Meet The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 Exemplars – 8: David Owen

Posted on 17 Mar 2020 by The Manufacturer

The Manufacturer Top 100 is a project that showcases the most dynamic leaders, young pioneers and unsung heroes working in UK manufacturing, all of which have been nominated by their peers.

Among the Top 100, however, our judging panel chose 20 individuals for special recognition. We call them ‘Exemplars’ – those who have exemplified remarkable leadership, daring or innovation within their respective field, and who set the direction of travel as we head into the new decade.

David Owen, Managing Director, Lintott Control Systems 

The Manufacturer Top 100 2019 - Exemplar David Owen, MD of Lintott Systems, with colleague and business partner Jamie Thums, a 2018 Top 100 alumnus.
David Owen, MD of Lintott Systems, with colleague and business partner Jamie Thums, a 2018 Top 100 alumnus.

David Owen qualified as a chartered management accountant but decided very early on that the world of manufacturing was for him.

He went on to carve himself a highly successful career as a specialist in turning around failing manufacturing companies in India, Colombia, Brazil and the UK. Yet the lure of doing it on his own account was strong, and by the turn of the century he was looking for businesses he could invest in and rescue.

He was in talks to acquire Coventry Airport, and part of a cargo airline, but was stranded on holiday in the US by the 9/11 attack and couldn’t meet deadlines. Many years would pass before he had another go.

“I never really got it out my system. And then in 2012, Lintott cropped up. Jamie (Jamie Thums, David’s business partner and a Top 100 2018 alumnus) and I saw this as an opportunity to step in and really take ownership of the business, our own business, and concentrate on turning that around and moving it back into profit. Also investing in the business, making it a better business.”

It was far from easy. They had to keep the business, which made wastewater systems, going while re-engineering it completely from within, developing automation software and control systems that would boost profitability and give it a completely new lease on life.

They started that in 2015. Three years later, proof of their success came in the form of a Queen’s Award for Innovation.

“Whilst I had turned many businesses around, it proved far more challenging to take on a small SME with limited resources, but we did it. I am proud of many things over the years but working with the team at Lintott and winning the Queens Award is probably the greatest achievement.”

Celebrating seven years of inspirational industry leaders

The Manufacturer Top 100 Logo 2019 - For Use in Slider BarLaunched in 2014, The Manufacturer Top 100 publicly recognises the most dynamic leaders and innovators in manufacturing.

Published by The Manufacturer, in partnership with Cranfield University, one of the country’s top centres of business education, the project is helping to dispel widely-held myths that vibrant manufacturing in the UK is a thing of the past.

Click here to make your nomination for The Manufacturer Top 100 2020, and to download a copy of the 2019 publication.

David has deep concerns about the future of the manufacturing sector and the weakness of the education system in producing the engineering talent manufacturers desperately need. He believes countries such as China and India, who invest heavily in technical education, pose a danger to the UK.

“They train exceptionally hard and are extremely well educated. There are threats everywhere. We’ve always got to be looking over our shoulder and recognising we are in danger of losing our edge. We’re a bit of a laggard.”

“You’ve got to invest in the future. You can’t ignore it, because it is changing, and changing very rapidly. When I started my career, products had life cycles measured in decades.

“The life cycle of a product now is so short that you’ve got to react very quickly to pre-empt market changes. So, I guess invest in the future is my overarching advice.”

In their own words

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Honesty, integrity and transparency will never fail you.

What is your favourite engineered/manufactured product?

My Sonos sound system – due to the crisp sound and simplicity of set-up and operation.

An interesting fact about yourself that not many people know.

I was once, many moons ago, British Junior Judo Champion – and I’ve led a boring life ever since.

The Manufacturer Top 100 is produced in partnership with Cranfield University – one of the country’s top centres of business education, and low-cost talent partner, Trust Hunter Ltd (Hunter).