History

our defining moments

1966
1968
1971
1979
1983
1987
1989
1998
2001
2002
2006
2007
2010
2013

COBA Founded By Tony Cooke and Tom Bateman

The original COBA business was founded on 12 August 1966 by the late Tony Cooke and Tom Bateman who had both previously worked for Coventry Motor & Sundries. (The name is derived from the CO of Cooke and the BA of Bateman.) That business was COBA Plastics Ltd operating from small premises on Stephen Street in Coventry, in the heart of the Midlands, manufacturing plastic extrusions and tubing, primarily for the automotive, motorcycle and caravan industries, such as Standard Triumph and Sprite Caravans in the late 1960s.

Production on the Increase

With production on the increase, so was the scrap material associated with it. This began an association in 1968 with Bedford Granulating Co Ltd in Kibworth, Leicestershire, a business that specialised in granulating plastics, cloth, rubberised cork and other materials. That same year, COBA Plastics Ltd moved to the Bedford Granulating Co premises in Kibworth, only a short distance from Fleckney.

COBA Plastics Ltd acquired Bedford Granulating Co Ltd

In 1971 COBA Plastics Ltd acquired 100% shares of the Bedford Granulating Co Ltd and its premises, which proved to be an inspired move.

The Foundation of COBA Europe’s Floor Matting Business

An opportunity to manufacture a totally new product out of extruded PVC came to COBA Plastics Ltd in 1979 which has subsequently been the foundation for COBA Europe’s floor matting business today.

The plastic extrusions were used for COBA’s original safety matting product, COBAmat (then called Airomat) introduced as an alternative to wooden duck-boarding. COBA was actually one of the first companies in the UK to offer such a concept as ‘safety matting’. It soon became a familiar sight in factories, oil rigs, boats, aircraft, hotels and leisure centres. A dedicated business called COBA International Ltd was registered in 1979 to concentrate on manufacturing, marketing and distributing this product.

The Beginnings of Copely and COBA

In 1983, COBA Plastics Ltd invested in an innovative specialist braid extraction plant for its granulating facility (which could extract up to 95% of the braid used in a flexible PVC hose). The unit had been patented by a company called Copely Developments Ltd (more of this later!). COBA Plastics and Copely Developments formed an agreement giving COBA exclusive UK rights to the extraction plant.

COBA Headquarters

Space was still proving an issue and two acres of land in Fleckney was purchased in 1987 for the construction of a purpose-built factory and offices; the site of COBA’s headquarters today. A three-phase plan was implemented; the first move from Kibworth to Fleckney was made in 1989.

Creamfine Merged With COBA Plastics Ltd

Creamfine in Coventry was also expanding through the introduction of new innovative products, many of which manufactured under licence. However, the recession hit this business hard in the late ’80s and eventually the site was closed, and Creamfine was merged with COBA Plastics Ltd in November 1989. The move to consolidate the businesses had been part of a long-term plan.

Tony Cooke Retired

In October 1998, Tony Cooke retired from COBA Plastics and his eldest son Mark Cooke took over the mantle of Managing Director, with the Fred Wills as Deputy MD. Tony’s younger son, Richard Cooke, was tasked with growing export sales for COBA’s fast growing European matting business. Tony stood down saying ‘I have the utmost confidence in the team, who I know will give the best possible service while sharing my vision to become a leading world class extrusion and matting company.’

Expansion into Europe

The new millennium got off to a sad start with the passing of company founder and Chairman, Tony Cooke, in 2001. A year later, COBA also bid a sad farewell to Fred Wills, who also lost a brave battle to cancer.

COBA was growing not just in the UK, but also in Europe. With an increasing number of automotive manufacturers moving their production operations to mainland Europe, especially the Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 2000, COBA made the strategic decision to invest in a family-owned plastics manufacturing company in Central Slovakia, trading as COBA Krasplast S.r.o. A considerable investment was made in the land, buildings and machinery.

German Office and Warehouse Opens

In 2002, COBA opened its first German warehouse and sales office for the matting division, to efficiently service the requirements of mainland European customers. Especially working with German industrial distributors and technical dealers. The business shared its home with a German logistics company on the outskirts of Dusseldorf.

Spacious new home for the Matting team

Meanwhile, additional land had been acquired in Fleckney and plans for the construction of a dedicated building for COBA’s Matting Division were made.

Work commenced in 2006 on this £2 million project to create offices and a warehouse facility and completed in 2007. The Matting team moved into their spacious new home.

COBA Europe Ltd is born

At the same time, a decision was made by the directors of COBA Plastics Ltd to restructure the company to allow each business to focus on its core activity. The UK Matting Division became COBA Europe Ltd, leaving COBA Plastics Ltd to concentrate on its prime function of extrusion manufacture, with both businesses trading as part of the parent company, COBA International Ltd.

With this corporate infrastructure in place, COBA International was poised to make further acquisitions. The first came in the form of Moving Edge Ltd in 2008, a privately owned yet well-established safety knife manufacturer, which fitted in neatly with COBA Europe’s own product range for the Health and Safety market. Initially retaining its trading name of Moving Edge Ltd, this has since become a brand of COBA Europe Ltd.

Copely Developments Ltd

A further acquisition was formalised in 2010 when world-established hose and tube manufacturer, Copely Developments Ltd based in Leicester, joined the dynamic COBA International family.

This brought with it exciting change and growth for the Copely business, as well as an acquisition in its own right of Fleckney based hose manufacturer, Emplas Ltd (August 2013).

New opportunities and engineering capabilities

In May 2013, COBA International acquired a key supplier in the form of Bowden Precision Engineering in a strategic initiative, bringing new opportunities and engineering capabilities for all concerned.

If there is a name that never stands still – it’s COBA.

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COBA is one of the leading plastic extruders in the automotive sector thanks to its people. We own the process from design to production and this requires a range of important roles to achieve.

 

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