By Eric Peterson | Oct 07, 2014
250 in Orem; 70 in Ontario, Canada, with subsidiary Broda Seating
Owned by Prospect Capital Corporation (NASDAQ:PSEC)
Employees: 250 in Orem; 70 in Ontario, Canada, with subsidiary Broda Seating
President and CEO John Dudash and COO Brian Bowers have used innovative designs to push the folding furniture maker to doubled revenues since 2010.
Greg Wilson started MityLite in 1988 by innovating the bulky plywood folding table.
Using ABS plastic in lieu of plywood or pressboard, Wilson developed a folding table that was both "lightweight and durable," says Bowers. "It was basically a lightweight frame with a plastic shell that's very durable. You can put 1,000 pounds across it and it will not break."
Wilson's table led to chairs and other furnishings with similar attributes for hospitality, public assembly, and other markets and the company mushroomed to $40 million in revenue by 2007, when it was acquired by a pair of private-equity firms, Sorenson Capital and Peterson Partners. (The umbrella company, MITY Enterprises, has since been acquired by Prospect Capital Corporation.)
As of 2014, tables account for about a third of the company's sales. The company makes a wide range of options for different markets.
Dudash says hospitality is the company's top market, followed by public assembly (convention centers and arenas), higher education, and retail. "It 's a pretty diverse combination of channels," he says.
Utah is far and away the company's primary production location. "About 80 percent of our revenue is manufactured in Orem," says Dudash, noting that the remainder comes from chairs sourced from other manufacturers and Broda, the company's Canadian subsidiary, makes all of its seating in Ontario.
"The company was probably a little slow on innovation until 2007," says Bowers, citing the acquisition as a catalyst for new products like MeshOne, a foldable, stacking mesh-backed chair.
The market-first design begat more innovation. "We created a platform from a production standpoint and a product standpoint for a whole new range of products," Bowers says. The platform includes injection molding, robotic welding, and other new production capabilities and the resulting product expansion includes lines like Reveal, a linen-less series of tables.
"Linens are very expensive," says Dudash. "They can get damaged, they have to be cleaned, they have to be stored." It follows that there's a resulting market trend away from linens and towards "more aesthetically pleasing” linen-less tables like Reveal, he notes, adding that the laminate "can look like marble, it can look like wood, it can have any look you want."
Bowers touts another MityLite design innovation in "flip-down front panels” -- a.k.a. modesty panels -- that make for a more versatile product. "You can either flip it up for a boardroom table or flip it down when you want a classroom environment," he says, adding that MityLite's spring-loaded hinges significantly reduce the chance of injury. "It has give and it won't hurt you."
"One of the things MityLite has done recently is include a design component," says Dudash. "Our new tagline is 'Durability by Design.’"
The company recently designed new chairs for the Moscone Center in San Francisco. "They were looking to replace 20,000 chairs," Bowers says. "We designed a new chair that would fit all of their requirements. Because we have domestic manufacturing, we're able to turn around prototypes quickly. Now they've become a whole new line called the Encore conference chair."
The innovation and new markets have helped propel the company to dynamic growth. "We've doubled in size over the past three and a half to four years and are now in the $100 million range as an organization," says Dudash. The staff has grown by about 30 percent in the same time frame, he adds. "That was one of the big wins from 2007 to today: the level of efficiency Brian and his team drove."
For his part, Bowers highlights MityLite's production cells -- "a person in a loop with a robot” -- as one key, and work with vendors like Salt Lake's Packsize as another. "It helped in our lean approach," he says of the latter. "Packaging on demand -- that's what they say and that's definitely what happened."
Bowers is also quick to point to MityLite's recent growth as an indicator of the broader renaissance of manufacturing in the U.S. "We're reshoring work that was being done in Asia," he says. "That's been the difference for us -- getting competitive enough to bring production home and make it with a better profit."
Challenges: "The real challenge for us is scalability," says Dudash. "We're now in the process of beefing up our mid-level executives." He says he's looking for "effective leaders” who don't need "hand-holding."
Opportunities: Thanks to a strong bottom line, "Our opportunities for acquisitions or expansion are very strong," Dudash offers. He also sees potential for growth in MityLite's international business, particularly in Western Europe, and says the hospitality market is going gangbusters. "There are more hotels being built than ever. 2014 is one of the biggest years for hotel occupancy -- RevPAR [revenue per available room] is up across the board."
Needs: Dudash again highlights the need for effective mid-level management. "The horses to pull the wagon will the the key to our success," he says. "It's people who can grasp the vision, understand direction, and execute on strategy."
Echoes Bowers: "Whenever you're on a growth path that's dependent on innovation and this design-and-development approach, that requires a lot out of the operations group."