Machine tool group buys assets of Hardinge UK and Bridgeport

Posted on 15 Mar 2013

Engineering Technology Group in Southam has purchased the sales, service and distribution business of Hardinge UK in phase one of a management buyout that aims to “revitalise a great British brand” – Bridgeport.

The group, which represents 10 machine tool brands in the UK, has purchased Hardinge UK’s sales and service business while Hardinge maintains a manufacturing facility in Leicester. Following the deal group sales are forecast to reach £25 million in 2013.

The deal includes ownership of the sales and distribution license for Bridgeport, a machine tool brand acquired by US multinational Hardinge in 2004. Bridgeport has always been a popular brand for lathes in the UK so the group, known as EGT, have badged the deal as “reviving a great British manufacturing name.”

Phase two of the MBO, orchestrated by managing director John Temple, is to buy more assets of the US multinational to establish ETG as the single agent for all aspects of Hardinge and Bridgeport, including the workholding products, in the UK.

ETG says it has very specialised sales engineers who focus on one engineering capability, providing a niche service.

This approach will be continued, but with the additional sales offices and customers of the Hardinge business, ETG now has the backing of a national service network.

From left: Paul Rhodes, chairman ETG, John McTernan, managing director European Sales and Marketing for Hardinge Group, John Temple, managing director, ETG, Martin Doyle, sales director ETG

ETG’s John Temple said. “It’s a very exciting time for us. Through this acquisition we have completed pretty much a complete set of machining capabilities in our portfolio of products. We have always tried to take a different approach to the big, single brand Japanese and German companies by tailoring everything we offer to the customers’ needs.”

Asked if the Hardinge and Bridgeport machines would compete with some existing ETG machines, like the Taiwanese Feeler, group chairman Paul Rhodes said: “There is some crossover, but we’ve done our analysis and it is very minimal. This range we offer genuinely represents machining capabilities for different applications that are distinctive from one another – for example high volume, rapid, large workpiece jobs for aerospace on our Chiron and Handtmann machining centres to smaller run, work where the tolerances are required to be less precise on our Feeler lathes.”

Mr Rhodes added that from the start ETG has tried to create a business with a breadth of engineering solutions which are tailored to specific customer needs, rather than simply offering a fixed range of lathes or turning centres. ETG’s sales agents are specialists, he said, in turning or milling or grinding technology, but only in that field, which helps them give value-add. “This pseudo-subsidiary, technical excellence approach, now backed by a global brand and its UK footprint, really positions us strongly and we are expecting strong growth in 2013.”

Bridgeport had an important position in the British subcontract engineering industry from the 1950s to the 1090s, with its own UK factory.

“Many people started their careers with Bridgeport and its bosses were big players at the MTA [Manufacturing Technologies Association],” says Andy Sandford, press relations consultant for ETG. “Everywhere you went in a British factory you would see rows of Bridgeport machines. It was one of the major companies in the industry in the UK and there is nothing really like it now.”

ETG was established in 1996 as a dealership for Chiron Werke machining centres. It has grown since then to incorporate 10 machine tool brands, including workholding brand Hyfore. It has now launched an engineering consultancy, Engineering Solutions, and a finance arm.

It is the only multi-machine tool brand consortium in the UK and Mr Rhodes thinks its model is unique in the world.