Lister Petter

Lister Petter – engine icon

In October 2017, Keith, Sean and Ryan Mason took on a big challenge. Having already achieved success in the marine and industrial sectors with Sleeman & Hawken Limited, they completed the takeover of Lister Petter, a historic British manufacturer of engines and gensets, providing solutions for a range of sectors including construction, commercial and agriculture.

This news has been cautiously welcomed in the industry. On the one hand, it is very positive in continuing the legacy of an iconic 150-year-old British name in the industrial world. It also secures the jobs at its UK manufacturing facility and helps support the various UK suppliers the company deals with, as well as the many overseas distributors that have built their businesses on the back of Lister Petter. On the other, the company has had a number of different owners in recent years, as well as some other issues concerning finance and deliveries. Keith is fully aware of what needs to be done: “It is about getting the quality back, it is about stability, and getting lead times down from ten weeks to three or four.”

The first step towards restructuring is to identify problem areas, and then come up with ways to solve them. Ryan outlines the difficulties that need to be addressed: “Ten years ago, there were 250 staff with multiple sites around the world. Now, there are just 20 employees in a condensed, albeit modern, production facility in Hardwicke, Gloucester. It has been through receivership, and has suffered from a lack of investment. It’s an important time, and hopefully the existing clients will support our plans going forward.” Keith is happy to report a reassuring response: “Feedback has already been very good, and the water pump and generator markets have been encouraging in these early weeks. Some historically large customers, who turned to other manufacturers, have come back to place initial orders with us.”

In effect, moves have been made to reinstate what was already working effectively, but also to build on it, as Keith explains: “One step is to re-engage with the main dealers. Some have been in place for many years, so it is hoped that by restoring the dealer network, it will be possible to install confidence in the brand again to help us all grow.” It is also worth emphasising that the expertise of Sleeman & Hawken is being brought into the new setup: “We have very experienced staff that have dealt with Lister products for decades. We have also dealt with many of the suppliers to the factory already, so we hope these relationships will help us increase sales and make deliveries more efficient.”

Another way to improve both the efficiency and the quality of production, has been to invest in new technology: “The first thing we did was to install a new MRP (Material Requirements Planning) system. With so many different components and lots of different build specifications, this was critical in getting the factory more organised,” Ryan states. “It also means we can forecast our requirements much further in advance and get more goods on order, helping to save on freight and administration costs. This has been alongside the re-introduction of many previous quality checks and balances that had been overlooked in recent times.”

With 2018 approaching, the new owners are considering the next direction of Lister Petter. As well as retaining and improving the current offering, the Masons are looking at what else can be done: “We are moving back into the marine engine market, which Listers has not been a part of for five years. We have redeveloped the Alpha and T-Range marine engines for both propulsion and auxiliary power, which we are hoping to launch in January,” Keith predicts. Ryan adds a note of caution, reiterating that the focus is getting things back on track first: “There are ambitious plans for the future, but first we need to consolidate. Hopefully by Easter the groundwork will be laid to offer a broader range. There is a lot to take on board and we need Listers to walk again before it can run!”

There is a substantial history behind Sleeman & Hawken as well, having been involved in manufacturing and distribution for over five decades. A majority of that has involved Lister Petter products: “In that time I have had dealings with several previous managing directors. Having been in close communication over that period, there has always been a connection with the brand, something that we have always felt very close to,” Keith recalls.

Ryan is adamant that the pull of the historic brand still exists: “There is a demand for simply assembled, reliable and easy to maintain machinery that can be fixed on-site without the need for complicated diagnostic equipment, which is not always available in some of the more remote regions where these machines operate. UK manufactured product is still held in high regard in the market, so we have to be proud of our UK facility whilst still remaining competitive on price.”

It is easy to be cynical about a company takeover, especially during a challenging period. However, it is worth remembering that the new team taking on this rebuilding exercise clearly have experience in the industry. There seems to be a belief and desire to maintain the integrity of what this 150-year-old business stands for. Indeed, there is a push to return to the practices that built its reputation in the first place, and to restore confidence in both the short and long term. Most crucially of all, it seems to be about bringing back the previous customer base, who are after the level of quality that comes from a dedication to craftsmanship.

Finally, Keith, Sean and Ryan have a message to pass on: “We would like to thank our loyal clients and suppliers, who have stuck around long enough to give us this chance as the new stewards of Lister Petter. It has been very heart-warming receiving their well-wishes, and we hope to do them justice in 2018.”

Lister Petter
Products: Industrial engines

Lister Petter

Advanced engines from Lister Petter

Lister Petter is a British manufacturer of industrial diesel engines used primarily in stationary industrial applications, which can trace its history back for 150 years.

