Tubular sells: moving the world through power and strength in tubular products
With over 140 years of history and experience since William Lander started manufacturing household wire formed goods in his attic back in 1881, the company has grown and transformed beyond his wildest dreams.
The Manufacturer’s Lanna Deamer paid a visit to Lander’s global headquarters and its largest manufacturing facility in Birmingham.
Lander Tubular Products is an engineering and fabrication manufacturer specialising in tube manipulation and CNC tube bending of metal and plastic pipe and tube assemblies. The company manufacture products for the global automotive, commercial vehicle, off highway and industrial sectors. Lander manufacture a product range that covers multiple applications for the transfer of fluids or air within different systems, as well as structural support components which provide stability and safety to the end user.
Walking up to the building entrance, my colleague Tom St John and I both turned to each other and asked if we’d been here before. Something about the building felt so familiar. Although we know the Lander team well and everything felt like a weird case of déjà vu – this was our first time visiting the Birmingham site. Long time entrants of The Manufacturer MX Awards (TMMX), we were greeted by a mini shrine to the awards. Walking upstairs to the conference room, the walls were lined with certificates from over the years of entering our prestigious programme.
We were welcomed by Len Palmer, Managing Director of Lander Tubular Products who commented on the awards wall: “As you know, we’re long-time supporters of The Manufacturer MX Awards but we had a year off last year after winning The Manufacturer of the Year award in 2021. We’re excited to say that we’ll be back entering the awards this year.
“We’ve been entering the awards for years, and we’ve always found it to be a very powerful exercise for us in terms of internal, but also peer review when it comes to the judging process. We first started applying in 2016, with a view to benchmarking ourselves and subsequently, every year since then, we’ve either picked up an award or been very close!
“Year-on-year, we’ve tried to take all the feedback and advice given during the judging process, apply it to the business and then see if we can progress. The achievement of Manufacturer of the Year in 2021 was a culmination of the progression we’ve annually been taking on board, the feedback and seeing ourselves measured against peer groups in other sectors. It has been a really powerful tool for us to drive continuous improvement activities in our business. This year another part of Lander will be going through the entry process to give them a chance to learn and take on what we’ve gained over the years.”
Although familiar with the Lander team, both Tom and I still couldn’t quite get our heads around what Lander actually manufacturer, so we were eager to get on the shop floor. The Birmingham plant houses the central group functions including engineering, purchasing, sales, IT, HR and group finance. At over 10,000 square metres, it is the company’s largest manufacturing facility by size and is configured to support medium to high volume products mainly for the automotive and off highway sectors. The facility is also the base for the plastic servo bending machine and the product development centre.
Tube bending is at the core of Lander’s capabilities; the manufacturer has more than 60 CNC tube bending machines across the group with the ability to bend tubes in diameters from ø4mm up to ø152mm. There were several multi-stack CNC bending machines on display which mean the team can produce complex compound bends where there is very little straight length of tube between bends. I was told that this is often seen in automotive applications where there are very tight package spaces for tubes to be routed through.
“We can produce all different kind types of beaded end form on tube, from single beads for the attachment of hoses and double beads to allow for a hard stop for a hose joint. We also produce complex quick connector end forms for the attachment of snap fit plastic quick connectors and rolled end forms which have a very tight tolerance and are used to join to applications such as turbochargers,” explained Simon Walker, Operations Director at Lander Tubular Products.
The metal joining capabilities enable Lander to offer its customers a variety of solutions from simple manual MIG and automated MIG welding, to manual TIG, and aluminium soldering. Lander has an in-house mild steel brazing furnace which means the team can provide customers with brazing services to deliver high quality joining solutions on steel products where brackets are featured. Simon explained that brazing helps to ensure that the joint between the tube and the brackets have good integrity in order to maximise longevity.
Once products have been through the manufacturing process, where applicable the team leak test and gauge the product to validate it. The standard testing system for smaller diameter tubes is air decay which is highly accurate for detecting any leaks. The team also use air underwater testing as an alternative method.
Once the part has been leak tested, the team will gauge it to ensure that all components are in place and the geometry of the part is correct. Where possible, poka-yokes are built into Lander’s gauges in the form of camera vision systems and sensors to check components are present. Only when the part has been validated will the system print a pass label.
Created in-house by a cross-functional team, Lander’s Apollo system uses the latest IoT (Internet of Things) and PLC technology to get information from many different sources (machine controllers, environmental, ERP and HR systems) to provide real-time feedback to operators and team leaders. Additionally, this data is recorded in a data warehouse solution that can be interrogated by an easy-to-use web-based portal to view historical trends and data or even make ad-hoc queries without the need for IT intervention.
