Marley Engineered Products has grown by leaps and bounds with an adept combination of acquisitions and new product development. Eric C. Peterson reports on the company’s recent initiatives to bolster its production and customer service.
The year 2000 was a huge one for what was then known as Marley Electric Heating. First, the Bennettsville, S.C.-based company kicked off a $13.3 million expansion project tied to its acquisitions of Leading Edge in 1998 and Patton Building and Industrial Supply Products in 1999. Those purchases brought additions to an already extensive product line, necessitating the addition of 150,000 square feet of manufacturing space and the creation of 150 new jobs.
“This offers us a tremendous growth opportunity because it expands our available market by about 500 percent,” Dennis Porzio, the company’s president, said when the expansion was announced.
Second, from the acquisitions and expansion emerged a “new” company, at least in name. Marley Electric Heating officially became Marley Engineered Products (MEP) “to reflect the wide product range that we now offer,” according to Porzio. “We have increased our investment by $30 million, representing a 65 percent increase over previous investment levels. The new name better represents the broader range of engineered value-added products that we are now making. It also expands our scope, which will better serve future product line additions and growth.”
MEP designs, manufactures and sells an extensive line of electric-heating and air-moving products for commercial, industrial and residential applications. The company makes everything from baseboard heaters to unit heaters, portable heaters, commercial cabinet heaters, architectural convectors, infrared heaters, air curtains, air circulators, specialty products and more.
MEP’s various product designs use fan-forced, resistance, convection-radiant, hydronic and storage technologies, which meet most international standards. Its long list of brand names includes Berko, QMark, Fahrenheat, Aztec, Power Cat, Air Hog, Marley Engineered Products and Marley Industrial Products. Through its King Company division, MEP also provides air systems for the food-processing industry, heat exchangers and makeup heating units.
MEP’s large-wattage, fan-forced wall heaters and unit heaters are generally specified for a variety of commercial and industrial applications. The company’s infrared radiant heaters are designed for both indoor and outdoor spot-heating applications. Its hydronic static convection heaters feature the heating of a liquid to provide longer heat retention. Its “step-up” baseboard heater is generally best suited for applications requiring lower operating temperatures and higher comfort levels in places like residences, retirement homes and health-care facilities.
The company’s ventilation products, meanwhile, are designed for residential, commercial and industrial applications. According to Chris English, supervisor and marketing support coordinator, these range “from small floor air circulators to heavy-duty air curtains used in automotive or food-processing plants.” MEP’s products meet Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Canadian Standards listings, and its manufacturing is certified for ISO 9001.
MEP distributes its expansive product lines through major electrical and mechanical wholesalers, as well as through do-it-yourself and home-improvement retailers. While its distribution network is still largely domestic, about 5 percent of its sales now come from offshore customers. Recent company initiatives have opened up growth opportunities in Canada, Japan and Central Europe, according to English.
“New product development is obviously a very important part of our strategy,” he adds. “Our ongoing product development efforts draw upon the knowledge and resources of the engineering and marketing groups within the company, as well as our diverse network of distributors, agents and customers, to introduce new products, execute product redesigns and introduce product line extensions.
“We initiate the new product development process by soliciting ideas from a wide variety of external sources,” English explains. “Requirements and specifications are solicited from architects and engineers by our sales managers, distributors and agents, both directly and through direct-mail campaigns. We similarly solicit ideas from utility operators and contractors.”
The Temperature Rises
MEP traces its current configuration back to 1982, when Berko Electric was acquired by Marley Company, then a producer of water pumps. Four years later, the company opted to venture into making heating products. It purchased both Square D’s electric heat division and Emerson Electric’s Cromalox heat division. The latter two acquisitions “quickly turned us into the top manufacturer of electric-heating products in North America,” English says.
In 1993, the company was acquired by United Dominion Industries, a $2 billion firm with more than 13,000 employees in 20 countries. With the late-1990s acquisitions of Leading Edge and Patton Building and Industrial Products, “we ventured beyond the heating industry with a wide range of counter-seasonal ventilation products,” English adds.
Porzio gives plenty of credit to MEP’s work force, which now totals about 800, for “supporting past growth and making the business a success. Our average employee service is 13 years, and we have numerous employees that have been with the company for much longer than that. This demonstrates the strong work ethic and loyalty of our employees.”
New Paths to Growth
Earlier this year, this forward-thinking company introduced a new scheduling system, which is designed to streamline its planning process and improve customer service. The Advanced Planning System, or APS, “enhanced our existing material-requirements planning system and replaced it as our shop-floor scheduling system,” says Jerry Hatcher, MEP’s production control manager. The APS launched with the parallel pathing of MEP’s Baseboard Department. The old and new systems were paralleled so that they could be compared and analyzed, and so that any glitches could be more readily worked out, according to Hatcher.
Besides the massive manufacturing space expansion, MEP is continually improving its physical plant. The past year, for example, has seen the build-out of new 2,000 square-foot offices for the shipping/receiving and quality-assurance functions, as well as a new 250-person capacity training center. Also within the last year, MEP unveiled a new Web site, www.marleymep.com, a joint venture between the company’s Information Services Department and its Marketing Support Department. The biggest change from the company’s old site is that this one is maintained in house instead of by an outside contractor. “That provides us with greater ability to change, update and generally improve it, giving us greater flexibility and control,” explains David Matthews, the company’s network technician.
“Let me assure you,” Porzio says, “that all of these changes are being done to ensure continuity of service and a focus on service-level improvements.”