Manufacturing a culture of innovation

Steve Lindsey, CEO and founder of Lontra, on the culture that produced the world-leading Blade Compressor.

Steve Lindsey, CEO and founder of Lontra with the company’s innovative Blade Compressor.
Steve Lindsey, CEO and founder of Lontra with the company’s innovative Blade Compressor.

As an innovative engineering firm, we depend on the creativity of our expert team.While it is our products that deliver revolutionary energy and cost savings to industry, it is our people that conceive continual improvements to make gas compression ever more reliable and efficient.

Free-thinking approach

Since day one we’ve structured our business to attract and support free thinkers, which is why we’re able to grow and hold onto individuals such as Jake Wallis, our principal engineer, who in 2017 was recognised as design engineer of the year at the British Engineering Excellence awards.

We think in terms of place, purpose and pride. We chose to locate not in some anonymous industrial park, but instead to establish our own research site in the rolling Warwickshire countryside, close to the beautiful village of Napton.

For our team, having countryside and clean air in which to live and work is an important part of our attraction. (The fact that some of our engineers are also car enthusiasts, and prefer a winding B-road to a dull dual carriageway doesn’t hurt!).

We have a flat management structure to recognise the talents of everyone within the team and ensure we work to a common purpose. The design process is structured to encourage engineers not to be limited by established thinking, but to challenge accepted concepts and strive for excellence, hence Lontra’s Blade Compressor.

It is the industry’s first widely applicable new compressor design in over 80 years, and has proved to be both more reliable and 20% more efficient than rival concepts, which is significant given most companies try to optimise for gains of just 1-2%.

Attention to detail

culture of innovation - Founder and CEO, Steve Lindsey stands outside Lontra’s new Technology Centre with his skilled team of engineers – image courtesy of Lontra.
Founder and CEO, Steve Lindsey stands outside Lontra’s new Technology Centre with his skilled team of engineers – image courtesy of Lontra.

Every part of our business is driven by this attention to detail and quality, from sales to production. This is why we didn’t ask an OEM to produce our compressors, choosing instead to engage in a joint partnership with leading engineering group Shield to create a brand-new manufacturing line.

This multi-million-pound site will upgrade a tired industrial unit in the Warwickshire countryside into a first-class research and manufacturing facility where we’re custom building our own rigs and tooling to deliver a truly 21st-century manufacturing line, complete with smart sensors and software for total precision.

Pride is important. Everyone has a stake in the business and its growth through our share option scheme. That pride results in truly exceptional engineering that is as robust as it is advanced. This is as compelling a feature to many customers and potential customers as the step change in efficiency it delivers. The result is a product that as one customer put it, “just keeps working”.

Real innovation isn’t just about designing something new, it is about bringing a truly new product to market and helping drive not just our own success but also our customer’s success.

The UK’s best of the best

McLaren Automotive - The Manufacturer MX Awards 2017
McLaren Automotive at The Manufacturer MX Awards 2017 – image courtesy of The Manufacturer.

Last year, McLaren Automotive won The Manufacturer MX Award for Innovation & Design. It is hardly surprising, given their rapid rise over the past eight years to become Britain’s foremost supercar manufacturer.

Click here to read The Manufacutrer’s interview with Alan Foster, McLaren Automotive’s Executive Director Infrastructure Projects, about their success. 

We thought we should let the companies who were shortlisted with McLaren, but didn’t walk away with the award on the night, tell their own innovation stories.

Lontra was one of them, and you can read the other three via the links below:

Click the banner below to view this year’s shortlist, and to book your tickets for the UK’s  largest annual manufacturing awards – celebrating the Best of British industry:

The Manufacturer MX Awards TMMX 2018 - Shortlist Announced Banner