HotSeat – Andrew Hogg, Managing Director at Liondell

Utilising the latest CAD and mould simulation software, Liondell Limited specialises in the design and development of plastic parts from a brief, and the manufacture of injection mould tooling and low volumes of plastic parts to client data. Established in 2016, the business is headed by Andrew Hogg, who has 30 years of experience working in the plastics industry. Andrew is next to face the HotSeat…

What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Liondell respond?

Due to recent global events and Brexit, we have seen large fluctuations in logistics costs and lead-times, border check delays, to name a couple. These factors bring uncertainty which presents supply chain risks. Very shortly, we will probably see that OEMs will prefer to bring mass production of plastics back onshore. We have certainly seen this recently and Liondell is prepared for this as we always have been. Most of our tooling projects come back to the UK anyway and our systems are set up with this bias.

Other developments in 3D printing to enable local inserts and small impressions to be produced directly from CAD data are exciting and will become more mainstream. Our philosophy is to embrace change and we will find a way of incorporating this method into our service.

How has Liondell developed during your tenure?

During the last five years, Liondell has evolved, but the core business is unchanged.

The first year was a case of setting out the stall and I spent a lot of time creating a bespoke ‘injection moulding’ database which is not only 100% tailored to our industry but also has built-in commercial functions so that we can spend more time on engineering and less time on commercial aspects. This has paid dividends and helps us (as a small team) to be productive and have the ability to scale-up to larger, more complex projects when the opportunity arises.

The second and third years were a steady build-up of clients and suppliers. We have grown organically by reputation and have managed to avoid ‘cold-calling’ recently.

In the fourth year, my son James joined Liondell as Assistant Project Manager and has built on his hands-on toolmaking skills to develop his skills and knowledge into product and tool design, DFM’s, knowledge of our suppliers and how to effectively communicate remotely.

Having James onboard has freed my time up to focus on some large and complex tooling projects that I would not have been able to devote sufficient time to before.

At the end of 2020, one of my ex-colleagues, Summer Chen, joined Liondell. Summer is based in Dongguan, China which gives us a presence where our main suppliers are based. When travel restrictions are lifted, we will be able to resume normal service, which is to visit China around three times a year.

We have recently passed our ISO-9001:2015 audit for the second time, so this is also an area where we have developed and see tangible results for our CRM system, which we use as much as possible to record and monitor each phase of our services.

What do you credit as the key to your success?

The key to success can be summed up very easily in two lines:

  • Hard work
  • Attention to detail

Sometimes long working days are necessary in order to maintain schedules. Other days it may not be so intense. Managing workloads is something that I have learned to be of paramount importance over the years. It’s no good just to plough on regardless as there are only so many tasks that can be completed properly in one day.

If you try to do too much, then the attention to detail is lost. As we are only as good as our last job, we cannot afford a lack of focus.

Our method is to constantly review where we are and, when necessary, adjust our resources before the quality of service is affected.

What has been the greatest challenge in your career?

My greatest challenge has been to learn my own strengths and weaknesses. As I come from a design background where collaboration was not common, it was difficult at times to integrate into a team. I have learned that we all run at different paces and delegation of workloads needs to be effective.

In order to grow the business, we will ultimately need other individuals to assist and work within a well-defined framework. So far, this has worked within Liondell. However, I have experienced situations earlier in my career where management did not pay much attention to this, which lead to issues within the team.

What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry, and does that differ from the advice you would give to an apprentice joining now?

I am not sure that I would have listened to advice when I was 16 as it was just a job at that point. However, the moulding industry has some sort of hold over you the longer you are in it.

I did receive some good advice along the way. In 1989, I remember the technical manager at my second company told me to learn as much as possible from the chief tool designer. I tried to do this and learned a lot in the years I was there.

The advice I would give to any apprentice is to learn from the most experienced people that you have in the organisation. Be respectful and wait for them to tell you if you are doing a good job or not. But when they do, do not let it go to your head as there is always room for improvement.

What hidden talents do you have?

I play the drums in a Southampton covers band (Covid-19 permitting). At the moment, I can’t get in the garage to rehearse, but I do find hitting the skins a bit of a stress reliever. It will be nice to get out to the pubs and clubs again soon. Let’s see!

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