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100 years of MK Electric

Mar 2019 Cable & Wire | Comments Off on 100 years of MK Electric
100 years of MK Electric

As MK Electric enters its 100th year of operation. Emma Segelov, EMEA marketing operations manager, reflects on a century of electrical innovation

In 1919, Charles Arnold founded the Heavy Current Electric Accessories Company – the business that would eventually become MK Electric – not knowing the incredible legacy that was to follow. Fast forward 100 years and the name MK Electric has become synonymous with wiring devices. In fact, most building types have been fitted with an MK Electric plug, socket or other electrical accessory over the years – from homes to hospitals, schools, hotels and offices.

At the inception of The Heavy Current Electric Accessories Company, just one product was available: the Multy Kontact (MK) socket. This socket was safer and worked better than the split pin-style sockets that could be found on the market at the time. It was so progressive that the British Engineering Standards Association was driven to revise its standards to be in line with the MK socket.

Trail-blazing MK socket

Unfortunately, sales did not take off, due in part to the dawn of domestic electricity, where a normal household’s demand was low. This meant the company faced early closure, but the cavalry arrived in the shape of the Newcastle Electric Supply, which judged the MK socket to be the best on the market and placed an order that kicked the company into action.

By mid-1923, the demand for the MK socket had surpassed the level of production that could be achieved by Arnold and his small team. Therefore, the need for a new manufacturing premises arose and was eventually opened across from The Angel, in Wakefield Street, London.

After Arnold and company moved to the new premises, the decision was also taken to dissolve The Heavy Current Electric Accessories Company and rebrand as “M.K.” Electric, using Arnold’s original invention as inspiration for the name.

As Arnold continued to evolve his designs, in 1928 the company released the first shuttered socket featuring concealed live and neutral contacts – known as ‘anti-flash’ – a design that formed the basis of the British electrical system as we know it today.

Just 11 years later, 1939 saw the dawn of World War II, a time when large organisations were expected to contribute towards the war effort. MK Electric ceased production on 90% of its domestic and industrial products and switched to those that would help with the war effort, such as detonators, overload protection devices and centrifuge bolts for aircraft.

With MK Electric enjoying continuous success over the years, new factories were purchased and renovated in 1953 (Park Road, London) and 1961 (Southend-on-Sea). This was due in part to the invention of the ‘modern’ light switch in 1955. While most other companies were trying to keep up, MK went back to basics with the light switch and designed the plateswitch, the first ‘monobloc’ light switch product with two components – a mounting box and the integral switch and frontplate. This design was easier to make, cheaper to purchase and much easier to install, offering benefits to everyone. It was so influential that virtually every light switch available today is based upon its design.

With additional boosts to the business over the years, including the purchase and takeover of other companies and factories, MK Electric made the decision in 1966 to float on the stock market, creating the MK Electric Holding Company Ltd.

Sixties’ look is instant it

In 1969, MK Electric was hit with the death of its founder Charles Arnold and he missed out on the next great product launch, MK Logic in 1971. This range was clean-cut in appearance and had square edges, while being all white in appearance in contrast to the usual ivory colourway – a move that proved to be an instant hit with installers and customers alike.

By now, MK Electric had become a household name, and in 1986 the company obtained a Royal Warrant of appointment by Her Majesty the Queen; an honour only bestowed on companies that have supplied the Royal household with goods for at least five years. MK Electric saw further success in the same year when it earned a BS5750 accreditation for quality assurance.

In the years following, electrical safety was at the forefront of the industry, especially with the introduction of the Plugs and Sockets etc. (Safety) Regulations in 1987.

In 1996, MK Electric launched its game-changing MK Logic Plus – a range of wiring devices that it believes are regarded as the safest and most advanced solution on the market, thanks to features such as the unique and patented three-pin shutter, inline terminals and backed out captive screws for ease of installation.

Following Honeywell’s acquisition of MK Electric in 2005, production for the UK remained predominantly at Southend. The factory celebrated a milestone 100 millionth socket off the production line in 2014 – a feat Charles Arnold might have only have dreamed of.

In 2015, MK Electric began to incorporate USB charging ports into its range of K2747 2-gang switchsocket outlets. This was a move that offered flexible charging, especially when mobile device ownership in the UK had risen sharply.

No stopping innovation

With 2019 marking a hundred years of trading for MK Electric, it’s vital that the business not only celebrates its heritage and notable achievements, but also looks to the future. MK Electric was established on a commitment to quality, safety, and reliability. And it is with these values in mind that MK Electric will continue to offer lasting connections to the customers of today and tomorrow.