Cobble promises 'continuity with progress'
Carpet technology pioneer Spencer H. Wright, head of the Cobble organisation, has died at the age of 85, after more than 30 years at the helm of a company he led to a position of global pre-eminence in the tufting machinery sector.
He was succeeded as president of parent group Spencer Wright Industries Inc. in 2009 by Geoff Hemingway, who has been managing director of Cobble Blackburn in the UK since 1997 and president of the Cobble USA operation Tufting Machine Company Inc. (TMC) since 2007.
Said Mr Hemingway: “Spence was a remarkable man, who played an active role in the business well into his eighties, and retained a passionate interest in both technical and commercial issues in the industry.
“His legacy at Cobble is a dynamic and vibrant company, and our customers and partners can be confident that we will work hard to maintain continuity in the standards he set, while I will also now be keen to introduce some novel ideas to ensure that Cobble's future business and technological progress continues at the highest level.”
Recent major technical developments by Cobble include the launch of a 1/10th gauge version of its Colortec multi-colour patterned tufting technology, built at its US location in Dalton, Georgia. The new machine produces a Wilton-like cloth, complementing the Axminster-style output of existing Colortecs.
Following the opening of a manufacturing plant in Suzhou, China, in 2008, the company is now producing its Crabtree Axminster weaving machines there, as well as standard tufting machine types for the Chinese market.
Higher-end models of Cobble tufters continue to be produced at both the Blackburn and Dalton plants. In the UK, the company has also seen notable growth at its AMTRI Cobble subsidiary, an engineering design consultancy operating in aeronautical, transport, oil exploration and defence sectors.
Geoff Hemingway was appointed MD of Cobble Blackburn in 1997, following several years' experience in the aerospace and machine tool sectors. He has driven the expansion of Cobble's global influence into the Middle and Far East, first setting up Cobble CTS as a joint-venture sales and service operation in Shanghai and subsequently establishing the new machinery manufacturing plant at Suzhou. He also served for three years as chairman of the British Textile Machinery Association.
One of the global giants of the carpet industry, Spencer Wright was an engineering graduate who first worked in accountancy with Price Waterhouse, and after a number of management and executive posts, he joined Singer Corporation's tufting machine business, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1971. He purchased the then Singer Cobble business in 1976, relocating its US activities in the 'carpet capital' of Dalton. At the same time he developed the British-headquartered Cobble business, creating a powerful group at the forefront of the tufting machinery business.
He also steadily expanded Spencer Wright Industries to take in new interests in automotive, aerospace and civil engineering, and later took over a local bank, becoming one of the best-known figures in the textile and business communities across the Southern States, being inducted into the Entrepreneurial Hall of Fame at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Mr Wright died in Chattanooga on May 3, and a memorial service to celebrate his life was held at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church, Signal Mountain, Tennessee on May 7.
Spencer Wright Industries Inc