake – sheet metal folding equipment – which means they can make VanMate in-house overcoming their challenges in sourcing repeatable and accurate folded parts from local suppliers, also reducing lead times and saving money in sub-contracting. The grant has also helped towards the purchase of a new demo van fitted out with VanMate technology and company livery enabling them to demonstrate the new system on customer sites. It is already used by Euro Car Parts for daily delivery of 205-litre oil drums, reconditioned engines and gearboxes to customers across the UK.

Mark commented: “The funding has allowed e to invest in the business and develop a manufacturing infrastructure to enable growth. The new press break has enabled us to accelerate new product development and production. This is a very exciting time for M J Products as we get ready to showcase VanMate and our other products for the first time at the Commercial Vehicle Show later this month.

“An increase in turnover on last year has meant we have employed one new person and we expect our new manufacturing facilities will allow us to grow through significant improvement in responsiveness, leading to an additional full-time role. Without this funding, it would have been a lot more difficult to move forward with our innovations. We already have an order worth £100,000 for VanMate and our turnover forecast for next year looks set to nearly double, nearing the £800,000 mark.”

Joanne Maltby, Business Adviser for Collaborate/Growth Hub has supported the business. She said: “It’s been a pleasure to support M J Products. Mark is not just a clever engineer, he’s a first-class innovator and I am thrilled that he is starting to see a return on the time and effort he has put into building his business and developing products. There are so many potential applications for VanMate and the substantial increases in turnover and staffing are just the tip of what is set to be a considerable growth curve.”

Although Collaborate funding has now been allocated the project continues to offer free, specialist business advice along with a range of business growth workshops. Businesses interested in future funding should complete a simple enquiry form to discuss their needs with an adviser.

Collaborate is funded through the European Regional Development Fund and partners Leicester City Council, Leicestershire County Council, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire) and the Food and  Drink Forum.

Further details about Collaborate can be seen here.

Pic1: Mark Jackson, Managing Director MJ Products with the VanMate.

Pic2: Lee Kendall, Process Technician operates the new press brake machine creating parts for the VanMate.

Pic3: VanMate parts are welded together inhouse at MJ Products

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