Lander’s smart manufacturing ethos
Connected: Processes, machines and teams are connected to shorten the time required to analyse and react to data
Optimised: Continual analysis of process performance in real-time to increase machine uptime and productivity
Agile: Flexible manufacturing systems allow Lander to re-configure factory layouts to implement products in real-time
Transparent: Visibility for Lander’s teams across all operations to shorten decision making times
Proactive: Automated stock replenishment, error monitoring and safety protection
Pal Kayla, Controls and Instrumentation Engineer at Lander Tubular Products said: “We started our smart factory adventure after a visit to Smart Factory Expo which gave us plenty of ideas. We then developed our own in-house OEE real-time data monitoring system. We still have a lot to explore in digitising our shop floor.”
People are well and truly at the heart of Lander’s business. In June 2022, the company was ranked number one in the National Apprenticeship Service’s Top 50 SME Apprentice Employers. The programme was first developed in 2016 to help make the best use of the organisations strengths and to take the opportunity to reduce the skills shortage in the business.
In normal times, Lander aims to recruit between 10 to 15 apprentices every eight weeks. They are recruited through a training provider who then identify 25 candidates to start their pre-apprenticeship programme for four weeks, where they undertake initial training and development at college.
They are also assessed on their behaviours during this process. When they have completed the pre-apprenticeship, they attend an assessment day on site at Lander and the company selects candidates to start one week of work experience. At the end of the week, they are assessed again and those that have met the criteria are offered placements on the programme in the form of an 18-month contract and start their apprenticeship with six weeks in the on-site Lander Academy.
They will then graduate at the end of those six weeks and begin working in manufacturing for the duration of their first year. Lander have continued to drive the quality of the programme to meet business and apprentice needs, ensuring they have the best opportunity to learn while earning and to successfully achieve their apprenticeship. Apprentices start their journey within manufacturing and have the opportunity to develop into specialist roles that become available within the business.
We spoke with previous apprentice, Joe McCarthy, who is now a Production Engineering Improver, he said: “I started my apprenticeship in manufacturing engineering back in 2018. The thing I enjoyed the most about my apprenticeship was learning new skills such as PLC programming and how different computers and systems work.
“The life skills I have learned are communication, problem solving as well as listening skills. All of them help with my current job role. My average day now involves developing new systems for the business, such as a new Andon system. I also update and further develop the current systems we have in operation.
“For anyone looking to start an apprenticeship, I would advise them to learn as much as possible and be keen. Lander has a friendly workplace environment which makes a big difference, but not only that, if you show a willing attitude then you’ll be given more opportunities and the chance to progress your career.”
Len added: “We’re always keen to promote manufacturing as a career path and as such, we have partnered with local colleges to help recruitment within our programme. We are also constantly reaching out to schools to get children involved from a young age – it’s a great way for us to grow our talent.
“On a more personal level, it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done because I feel a sense of duty to help the next generation. Most of the directors in the business have been part of apprenticeship programmes at some point in the past. The programme we offer is one of the most unique things about us, and we got a lot of brilliant feedback about the way we engage our apprentices from the TMMX judging panel. Apprentices effectively do a much better job at describing the company culture than any senior management.
“We love running open days for young people and their parents to have a look around our plant. Showing that we have a modern, world-class manufacturing facility helps break down those initial barriers and misconceptions that people often have of plants such as this. They are still considered to be very dirty, old-fashioned places but they’re the complete opposite.”
Although Lander’s core values were visibly displayed on the shop floor, their true reflection could be seen in the company’s actions. These values were not just empty words but were also closely linked to the apprenticeship programme.
The Lander family
Apprentices are made to feel welcome and part of the team as soon as they arrive.
Passion for Perfection: The company instil in its apprentices the importance of achieving the best that they can with their support.
Take Responsibility: Apprentices are enabled to suggest improvements, report concerns and accept when things go wrong that it’s all about learning and developing.
Yesterday’s Gone: Apprentices know that if they make a mistake, they should learn from it and move forward.
Great is just not Good Enough: Apprentices understand very quickly why quality is important and how it impacts business performance.
Freedom to fail: Apprentices know that if they fail in one role, there is an opportunity to look at other areas of the business.
Free speech: Apprentices are encouraged to speak up and let Leadership know what they think.
Have a Blast: Apprentices are encouraged to socialise and join in the sporting activities held outside of Lander, and to participate in various charity events throughout the year.
To read similar articles, check out our Leadership channel.Lander’s smart manufacturing ethosConnected:Optimised:Agile:Transparent:Proactive:The Lander familyPassion for Perfection:Take Responsibility:Yesterday’s Gone:Great is just not Good Enough:Freedom to fail:Free speech: Have a Blast: