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US buyer rescues Laurence Scott from closure

01 August, 2005

US buyer rescues Laurence Scott from closure

An American businessman has stepped in to save Laurence, Scott & Electromotors, the Norwich-based motor manufacturer which had been earmarked for closure by its previous owner, FKI. The, new owner, George Clair (below), is paying £4.1m for the business, which made a loss of around £100,000 on sales of £13.8m in the year to March 2004.

Clair plans to raise LSE`s profile and to enter new markets. In particular, he sees great potential in the North American market where LSE has done little business until now. "There`s a tremendous opportunity to export to the US," he says.

This strategy is endorsed by LSE`s managing director, Tony Collins, who says that it will "open the door to half of the world`s market that has been closed to us".

Clair`s interest in the motors market began in 1999 when he acquired the intellectual property rights to motors made by the US firm, Louis Allis, which had gone into bankruptcy. While looking for a plant where he could build the motors, he came across Laurence Scott and was "extremely impressed with the workforce and their technical capabilities".

It took more than year of negotiations with FKI before a deal was struck, earlier this year. One sticking point was LSE`s valuable 4-hectare Gothic Works site, close to the Norwich City football ground. Clare has agreed to lease the site from FKI for three years, after which LSE may need to find a new home.

Clair has retained the workforce who he describes as "220 of the best engineers in the world". Their average age is around 55 and most joined the company as apprentices. Because many are approaching retirement, Clair may need to bring in new blood. "Not enough attention is being paid to apprenticeships," he says. "We`re hoping to do something about it."

Clair plans to expand LSE`s product range and its markets. At present, most of the company`s business is selling HV motors to the oil and gas sectors. "The company used to do much more," Clair says, "but they painted themselves into a corner." One area where he sees great potential for growth is the water industry.

Clair also has high hopes for the high-efficiency motors market. "There`s a lot of talk in this area, but not much being delivered," he suggests.

Another potential area for expansion is to offer engineering services, based on LSE`s expertise. "We don`t do enough with our technical capabilities," Clair says.

Clair intends to keep LSE`s portfolio of brands which include Heenan, Tasc, Neco, EDC, PSS and Glenphase, which he sees as a key strength. He plans to give the brands more independence by establishing different divisions within LSE, sharing the same manufacturing and engineering base. For example, he feels that the PSS electro-pneumatic clutch and brake business "would do much better as a standalone division".

Clair intends to keep Norwich as the main manufacturing base but may outsource some manufacturing, possibly to Eastern Europe - but not to China. "We want to maintain quality," he insists.




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