Magazine article Management Today

Lamerholm Fleming, Stevenage

Magazine article Management Today

Lamerholm Fleming, Stevenage

Article excerpt

Sponsor: BNY International

Activity: accelerometer manufacture

Task: design and manufacture of combined mechanical and electronic devices

Complexity: medium

Size: 59 employees

Outstanding features: breadth of production technology, technical expertise in chosen market, flexibility, extent to which manufacturing strategy complements commercial strategy

Michael Kellett, technical director of tiny Stevenage-based Lamerholm Fleming, succinctly summarises the company's strategy for competing globally with giant electronics multinationals. 'We're into niche markets,' he says. 'We don't want to make millions of anything: hundreds, maybe, or thousands - but no more.' Despite approaches from several of its blue-chip customers, the company has cannily stayed out of the market for vehicle airbag actuators, correctly identifying the opportunity as one that would soon swamp the business.

Although seventy-something Peter Kellett formally holds the title of managing director, these days it's deputy managing director Sarah Kellett and her brother, Michael, who make most of the decisions. Growth and profitability, they have found, come more easily when the factory focuses on the technically complex and hard-to-make end of the accelerometer market. Hopes are high for a small battery-powered accelerometer, christened ShockLog, that is designed to accompany freight shipments and monitor the knocks and shocks to which they are subjected in transit.

Whether it's the engine knock sensor that the company makes for Rover, the adaptive damping suspension control for Rolls-Royce, or the banknote thickness sensor for the ATM cash dispenser manufacturer, NCR, (which prevents the machines coughing out the wrong number of banknotes), the strategy is the same. First, identify a problem; then develop a technically-advanced solution, patent the design, and sell the product.

Then make it. When one of Michael Kellett's designs called for drilling a hole through the middle of the piezo crystal at the heart of an accelerometer - producing something roughly the shape and size of a miniature Polo mint - suppliers of the crystals said it couldn't be done. Undaunted, father and son designed a machine to undertake the drilling, which they then built. 'We now field enquiries from people asking exactly how we do it,' adds Sarah Kellett. …

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