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May Group

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Signs for All Times
May Group relies on adaptability, to show staying power after 68 years in business

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The business now known as May Group International was founded by Richard R. May in Fort Worth, Texas back in 1946. And as the company’s leaders today – 68 years down the road – are quick to point out, it’s not simply positive habits and good products that keep them functioning for that long.

On the contrary, CEO Pat Meredith said, it takes a set of adaptive skills and leadership to guarantee the sustainability of both the organization and operation.  The culture continues to evolve to meet client’s changing needs, while never losing sight that peace of mind for clients is vital with each market and brand intuitive they launch.

“(Our longevity) points to one thing – the ability to evolve and innovate over a long period of time as the requirements of the consumer brands, the marketplace and the retail environments change,” Meredith said. “That’s something that’s critical to a brand. Our clients are many of the biggest most successful consumer brands in the world. They do business with us because our creativity keeps them in front of the customers and our operations make what we produce cost effective for them to be in front of their customers.”

Meredith oversees an entity that’s grown from humble beginnings as a sign company catering to local firms in and around Fort Worth.  An important milestone was reached when an area oil company came to MGI with a need for a changeable pricing system for gasoline advertising. The company developed and produced it, which led to the firm’s first nationwide family of products.

Ultimately MGI became the world’s largest manufacturer of aluminum gas price signs – a position it continues to maintain.

Today, MGI operates two business units. One is a catalog division, which also continues to be home for gas stations, convenience stores and fence and security companies, and comprises about 24 percent of the overall workload while producing an array of products for 8,000 to 10,000 customers. Many of these customers are either small mom-and-pop businesses or medium-sized regional players in their respective industries. The other unit is the custom visual branding segment, which deals with much larger entities like Pizza Hut, Boston Beer and many others.

“The principal advantage in our favor in both business units is one of simplicity of doing business, which speaks to our vertical integration,” Meredith said. “As the global economy has heated up and the world has gotten closer together, it infers a cost onto the business that most people don’t want to pay for – which has people saying ‘I’ve got six different vendors that I’m using to get one project completed.’

“The value that we bring is we are, basically, for lack of a better term, a one-stop shop. We build our own dies. We buy raw materials from the mills. We can laser-cut, fabricate, bend, fold and engineer, just about the entire assembly.  And then we inventory, pack, ship and distribute. Thousands and thousands of boxes are FedEx’d every month. That’s the value.”

May Group’s custom visual branding business unit designs, fabricates and manufactures custom visual branding pieces based on specific customer need, reflecting some of the most eye-catching award-winning design elements. With these capabilities, more creative displays emerged, attracting large consumer brands as well as edgy young retailers and up-and-coming product lines.

“Our clients now are a range of companies involved with advertising a brand,” Meredith said. “It’s actually everything from consumer product companies to marketing services companies to advertising agencies, along with logistics and program management companies.”

One of the May Group’s largest clients is North American Corp.’s supply chain-centric division, NVISION, which manages procurement, logistics and distribution for companies including Sam’s Club, Simmons and many others. MGI does the engineering drawings and production of the necessary display pieces for those brands and bulk ships them to the NVISION warehouse for distribution.

Nearly all the signs that are in a Sam’s Club, for example, were produced by May Group in Fort Worth, and between 65 and 70 percent of MGI’s clients are, as is the case with NVISION, once-removed from the end-user. The remaining 30 to 35 percent of the transactions are made directly to the brand.

MGI also has contracts with several customers who take advantage of the entire spectrum of services, while others use the company for specific areas where their needs are greatest.

Advertising agencies for example, Meredith said, handle their own design and brand-positioning functions, but look to May Group for engineering, production and bulk distribution. A market services company, on the other hand, is more logistics-oriented by definition, but would need counsel on the design side.

“We’re different for different companies,” he said. “We enter the value continuum at different points depending on who the client is.

A full-time staff of 100 is housed at the company’s Fort Worth headquarters – which have expanded to a 140,000-square-foot footprint – and a temporary workforce of between 150 and 160 is brought in for assembly, finishing and packing based on workload. The five-year plan will include the incorporation of equipment that can add capability or functionality, or increase productivity, while not calling for additional structures on the existing campus.

Case in point, MGI recently added 150-watt CO2 lasers to boost the company’s capacity for etching, cutting and engraving woods and plastics to create different components.  May Group completed  purchase in March of a state-of-the-art $500,000 digital printer that will print six times faster than existing equipment, at a higher resolution.

Another source of comfort for business partners: Nearly everything with the May Group’s name on it is manufactured domestically.

“That is a No. 1 selling point in many situations,” said Matt Shumate, the company’s director of business development. “You can see their eyes light up when we tell them “we’re bringing everything back from the Far East, we’re nearing 95 percent domestic manufacturing. It is one of our biggest selling points, and is becoming of greater importance to our client base year after year.”

MGI applies “Made in America” stickers to all the products it produces in Texas, which Meredith said is more than 93 percent of the company’s entire production output.

“There are very few things that we go to China for,” he said. “That is a point of pride, but it’s also become a major buying criterion with clients. They love it, it’s good for our country, and they share our pride in keeping jobs in the U.S.  Additionally, it actually provides them other benefits in cycle time, accountability and reach. They can reach us. They can get to us, just like they have been doing for the past 68 years.”

AT A GLANCE

WHO: May Group International

WHAT: Provider of custom printing, fabrication, manufacturing, warehousing and distribution of products to businesses in need of signage and visual branding

WHERE: Fort Worth, Texas

WEBSITE: www.MayGroupIntl.com

Short URL: http://www.businessworld-magazine.com/?p=3385

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