How we came to be and how we got to where we are today
The origins: Lanemark, but not as we know it
Picturing the Midlands during the 1970s conjures several images: a vast array of concrete buildings that went out of date no sooner had they been built, the region’s football clubs all mourning time spent in the lower divisions and, lest we forget, the iconic Spaghetti Junction.
Long known as one of Britain’s industrial heartlands, the region has a storied history of manufacturing, not least in the automotive sector. As a producer of tyres, Dunlop played a significant part in this golden era for the Midlands. Its iconic Fort Dunlop building on the outskirts of Birmingham was at one point the world’s biggest factory, churning out vast quantities of rubber tyres to support the huge output of local car plants.
Slightly further afield in Coventry, Dunlop had an engineering arm and, specifically to our story, a Research & Development department which experimented with burner systems and related equipment. When petrochemical giant BP encountered combustion problems at some of their refineries, they approached Dunlop for some much-needed specialist assistance.
This research unit was tasked specifically with improving burner stability and efficiency and by the second half of the 1970s had developed what is now the Thermimax matrix burner head. In 1978 Dunlop Energy Engineering Division was formally established in Rugby, around 40 miles east of Birmingham. With the experience of helping BP solve their refinery problems under their belt, attention moved to more general use applications outside of the petrochemical setting.
Moving into new realms of process heating
One of the first areas investigated was tank heating, with the aim of addressing a series of problems.
At that time tank heating system efficiency was typically as low as 50%, because of the fact that most heating systems of the era relied on either steam, high pressure water or inefficient gas fired immersion tube arrangements. Most existing gas fired immersion tube burner systems were classified as ‘large bore’ and required wider tube diameters, making spatial restrictions an ongoing headache for many.
Ultimately, investment in product research and development in this area resulted in tube diameters being halved and efficiency improvements reaching up to 80% and beyond. This put Dunlop Energy Engineering’s burgeoning product line ahead of the competition and out in front.
Dunlop went on to patent their TX ‘small bore’ induced draught tank heating system, which at the time was one of only two space-saving options on the market: the other was developed by British Gas, who utilised a patented forced draught burner. This design was licenced to a small number of manufacturers including Eclipse Inc. (now part of the Honeywell Group) in the USA.
After overhauling the approach to tank heating design, focus then moved to a burner that could be applied to process air heating, initially for applications relating to the drying and curing of metal parts and assemblies. Thus, the FD burner range was born, allowing for similar degrees of efficiency saving and installation flexibility in a variety of environments.
Despite this international expansion, Dunlop Energy Engineering nonetheless faced a number of financial challenges in the early 1980’s, resulting in four employees undertaking a management buyout in 1981. They subsequently relocated to Nuneaton, establishing Lanemark as we now know it today.
Modern Lanemark – an international outfit
The development of new products was mirrored with a rapid expansion of international sales including the signing of a manufacturing and distribution licence in 1989 with Power Flame Inc., a leading US based supplier of industrial and commercial boiler burner systems.
The arrangement allowed Power Flame to expand their activities outside of their boiler burner business by giving them access to the TX and FD burner ranges, in turn gaining more exposure for Lanemark’s output on the worldwide stage.
In 1996 we relocated to our newly build purpose-designed location in Whitacre Road, Nuneaton with an official opening by Sir Colin Hope in early 1997. Through the rest of the 1990s and into the early 2000s Lanemark continued with its expansion plans for export with additional distributor signings across Australasia, Singapore and Europe.
Around a similar time as the various distribution expansions, product and market development saw a number of key moments: the DB (Duct Burner) range was introduced in the 1990s, intended for applications such as paint spray booth air heating. Later down the line in 2010 the FDB (Forced air Duct Burner) was released, for those applications with space restrictions and variable air flows.
In 2005 we went through a second management buyout through three of its senior managers and then in 2007 the company purchased Midco Europe Ltd, based in the West Midlands. This was UK Distributor for Midco International Inc. based in Chicago, USA who manufacture the HMA burner head that Lanemark use for the DB burner range. As part of the purchase arrangement, we signed as the new distributor for Midco International Inc. which enabled us to expand further into the spray booth and HVAC market.
2005 to 2010 saw an increase in sales to China and subsequently an office was established in Shanghai. Further growth lead to the founding of Lanemark Combustion Equipment (Tianjin) Co., Ltd, a joint venture which offered dedicated sales offices and a factory for sales into China.
In 2020 Lanemark signed two new distributors: Pune, India based Advaita Energy Solutions with experience in a variety of industries including high temperature applications and YETEN Combustion & Energy Technologies Ltd, specialists in high-temperature burners used in metal industry applications based in Istanbul. These new signings allowed Lanemark to continue its expansion plans in consulting and delivering to customers specialist operating fields such as furnaces, kilns and galvanising lines.
In the same year 2020 we also doubled our manufacturing capabilities with a new dedicated factory. This space allowed the company to bring more in-house, improving availability and stock control and allowing for more focussed assembly areas back in the original manufacturing space.
So what does the future hold? Well, we’re committed to continuing on our path of innovating new technologies, approaching problems creatively and delivering the best of British engineering worldwide – all from the historical Midlands industrial heartland.