Lawton Tubes

Quality is synonymous with the Lawton Tubes brand. From our copper tubes and fittings, which undergo rigorous testing to meet industry standards, to our exceptional product delivery and customer service, we strive for excellence at every opportunity.

This wouldn’t be possible without the expertise of Paul Bourton, Lawton Tube’s Group Quality Manager, and his team. We caught up with Paul to find out more about his role at Lawton Tubes and how his expertise helps ensure we deliver quality at every turn.

You recently joined Lawton Tubes. What was your previous experience in quality management?

I was a time-served steam turbine fitter working on submarine turbines.

My duties included doing self-inspection, performing quality checks, and investigating product failures and downfalls. I was made redundant in 2011. While looking for other opportunities, I found my skills aligned perfectly with the quality sector.

My journey started as a quality inspector for a hydraulic equipment supplier 13 years ago. From there, I’ve worked my way up to quality manager. Along the way, I’ve grown to enjoy it more and more.

What’s your area of expertise?

I’m very much a people person when it comes to quality management. My passion is improving relationships with our supply chain and customers. I want to make sure what we’re selling is what a customer wants, and if it’s not, to make sure they get the support and response they need to rectify that quickly, because our customers are the most important people in the business.

What qualities do you bring to the role?

I’m a hands-on person. I’m not the sort of quality manager who likes to sit behind a desk and just do compliance audits and reports – although that is a part of the job! I like to meet with our customers, visit our suppliers, and develop the business through communicating with people. 

What’s involved in being Group Quality Manager for Lawton Tubes?

I cover quality management of both our service provision and products across all three Lawton Tubes sites – that’s Coventry, Poole, and our most recent acquisition, Wardtec in Redditch (a turnparts factory which uses CNC machines). It’s important we all feel part of the same team, so I’ll be making regular site visits this year to ensure the channels of communication between our sites are kept open.

Manufacturing is a heavy focus for me, as well as the whole supply chain. I manage our relationships with suppliers to make sure we get quality materials. Any nonconforming product is reported on. It’s my job to ensure we get corrective action in place in a timely manner and avoid recurring issues.

Can you talk us through some of the product quality processes used at Lawton Tubes?

Our copper products are being used in both domestic and commercial construction, gas, and electrical grids and hospitals across the world. They’re manufactured to BSI standards, and some are kitemarked, so all products have to be manufactured to a very high quality.

One of the ways we measure the quality of our copper products is by adhering to the ISO 9001 Quality System. This is an internationally recognised level of standards used across the manufacturing industry. It gives us a robust framework for carrying out all our processes, to ensure we consistently meet customer requirements and find ways to improve on what we’re doing.

We perform regular in-house tests including hardness, dimension, and tensile strength as well as using third parties where required, ensuring the product adheres to that standard.

Tell us about how metal grain analysis enhances the quality of Lawton’s products…

Metal grain analysis allows us to examine the structure and composition of our copper products at a microscopic level. It’s vital for picking up any irregularities or imperfections in the copper that may compromise the integrity of the product. Using metal grain analysis allows us to identify any potential issues with the material and rectify them before they impact the standard of the product, ensuring the same high quality every time.

How do you ensure quality across your design processes?

We have a team of skilled CAD designers. They create precise, detailed blueprints for our copper products using state-of-the-art software and technology. We do this for custom components and when we’re refining existing designs to optimise the functionality and efficiency of our products and make sure they’re superior quality but also efficient to manufacture. 

We also reverse engineer products some in house, which means we can be innovative when it comes to meeting customers’ changing needs. By taking apart and analysing existing products, we can look at design and functionality, and the performance characteristics of the product. And that insight allows us to develop tailored solutions that not only meet customer expectations but exceed them.

How important are these quality control processes?

They’re very important, Lawton is a household name, so our reputation has to be upheld. If a domestic plumber is trying to pull a 90-degree bend and the tube is the wrong hardness or wall thickness, it will snap or ripple. With the air conditioning and commercial gas industry, there are other things to consider because those tubes are working within pressurised systems. With medical gases the tube has to comply to specs and NHS HTM02 standard, so the products need to be super clean and well packaged. We need to make sure all elements are correct.

Specifically, within our engineering section, OEMs may even require tighter tolerances above that of the pipe spec. Final application of our copper pipes can go into anything from nuclear submarines to alcohol distillation for Whiskey production. So, we have to check and double check what each customer requires. It’s years of experience dealing with long standing customer relationships that sets us apart from our competitors; we go above and beyond when it comes to servicing a quality product.

What does this mean for Lawton customers?

Before I joined the business, it was down to the technical sales managers to juggle supplier and customer relations, which isn’t ideal. It meant we fell down on customer response times on occasion. So, I’ve initiated a set of processes that means we can now communicate more efficiently with our customers to resolve the issue quickly.

Embracing the digital age has been pivotal for us at Lawton Tubes. We’ve recently integrated Smartsheets into our operations, which has transformed the way we handle customer feedback and complaints. It gives a streamlined, efficient way of logging, tracking, and resolving issues and we can make sure every concern is addressed promptly and effectively. It’s been so successful we’re planning to roll Smartsheets out in other areas of the business!

We’re still transitioning, but it means now going forward, our customers will have me as a direct point of contact for requests or complaints rather than dropping an email or call to customer services or the account manager. It means I can keep them informed. And the feedback from the wider business and our sales team has been that customers are very happy with the progress and changes we’ve made so far.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

We are an established family business, so when we get issues or niggles, it’s having that satisfaction where we know the answer and we can put it right. Going back to the customer or client and being able to say, ‘We’ve sorted this now for you.’ It’s a great feeling.

What are your goals for the department moving forward

One of the biggest challenges at the moment is that we have a lot of products, and the portfolio is growing. We distribute to over 40 countries and across the UK, so when goods ship, they need to be right.

An issue, whether it’s our product at fault or not, can hold up site work or production lines. My goal is to grow our facility and the personnel here to a level where we can carry out the work within the customers’ busy time frame.  

I also want to enhance my relationships with our other sites to strengthen the Lawton Tubes team, ensure the continued quality of our product and services across the group, and maintain that synergy.

What’s it like being part of the Lawton Tubes family?

The business is great – it’s thriving. The people here are fantastic. From day one, I’ve been welcomed as part of the family. I’ve got great support from my team and every aspect of the business. I can’t fault the place – it’s brilliant! I hope to be here for years and years to come.

Find out more about Lawton Tubes’ quality accreditations here.