Lambert’s change in strategy reaps the rewards

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The expansion of the pharmaceuticals and fast-moving consumer goods industries has led a Yorkshire manufacturing company to almost double its turnover to £19m in the last three years and forecast a further 40 per cent rise by 2014.

Lambert, based in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, designs and builds machines to enable some of the world’s leading companies to make products including razors, surgical equipment and medical devices.

In 2008/09 Lambert had a turnover of £10m and just over 100 employees. Today, the turnover is £19m and there are 182 staff.

Growth is forecast to continue with turnover reaching £26m and the workforce breaking through the 200 barrier in two years.

The company installs its machines all over the world, including Europe, North America, China and India. The machines assemble products at high speed, typically 150-200 parts per minute, before testing and packaging the product.

Managing director Warren Limbert said: “We design machines specifically for individual companies, for which they own the IP (intellectual property).”

Adapting to changing economic conditions has enabled Lambert to produce significant growth.

Four years ago, Mr Limbert led a management buyout of the company but within months of completing the deal, the board was faced with the challenges of the global banking crisis.

The team ripped up the business plan it had created and set about changing its strategy. It received help from the Manufacturing Advisory Service to become more efficient.

Mr Limbert said: “We developed a vision for who we wanted to be. We looked at our customers and our competition. We are the biggest in the UK at what we do so our main competition are German, Swiss and North American companies. When we looked at all of this together it gave us a true sales strategy.”

The rise in self diagnostics tests and the increase in the number of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) products within the pharmaceuticals sector has boosted business for Lambert.

Mr Limbert said: “Pharmaceutical companies like GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca are virtually like a Procter and Gamble now. They are producing these devices in their millions. When you look at their innovation, they’re looking at how cheap can they can make the device, how quick can the device administer the drug, and how quick can the device diagnose the ailment.”

He added: “The pharmaceutical industry can never stop innovating. We now work closely with companies at early stage development, which is completely different to the way we worked before.”

Lambert is also entering the energy sector after receiving a number of orders worth £500,000. “That’s just a drop in the ocean compared to where it could go, which is exciting,” said Mr Limbert.

The catalyst for change came when a number of its customers, particularly those in the power generation industry, FMCG and niche automotive sectors, put new developments on hold.

During the recession, the company went through a huge 12-month culture change programme, including the appointment of a new human resources manager and the introduction of staff targets. Lambert also set out new energy-saving initiatives.

In addition, it changed its name from Lambert Engineering to Lambert. “The word engineering doesn’t sit well within the pharmaceutical industry,” said Mr Limbert. “They want to come to a facility that emulates their own – clean and clinical – but the word engineering puts them off.”

The company also split into three divisions: Automation Systems, which designs and builds automation systems; Lambert Equipment Engineering, a similar division but where the customer designs the machine themselves; and Precision Components, which produces high-value, bespoke components for oil, gas and nuclear industries.

Mr Limbert said: “When we came out of the recession we realised how successful we’d been as a business. We’d retained our market share and retained turnover levels and numbers of staff. Not many other companies had managed to do that.”

Lambert started to see serious growth from 2010 and is continuing to invest in the business. This year it has spent more than £600,000 on new equipment and infrastructure, including a new inspection department. Next year the figure is expected to rise above £1m.

It is currently building a new 2,000 sq ft component finishing building and is moving its machine shop to a nearby building to free up more space for building machines. It is also relocating its fabrication department and steel stores to a nearby site which will free up 9,000 sq ft from which it will create a new final assembly and innovation centre.

But Mr Limbert said he wanted to control the growth now. “Growing quickly comes with its own challenges of cashflow issues and other problems,” he said. “We’ve been successful through everyone pulling together and making it happen. We just need to control the growth going forward.”