South Yorkshire company flies the flag for safety
21 July 2011
Anyone sitting in an aeroplane, train or car, crossing a bridge, getting their gas through a pipe or electricity from a nuclear power station anywhere in the world probably has a South Yorkshire company to thank that they are safe.
For whether it’s a mode of transport or a metal structure of virtually any kind it may well have been tested by someone trained by Lavender International.
The company has trained people in what’s called non-destructive testing from countries all over the world, including Brazil, Spain, Nigeria, Mexico, South Africa, Russia and India. And it is being helped to expand by business support programme Enterprising Barnsley.
Clients include major aerospace companies; nuclear, oil and gas suppliers, and firms involved in service inspection and the leisure industry.
Every time a delegate from a different nation visits the company flies their flag at their training centre at Penistone Station.
And as well as trainees visiting them, Lavender International has associates in South Africa, Dubai, Canada, France and Greece. They have an office in Houston, Texas, and have just opened another in Perth, Australia.
Co-managing director Stephen Lavender said: “We have an amazing cupboard full of flags ready to be flown outside the centre. And the delegates really appreciate the welcome when they arrive.”
The trainees who come to the training centre at Penistone are put through a series of lectures, practical sessions and examinations, which lead to industry-recognised qualifications.
They are taught how to check metal objects for flaws without destroying them. Just like tests used in medicine on the human body, non-destructive testing uses dyes, X-rays, magnetism and ultrasound to find faults in anything from gas pipes to aeroplane wings, making it vital in all sorts of sectors from energy to aerospace, transport to leisure.
“You wouldn’t want to be on top of a giant roller-coaster to find that someone hadn’t checked the metal in one of the bolts. Or discover that a rail line wasn’t fit for purpose,” said Stephen, who is also president of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing.
“People do not appreciate the amount of testing that goes on to keep them safe on a day-to-day basis.”
Lavender International was started in 1976 by Stephen’s father Jack Lavender and brother Dave, together with their mother Joyce. Jack was a highly respected metallurgist in the steel industry in Sheffield. The company initially also carried out the testing, but gradually moved into training people from companies to do their own testing.
Stephen joined the firm in 1982 and, in the family tradition, Stephen’s son Paul is also one of the 36 employees.
By investing in new testing equipment and processes, Lavender International has managed to keep at the forefront of the industry and has a turnover of £2.5m. They are now looking at moving into the testing of composite materials, similar to fibre-glass.
Stephen said: “We have to keep pace with the changing demands of all these different industries and we also have to keep pace with more day-to-day tasks like IT and marketing. And that is where Enterprising Barnsley’s help has been invaluable.
“They have made our lives easier when it comes to things like co-ordinating databases or sorting out the website and that means we can get out there in the world and do what we know how to do best – help keep people as safe as we can.”
John Heckingbottom, business development manager at Enterprising Barnsley, said it was pleasing to see a company doing so well.
“Not only have they seen a year on year growth in turn-over in these difficult times, but they are literally flying the flag for Barnsley all over the world. It just shows that the town has got some fascinating – and profitable – businesses that are having an influence internationally.”
The Enterprising Barnsley programme offers business support to Barnsley businesses with growth potential and so far has helped create more than 500 jobs. Enterprising Barnsley has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.
NOTE TO NEWS EDITORS
Photograph available of Stephen Lavender in front of flags at company’s HQ at Penistone.
The Enterprising Barnsley programme is a partnership between Barnsley Development Agency (BDA), Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC) and the University of Huddersfield’s Barnsley Campus (UCB).