Remember the days when computer printers were large and noisy?
So large that they printed whole lines at a time, using a series of print heads at speeds of up to 2,500 lines a minute.
So noisy that you couldn’t work in the same room – unless they were enclosed in acoustic cabinets, lined with foam, to absorb the sound.
That was the market where Chesterfield-based TMAT Acoustic Technologies cut its teeth.
The company went through a series of ownerships, becoming part of Bradford-based British Mohair in the 1970s and then being owned by a US company that hit financial problems, before passing through the hands of private owners.
It was during that time that TMAT was acquired by a company that also made cabs for tractors and moved from soundproofing printers to vehicles.
TMAT became part of a private engineering group with operations in Telford that made soundproofing for car makers Bentley and Aston Martin and van manufacturer LDV and another factory in Loughborough.
When LDV collapsed in 2009, after a series of failed rescue attempts, and Aston Martin halted production for 12 weeks because of the impact of the recession, TMAT’s parent group also hit financial problems.
After helping administrators PwC to run the group, Jason Lippitt came up with a plan to buy the business, focus on what it did best and bring its operations together under one roof in Chesterfield. “I knew what the strategy had to be,” says Jason.
“The best thing we could do was ‘stick to our knitting’ and concentrate on soundproofing tractors. We knew what we were going to make, we knew who was going to buy it and why they should buy it.”
Jason was sure that TMAT had the products that demanding, blue-chip customers like JCB, Caterpillar, Case New Holland and John Deere required, but the company had been held back by being starved of investment.
“There had been no investment in skills and the business was dramatically undercapitalised,” Jason recalls.
A search for financial backers ended in a deal with Advent Partners, the private investment group that specialises in providing working capital to assist the growth and development of Midlands-based manufacturing SMEs.
“I can’t speak highly enough of them,” says Jason. “They were there when no-one else was there for me.
“We capitalised the business and started making proper money.
“Since then we have invested heavily in the site. We have done our best to up-skill our people, bought new plant and equipment for the shop floor and built a new development lab.
“Every single person, from management to cleaners, has been trained and about two per cent of our revenue is going back into research and development – probably more as we have some exciting projects coming up.”