Formed from the merger of Petters Limited and R A Lister and Company, Lister Petter has manufacturing sites worldwide and is headquartered in Dursley, Gloucestershire. It strives to maintain the timehonoured traditions of its founder companies in supplying engines and equipment for electricity generation, marine applications and irrigation.

“Our business is substantial with a £46 million yearly turnover and 257 employees. We provide diesel engines in the 1.7 to 266 kilowatt range and our core business is built around new engines, emissions technology, alternative fuel resources, and extensive re-manufacturing,” says sales and marketing director Colin Flint. “We have manufacturing sites in the UK, the US and India, joint ventures in China and Poland and a sales office in France. The new joint venture facility in China is a purpose-built plant where we produce our Omega engines and Gensets.”

Lister Petter’s engines focus on the smaller power band end of the diesel engine market though its recently launched Omega is a higher-powered engine of up to 335 horsepower aimed at the African, Middle Eastern, Latin American and Asian markets. “The Omega is available in four and six cylinder models of 16 – 266 kilowatts,” says Colin. “Our six cylinder is 9.7 litres, the four cylinder is 6.5 litres, and available as turbo and turbo intercooled. Also available are both naturally aspirated and turbo charged versions of the Sigma engine produced through our Polish joint venture and is mid range at 17.5 – 82 kilowatt bands with a 2.4 litre engine. Our core product is the Alpha engine, which is Tier 2 certified and Tier 4 capable, 7.5 – 40 kilowatt and available in two, three, four and turbo four cylinder variants. With a gas option also available, it remains our most popular engine.”

The company has customers across various industrial sectors including marine, construction, military, electricity, telecommunications, agriculture and disaster recovery: “We have an extensive global distribution network with key distributors in certain countries holding stock and providing service back-up, and we service a large quantity of generating equipment. We also have customers in the off-highway market, the water pump irrigation market, OEMs, and substantial military applications. We supply wherever a robust generating engine is required.”

Colin explains how the company concentrates on building reliable engines rather than on new product development: “We manufacture robust, reliable, dependable engines, all built on known technology. When we look at R&D it is regarding the Genset area and bio-diesel. We’re researching alternative fuels and running test engines on B100, which is 100 per cent bio diesel produced with our newly developed bio-reactor. We’re hoping to bring to market a system of working with locally produced vegetable oils to power Gensets and Water pumps with ultimate benefits for the environment and local economy.”

Colin has noted a growing industry awareness of environmental issues, which has led to the development of alternative fuels: “We’re developing opportunities for bio-fuel powered engines at the B50 to B100 level, and because our engines are reliable, well-built, and lacking a huge amount of bolt-on electronics, they can run on high concentrations of bio diesel and in certain cases even straight vegetable oil, whilst being simple to serviced and maintain. Other companies whose equipment has a hightechnological input such as common rail systems, and electronic metering equipment would struggle to get their engines to run on high concentrations of biofuel, whereas we’re using simple engineering, and that’s the big differentiator for us. We can succeed in those markets where access to fuel is poor or there’s a surplus of convertible resources whilst still meeting global emissions standards.”

Colin explains how the company has implemented procedures to ensure optimum efficiency throughout its operation: “We have a dedicated global purchasing department, a comprehensive MRP system and an enhanced global sourcing team with its own engineering section to ensure new suppliers’ products match our existing specifications. In terms of challenges, we simply need to ensure that we grow effectively whilst maintaining quality and customer service.”

The company is investigating new applications and planning further growth in order to sustain its success: “We’re well established in the marketplace making us the benchmark for competitors, though there are still areas for us to consider,” remarks Colin. “Gas powered engines and Gensets are big progress areas, whilst marine applications continue to interest us and we believe global warming will result in an increased demand for drinking water and irrigation equipment, making this a significant growth area, and telecoms is increasingly buoyant as operators roll out their networks globally. We will continue to grow our distributor base internationally by increasing our dedicated list of distributors who hold stock locally because availability is key, and we’ll concentrate on alternative fuel as we’re keen to position ourselves as the engine of choice for biofuel usage up to B100. Our re-manufacturing facilities in the US, the UK and China, all equipped to machine major components and re-manufacture diesel engines, are an important focus as well and that growth has been fuelled by a technology partnership with two nano-surface metallurgy R&D centres allowing us to offer advanced, cost-effective, environmentally sound engineering capabilities in re-manufacturing.”

Colin believes that the company’s success is mainly due to its high performance engines and strategic developments: “The market is fantastic for us at the moment and we’ve never had such a full order book due to our engines’ robust, reliable design. They’re not automotive engines being used for industrial applications – they are purpose built industrial engines, which means they’re simple to service and have a long life. Lister’s global reputation is based on durability and our main aims are simply to increase our manufacturing base, grow our distributor network, develop bio-fuel technology and advance our re-manufacturing offering.”

Lister Petter
Products: Industrial diesel engines
Sites: Global
Employees: 257