Innovation boosts growth for Northern firm

Posted on 17 Sep 2015 by Victoria Fitzgerald

Developing new technologies in partnership with its global customer base is helping a Tadcaster firm head beyond £20m for the first time in its 42 year-history.

A provider of automation systems, equipment engineering and precision components, Lambert is reaping the benefits of investing £250,000 into its dedicated Innovation Centre, which is exploring new technology roadmaps and R&D that will offer greater efficiencies, improved performance and cost savings.

A host of contracts are currently being delivered and this – when combined with existing orders in the fast moving goods, food and drink, and medical sectors – has seen the firm grow from £10m in 2010, to £19.9m in 2014.

Lambert Engineering (L)1
(L to R ) Warren Limbert (Lambert) & David Whiteley (Business Growth Fund).

Backed by a long-standing relationship with the Business Growth Service, the company has also been able to create 75 jobs during this period and successfully increase export activity to nearly 70% of its total turnover.

It’s managing director, Warren Limbert explained: “We are always looking at innovating the next process or bringing the next technology step change to market and it is this approach that has allowed us to expand globally.

“Automation is such a popular topic at the moment, with even the emerging countries looking at how they can take labour out of the equation to improve productivity. A lot of our work is to help our customers and their production lines work smarter by developing innovative, affordable automation solutions.”

He continued: “The ‘Peter Wainman Innovation Centre’, named after our co-founder, has been a major step forward for the business and given us the ability to strengthen existing relationships and begin working earlier with our customers in their own product development lifecycle.

Lambert engineer, Richard Lowe, making some final adjustments.
Lambert engineer, Richard Lowe, making some final adjustments.

“Four people are employed purely in this business unit and have access to state-of-the-art machinery, with further investment in both resource and technology planned for the next 6 months.

“Some of the technology we’ve already made progress on includes; robotic glue dispensing, vision inspection, laser welding and cutting, high speed pick and place for medical components and 3D printing of silicon components.

“The Innovation Centre isn’t about adding turnover to the business, it’s about developing the next technology that differentiates our customer and de-risking processes so that we know we can deliver exactly what the customer requires…on time, inside budget and beyond expectations.”

The Business Growth Service – which incorporates the Manufacturing Advisory Service and GrowthAccelerator – has played a significant role in Lambert’s growth over the past seven years.

Lambert’s £250,000 dedicated Innovation Centre.
Lambert’s £250,000 dedicated Innovation Centre.

Manufacturing expert David Whiteley first started working with the firm to complete an environmental study and this soon progressed to funding consultancy work to develop the skills of the management team and draw up a rolling strategic business plan.

More recently, the specialist assistance has been around continuous improvement, with Lean Business Solutions’ Kerry Cochran introducing new cellular build capabilities where the company’s automation systems can be manufactured in mid to high volumes.

This involved the creation of a special area within the shop floor and the implementation of kanban, streamlined operating procedures and new quality controls.

“Since working with MAS and the Business Growth Service, we have grown 120% and I have to say the assistance has been second to none,” continued Limbert, who took over the reins in 2007.

“Our Business Growth Manager has been with us throughout, taking the time to understand our business, the challenges we face and what we need to do to overcome them.”

He added: “We’ve tapped into funding for specific improvement projects and accessed specialists for certain issues. However, the best compliment I can give the organisation, is that it is always there on the end of a phone when we need it, even introducing us to the Regional Growth Fund to help with construction of the Innovation Centre and investment in new plant.”

Business Growth Service’s David Whiteley concluded: “I’m delighted to see how far Lambert has come as a company. It has always been a firm that thrives on innovation and doing things well, but the last five years has seen it become a truly global player.

“Importantly, the management team has not stopped there. Instead, it has focused on continuous improvement and taking the next steps to ensure it leads its rivals rather than just competes with them.

“Every now and again, we’ve been the extra support it has needed to overcome hurdles…a fantastic example of how expert assistance and funding can make a big difference to a growing SME.”

Lambert, which employs eight apprentices out of its 183-strong workforce, has capped an exciting year by being named finalists in seven categories at the prestigious Manufacturer MX Awards.