Lone Star looks to the next engineer generation

WHEN engineering firm Lone Star LWD last hired an apprentice, Diego Maradona’s ‘hand of God’ goal had just sent England crashing out of the World Cup and Boris Becker was the king of Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

A quarter of a century later, the firm has decided that investing time and money in a new generation of apprentices will help it to compete in an engineering world that has moved on from the rags and spanners of the 1980s.

The sole apprentice from the class of 1986 – Gary Demaine – is still with the firm and has risen through the ranks to become a senior production engineer.

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According to Craig Hebden, the Leeds-based company’s general manager, the lack of trained engineers could damage Britain’s economy.

He told the Yorkshire Post: “A nationwide lack of skilled engineers is reaching critical levels, so by employing apprentices we are not only planning for the future of the business but we are also helping to support the local commun-ity.”

It’s hoped the three local apprentices – Aaron Woodward-Cox, Daniel Knight and Declan Hargreaves – will emulate Mr Demaine’s success.

The company, which employs 82 staff, manufactures precision engineered components, mainly for the oil and gas industry.

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The Yorkshire Post understands that its turnover is around £8m.

Mr Hebden said the company’s decision to move to a 50,000 sq ft base in 2007 was the start of a sustained investment in new equipment and technologies.

Mr Hebden added: “An investment in people is also considered critical.

“We are now in a prime position to continue to grow the company in a competitive market- place.

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“We are seeing increasing demand from a lot of oil companies. Demand from this sector has picked up significantly in the last two or three months and the levels of enquiry are becoming more and more complex.

“The apprentices are very excited about their working environment.

“Engineering used to be regarded as a dirty job, but it certainly isn’t today.”

The company was formed following the acquisition of Leeds company LWD and Grange, which had operations in Huddersfield and Bradford.

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Both companies now operate under the Lone Star banner and moved to the company’s site in Hunslet, Leeds, in 2007.

The site was officially opened by Michelle Dewberry from Hull, who won BBC TV’s The Apprentice in 2006.

Lone Star Holdings UK is a division of Lone Star Fasteners, a private manufacturing company based in Houston, US.

In 2007, the company merged with British group PRD Holdings in a deal worth about £80bn.

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There has been growing concern about the state of the world’s oil supplies in recent months due to the political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East.

Last month, the US government said it did not expect to have any problems finding buyers for the 30 million barrels of oil it auctioned as part of a global effort to address high oil prices. The sale represents half of the 60 million barrels that industrialised nations are releasing jointly to fill a gap in supply caused by political unrest in Libya.

The US administration also expects help from Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producer, which has committed to produce more oil to address the supply shortage, an official speaking on behalf of US President Barack Obama said in June.

Increasing world oil demand, coupled with supply disruptions in Libya and other Middle East unrest, boosted Brent prices to more than $125 a barrel by the end of April, threatening a fragile global economic recovery.

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Analysts believe the need for new oil supplies will boost the profits of firms such as Lone Star LWD, which supplies precision engineered components to the oil and gas industry.

Some analysts predict that natural gas will also become the fossil fuel of choice to complement renewable energy.

Coal’s high carbon emission levels have reduced its appeal to the market, while the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima plant following an earthquake in March has clouded the prospects for global nuclear power generation.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in a special report in June that increasing gas supplies from unconventional sources could encourage demand to rise to levels exceeding coal by 2030 and close to oil by 2035, if certain key conditions are met.

A precise move

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Established in 1942, Lone Star LWD Precision Engineering has become a major provider of precision engineered components and specialised surface coatings to the oil, gas and petrochemical industries around the world.

In 2007, when the company opened a major manufacturing plant in Leeds, its work was praised by Simon Hill, the executive director for business at Yorkshire Forward.

Mr Hill said the new facilities would provide a big boost for the region’s economy by strengthening the manufacturing industry.

In February 2008, Lone Star LWD revealed that it had added water jet cutting to its range of services.

Its parent company Lone Star Fasteners, which is based in Houston in the US, has hundreds of customers and manufacturing and distribution operations in the US, Britain, Romania, Dubai and China.