Rishi Sunak hails tech company's continuing success in rural North Yorkshire

One of the most technologically advanced companies is continuing to grow in the heart of the North Yorkshire countryside.

Labman Automation is breaking new ground in robotic engineering from its purpose-built headquarters and manufacturing base at Seamer, near Stokesley.

Rishi Sunak, the MP for Richmond constituency which includes Seamer, recently visited the site to talk to the Labman team, led by managing director Andrew Whitwell.

The company, which creates and sells robots around the world for a wide range of tasks, processes and industries, has doubled its workforce in recent years and is set to grow further.

No sooner was the Seamer base’s 20,000 sq ft extension opened last year by the Princess Royal than plans were being drawn up for a further expansion.

The company currently employs about 85 engineers and designers, including eight apprentices. That number is set to grow beyond 100 this year as its order book bulges.

Mr Whitwell told Mr Sunak that company’s success was based upon innovation to meet the customers’ requirements.

“Our approach to robotics is quite unique,” he said. “We build them to slot straight into our customers’ systems.

“They don’t need to buy a load of expensive new software or equipment. We do the creative thinking so that our robots fit smoothy into their process or whatever system they are using.”

Labman’s new timber-clad headquarters is a striking feature of the countryside a few miles from the North York Moors National Park.

Inside the team works in a non-traditional way with a flat, non-hierarchical structure with apprentices rubbing shoulders with a small number of senior managers.

The company endeavours to create a stimulating and fun working environment - the recent extension included a full-sized squash court, to add to an existing climbing wall, table tennis table and fireman’s ropes to enable swift access to the building’s main design and construction floor.

Mr Sunak said he was hugely impressed with the company’s products and its innovative culture.

“This is no ordinary company. What they are doing here is a tremendous example of cutting-edge innovation and export success. It shows how traditional British strengths in design and engineering can flourish in the right environment and with the right leadership.”

Labman was established in Middlesbrough in 1979 by Professor George Carter. The company initially designed small robotic systems for education. Following its purchase by Mr Whitwell and his father Joe in 1992, the company began to develop automated systems for laboratories, requiring high precision, high throughput robots.

Labman moved into the first unit on the new Stokesley Industrial Estate in the mid-90s, and eight years later to its current location at Seamer. It counts the likes of Akzo Nobel, GlaxoSmithKline and Unilever among its clients.