Leading UK Manufacturer and System Integrator
LAC Conveyors & Automation are a well–respected and established UK manufacturer of conveyor systems, automation solutions and bespoke robotic systems for material handling requirements.
Our mission is, through imaginative and blue sky thinking, to be recognised as class-leading solution providers for materials handling and automation systems across all industry sectors.
One of our primary objectives is to set ourselves apart from competitors. Through investment in qualified and professional staff, embodying a can–do attitude we can continuously improve the quality of our products and continue to deliver on–time projects.
Joe Metcalfe, Sales Director at LAC Conveyors & Automation spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
First of all Joe can you talk us through the different products and services LAC Conveyors & Automation provides?
We are a UK integrator and manufacturer of materials handling equipment systems for the warehousing and production industries. We have four pillars to the business. We manufacture bespoke products for end-users and OEMs (original equipment manufacturers). We develop robotics solutions for processing and end–of–line applications. We develop AMR (autonomous mobile robot) based solutions for a range of industries and offer 24/7 service and support. All our solutions are integrated with our in–house WCS (warehouse control system).
What sets your company apart as a supplier in your sector?
It’s our people, which means our solution & delivery capability is excellent. We have a deep and varied skillset combined with lots of interesting experience in sectors ranging from Post and Parcel to Retail Ecommerce. We are strong at machine building, robot development and product development which is unusual for a smaller integrator. Our team is also made up of people who have followed each other through their varied careers which means we have a rich history and project portfolio. Engineering is very much in the blood of this business and we are proud to manufacture in the UK but also to partner with worldwide companies who help us push the boundaries.
What business sectors are your customers in?
We have a skillset within L-A-C that has been built from a vast experience within an array of business sectors. Our impressive product portfolio and skillset mean that our solutions are purpose designed and built for the application, not constrained by equipment range limitations. With this, we can adapt our strengths to new and upcoming industries. Some of the industries we operate in include Retail, Post and Parcel, E-commerce, Third Party Logistics and food manufacturing. To name a few!
Which industry sectors are growing fastest for you?
Retail E-com continues to grow and enquiries for high-speed item picking and packing are therefore increasing. It’s a complex landscape from a solution design perspective because the variables are vast and consumer habits present challenging problems for warehouse operations system and integrators to solve.
In addition to this, the 3PL market seems to be warming up to the adoption of warehouse automation. The emergence of AMRs seems to have unlocked automation adoption for this business because they are modular and can be moved when contracts change.
However, we are also going to greater adoption of the more traditional ASRS technology because investment decisions are no longer just about financial ROI due to the problems with labour shortages. For both these growth sectors, it appears that system flexibility and throughput are key. This is why we are so excited about our partnerships with Exotec and ABB.
Which of your core products and solutions are you presenting at IMHX?
We will be attending IMHX this year in strength. Not only do we have our own L-A-C stand we will also be joining Exotec on their stand. This means we can showcase all key technologies and services that L-A-C can offer; from solutions design, project deployment and software right through to maintenance and support. It’s not always easy to showcase all products at tradeshows as they tend to be quite big!
However, we enjoy meeting clients and fellow suppliers to talk about potential projects and the news in the industry. It’s a great barometer for automation appetite and it’s also great to see how technologies and businesses have evolved.
Are you launching anything new at the show?
There is always something new to talk about! We are going to show some new high–speed belt conveyors at the show and present some new videos of solutions that landed in the previous year. It’s Exotec’s first rodeo at IMHX this year and we expect their stand to get lots of attention because it is disruptive and innovative technology. It’s worth taking a look at their technology and meeting their team who are super passionate about engineering excellence, which is right up our street.
What do you see as the main benefits to your company from being involved with IMHX?
We like meeting people! Customers, competitors, recruiters and anyone else who wants to attend and get behind this industry. It’s a great place to network, share ideas and showcase our business. It’s also a great brand awareness boost and we are taking the opportunity to show off our new brand refresh. We expect it to be a bumper year this year and we are excited to see the new technologies on display and show off our own capability.
The last IMHX show was 2019, how has your business adapted to the changes since then?
I think most automation integrators have been run off their feet because economic conditions and world events meant businesses needed to change quickly. Research and development and investment in people have been the key to our success & growth. We increased our team significantly and further developed our own internal systems and control capability.
How has Brexit affected your business?
It increased demand significantly mostly due to the labour shortages companies were facing. In a short space of time automation became a must–have rather than a nice–to–have. Further to this, the Covid pandemic seemed to pour rocket fuel on the industry as businesses altered supply chain strategies to cope with the surge of online demand or to build new real estate in other territories to counter stock shortages.
Demand for warehouse automation has never been so high and the UK is certainly pushing the limits when it comes to new technology deployment. The thing to watch is the labour market because warehouse automation is not something that is typically found in traditional education prospectuses. Many more skilled engineers are required and it’s up to companies like ours to train and develop people so that we can satisfy demand. It’s an exciting time for the industry and for us at L-A-C as we push forward with an enhanced strategy based on people & technology investment.
What major problems did you encounter during the pandemic?
Material shortages were the major issue and lead times and costs spiked to unprecedented levels. It also became harder to plan projects, realise them on time and contract in an efficient manner. It’s been difficult to help clients project the real costs of projects and it’s not always been possible to hold prices for long periods, putting businesses under pressure to turn around investment decisions.
On a positive note, because we have our own manufacturing in the UK, we have been able to honour our prices and delivery times for the products we deliver which have contributed to our growth.
Can you tell us about your major customer contract wins since the last show in 2019?
Over the last 3 years, we have worked with a range of businesses which have varied in both size and specification. We have worked on projects ranging from a few thousand pounds, right up to multi-million-pound systems. Some of our most successful projects have included repeat business for some of the largest parcel-handling companies in the UK and worldwide.
We have also built great partner relationships with both Exotec and ABB. In working closely with our partners, we have been able to break into new business sectors. We were awarded our first Exotec, Skypod System order which is due to go live in November 2022 and have worked on several high-profile robotic systems, utilising dynamic software for the creation of pallet stack patterns for mixed SKU palletising.
It is two years to the next IMHX, where do you see your company going at that time?
As far as we want to go because this industry is here to stay and doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon. In this game, you’re only as good as your last project and if you don’t look after your customers then it’s not easy to grow.
Customer service is therefore crucial, and we will pay this plenty of attention. We are always striving to improve our products and services and are passionate about the industries we operate in. This passion to learn, grow and reinvest in our employees and future technologies has enabled L-A-C to grow and we don’t plan on changing this approach.