Business View Magazine interviews Mark LeMire of Loma Systems, an ITW Company as part of our focus on best practices in American businesses.
“You could say Loma Systems came out of the ashes of war,” says Mark LeMire, North America Business Unit Manager of one of the leading engineering and manufacturing companies specializing in metal detection, checkweighing, and x-ray inspection systems for the food, pharmaceutical and packaging industries. “Metal detection was a necessity coming out of the post-World War II need to find unexploded arsenal and bombs in and around the European area. It quickly developed into something where the metal detection technology was also a necessity for safety considerations for consumer products.”
Loma Systems was established in 1969 in the UK as a private business and was later acquired by the Spectris Group in 1995 where Loma became highly focused on R&D development. “It was a European company for many years,” says LeMire. “It was 1980, when it moved into Canada as a sales and service entity, and after a few years, it moved to its North American base in the Chicago area. In 2007, the ITW Corporation acquired Loma Systems and made it part of its portfolio in the Test and Measurement Group.” ITW is a multi-national manufacturer of a diversified range of value-adding and short-lead time industrial products and equipment. It consists of approximately 825 business units in 52 countries and employs approximately 50,000 people.
“In 2011, Loma Systems acquired Lock Inspection, which is another food, beverage, and pharmaceutical inspection company with comparable products, but with some technological differences that were a good fit to partner with the Loma Systems product line,” LeMire adds. “So, what you see, today, in 2017, is the combination of Loma Systems/Lock Inspection underneath the ITW Corporation.”
Loma Systems’ world headquarters remain in Farnborough, UK, with dozens of sales and service offices in France, Germany, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, Poland, China, Brazil, Canada, and the U.S. Outside of these areas, Loma Systems works closely with a vast network of distributors and OEM’s in over 35 countries in Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa, the Far East, and the Pacific rim. The company employs between 400 and 500 people worldwide; the North American unit employs about 80.
“We have three technologies,” says LeMire. “Metal detection, checkweighing, and x-ray, which is an alternative technology for contaminant inspection that can be used either in conjunction with metal detection or in the place of metal detection within certain circumstances. Under Loma North America, we sell, service, and support all three technologies. The market is worldwide; Loma North America is a business unit that reports to headquarters.”
LeMire details the company’s main clientele: “A good proportion of our market is in what we call ‘harsh food environments’ – meats and proteins. Our product is ‘designed to survive’ those harsh environments where you may have aggressive wash-down situations – high pressure, high temperature, or chemicals to ensure a clean environment. So, much of the focus of our core technology is to provide to those protein processing manufacturing facilities that need to inspect either the product in process or post-packaging, the assurance that there is no contaminant within the finished product. That contaminant can range from a metal-based material, to hard plastic, bone, stone and things of that nature. So, we target our marketing, our sales, support, and service to that portion of the market. We also have a dedicated pharmaceutical product line that’s meant strictly for the pharmaceutical and nutraceutical portion of the market.”
Regarding its competition, LeMire states that there are only a small number of companies that provide all three technologies. “We have a number of competitors in the space that provide only one of those technologies, which means they’re only addressing a portion of the customers’ needs in the process,” he explains. “We approach the market as a trusted advisor and solution provider to our customers, providing more of a holistic ‘check and detect’ inspection process, so, whether it’s metal detection, x-ray, or the checkweighing portion of the application need, we’re able to provide that total solution. Also, the structure that we have under the ITW Corporation, and the size and makeup of Loma Systems, both worldwide and in the business unit in North America, make us very unique among our peer group.”
Loma Systems is also well-known for its continuous and far-reaching research and development programs, and LeMire says that the company is constantly improving its products. This is particularly true since it was acquired by ITW. “From the corporate level, ITW Corporation has built out an enterprise strategy approach to how you address and grow the business,” he explains. “Historically, ITW has grown quite a bit through acquisition. Much of our focus now is on organic growth. It’s through taking our knowledge of customers’ applications of our core technology and advancing it to take it that next step in identifying and addressing future customer needs. So, there’s a strong focus on engineering and development; a very strong focus on customer-back innovation of the technology and then partnering with them to provide them with the best solutions.”
“For example, if you look at metal detection, there are a lot of advancements in the electronic controls of the base technology, which is opening up the doors for more flexible solutions for the customers,” he continues. “If you look at the customers’ needs, today and in the future, you find that they’re running a wider variety of products in the same facility and the same production line. They’re doing it in more demanding environmental conditions – whether it’s a cold environment, or operating 24/7, or they have other machinery electronic interference in the environment; all of these conditions raise the challenges presented to the base technology. This has opened the door for us to look at it from a control standpoint, making our products more flexible and adaptable to the customers’ changing needs.
“We also have to make everything user-friendly, because we do not want the average operator to have to become an expert in this technology, and it could take a long time for them to pick up the nuances of how to make the inspection system work,” LeMire adds. “So, the user interface also becomes a very critical element. Now, take those challenges for metal detection, and introduce x-ray. We’ve done x-ray technology for about 20 years; it’s not necessarily what we’re most known for, but we are presenting that product to the market as the next step in inspection if they need to augment what they’re doing in their product or production line. Additionally, x-ray inspection also has the capability to find missing product in packages such as divided containers and blister packs. We have to educate the market because they ask for what they wish versus what’s possible. So it’s trying to present to them that there are alternatives out there and better ways of doing what they’re doing today that’s going to improve the reliability and quality of their finished products.”
“There’s a strong history, focus, and dedication to the design of products to ensure they are of the highest quality and reliability,” LeMire declares, summing up. “That has been the core of this business. Overlay that with the corporate culture that ITW has brought to it to make sure that everything we provide to our customers is done effectively and reliably. All that’s been done under an umbrella of an entrepreneurial environment, so when we look at the culture of the business, it’s structured to deliver and provide to our customers that trusted advisor approach – a partnership with our customers. We look for those long-term relationships; we look to ensure that they’re successful, because ultimately we know their success leads to ours.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Loma Systems
WHAT: A leading engineering and manufacturing company specializing in metal detection
WHERE: World Headquarters in Farnborough, UK; U.S. Headquarters in Carol Stream, IL
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