In November 1992 Labman became a Limited company, and began growing from a small startup operation to become one of today’s most sought after custom automation manufacturers. Watch our anniversary video below and read on!
Begun in Middlesbrough, by Prof. George Carter of Durham University in 1979, Labman initially designed small robotic systems to aid in education. The company went through several different iterations before being purchased by current MD Andrew Whitwell and his father in 1992. The direction changed and Labman soon began to develop automated systems for laboratories, requiring high precision, high throughput robots that pushed Labman’s expertise.
Moving to the first unit on the new Stokesley Industrial Estate, designed and built by Labman, in the mid 90s, the company had its fair share of ups and downs, including the disappearance of all of their new computers on the eve of the grand opening ceremony for the new building. Despite these setbacks, Labman’s name began to grow and their success was plain to see.
Eight years later Labman moved into a run-down warehouse near Seamer and transformed it into a hub of creative engineering in the UK. As the company continued to grow, so the building was transformed with a cedar-clad extension to make room for its ever-growing staff numbers. The size of the robots grew too, and the company even designed and fitted an entire automated water laboratory for Vittens, in the Netherlands.
In 2014, with customers such as Unilever and Akzo-Nobel turning to Labman for their automation needs, and with the staff numbers pushing 50, the company began work on an extension to triple the size of its HQ in Seamer, North Yorkshire. In the meantime, Labman’s automated Hegman gauge system, TIDAS, continued to sell in ever increasing numbers and a new product division was set up to facilitate the demand for this and other common lab automation needs.
The family heart of the company and the unique and fun working environment have always been, and continues to be a huge part of Labman’s charm. 2015 saw Labman’s first summer party, Labfest, transform the factory into an inflatable filled, and typically quirky, environment. This was followed by 2016’s Hawaiian themed Labfest and 2017’s Labfiesta which included a robotic cocktail maker and ping-pong canon challenge.
After competing with companies throughout the world, in 2016 Liverpool University commissioned Labman, to create the £2.5m Formulation Engine for its brand new Materials Innovation Factory in the heart of Liverpool. Alongside this Labman began to win its fair share of awards, including the NHS Innovations Award for a new system to aid IVF egg collection, and a regional award for the company’s commitment and investment in apprenticeships.
As Labman nears the completion of 2017, the automation company shows no signs of slowing down. The extension to the HQ was officially opened by HRH Princess Anne on October 10th, however, even before the ribbon was cut, plans were taking shape to start work on Labman’s second building on the site, doubling the size of the facility again. Staff numbers are expected to exceed 100 in early 2018, and many hundreds more will be required in the coming years in order to meet demand. With the popularity of automation and robotics set to rise steeply in the future, the next 25 years look set to propel Labman even further; this is a name you’re going to hear a lot more often.