Advanced Materials & Manufacturing
Turning the passion of a pastime into a thriving worldwide business, the workforce at DMM has both experience and expertise at its disposal. The company is unique as the only manufacturer of climbing hardware in the UK, producing products for both recreational and industrial markets.
It was 1981 when a group of climbing buddies founded DMM. “Their hobby was climbing; it’s now their business,” says Gethin Parry, director of DMM.
The manufacturer has annual turnover of about £12 million and employs 185 people in Llanberis, a town of 2,000 people. DMM sells mountaineering and height safety equipment to protect users working at height through retailers and distributors in some 36 countries around the world.
Unlike rivals, which have moved production overseas, DMM designs, forges and machines all the hardware at its factory in the shadow of Snowdon. That’s millions of products each year.
“From raw materials, we do everything in house, including design and tooling,” Parry says. “We are in the process of setting up a sewing department to expand our textile manufacturing.” Having control of the whole process, including testing, DMM can keep a tight grip on quality – so key to DMM’s customers.
“We are not price competitive against Far East manufacturers due to their employment and energy costs,” he says. “But we can manufacture quality at the right price.” As well as mountaineering equipment, DMM also makes safety equipment for industrial use. Workers in the construction and tree care industries are regular users of its safety equipment such as karabiners, swivels, harnesses, pulleys and ropes.
“Our equipment is now used by tree surgeons, theatre riggers, wind turbine engineers, North Sea rope access and other markets which are wide and varied. So, it’s evolving,” says Parry.
Being located in such a remote place doesn’t seem to have held the business back. Parry points out it is just one and a half hours from either Liverpool or Manchester, which have good airport links.
“There is quite a bit of travel for our sales team as we exhibit all over the world at international trade fairs,” he says. “It’s also good for customers who want to visit. We often have people fly into Liverpool or Manchester from Europe and they can be here for 10am and be back out again by 3pm.” Exhibiting at trade shows around the world is a great way for DMM to drum up new business and promote its brand overseas. The company has received a lot of support from Welsh Government – it can recoup up to its exhibition costs from the government.
DMM has also received grant funding to help buy state-of-the-art machinery. “We’ve got a good relationship with Welsh Government,” Parry says. “We’ve had tremendous support over the last ten years. We’ve had a grant for machinery on the proviso that it creates jobs.”
Parry has been at DMM for 18 years. He joined from Bangor University as a design engineer and he says the business has retained strong links with the university. “We have people doing MBAs there [Bangor] and at Glyndwr University in Wrexham,” he says. When he’s not at work, Parry enjoys getting out on his boat. “My favourite place in Wales to escape is on a sailing boat on the Menai Straits,” he says.