TUCKED away in a corner of a Newbury business park is a hive of industrious imagination and engineering prowess.
Iterign, a product design and manufacturing consultancy based on Greenham Business Park, is the brain-child of Alan Lawrence and has been helping to bring people’s ingenious ideas to life since it was set up in 2011.
Alan, who grew up in Cold Ash and Thatcham, says he wasn’t sure what to do once he finished at The Downs School, so he started a horticultural mechanics course at the Berkshire College of Agriculture, in Burchett’s Green.
“It was mower repairs really,” he explains. “My dad was a landscape gardener so I was always tinkering with machines and helping him.
“But rather than just doing the technicians’ course on how to repair it, I realised I enjoyed looking at how it was made.
“So I went on to do a National Diploma in engineering at Newbury College and then a masters in mechanical engineering at Reading University, where I got a First Class Honours.
“In the last year of my course I did a placement and went on to work for that company full-time once I left university in 2001.”
Alan stayed there until 2003, when the company, which had manufactured torque sensors for Formula One cars, closed.
“I really enjoyed working there,” he says. “I had just bought a house in Kintbury and all of the employees were then made redundant, which forced me to go out and look for something else.”
That something else was a job with a product design company in Andover, where he stayed until 2011. During that time he rose to become head of engineering, but he also became frustrated as he says the company didn’t seem interested in growing.
It held Alan back and he knew something had to change.
“While I was at school and university I used to work for myself, doing gardening and fixing things,” he says. “I worked a lot with my dad when I was younger too, so I had a good work ethic and knew how to run my own business.”
He decided to go out alone and set up Iterign with his university friend, Gianluca De Arcangelis. Although the pair still co-own the company, Alan carries out all of the day-to-day business.
With a combined experience of more than 13 years in engineering, design and supply, Iterign’s team – which now comprises four full-time staff and two interns – offers design, electronics, prototyping, manufacturing, engineering and finite element analysis, which allows the designers to review a product’s strength and evaluate functional geometry.
The company, which has grown more than 40 per cent in the past four years, can also provide in-house product assembly, testing, packaging and logistics, as well as helping you manage online retailing.
“Within six months of working from home on my own, I had to find new premises and take on staff,” says Alan, who is married to Pauline.
The couple, who met at agricultural college, live in Kintbury with their daughter Sophie, aged 10, and son Luke, aged eight.
“Personal satisfaction is much better now and I have a great team of guys working for me too,” he adds. “At the company I had previously worked for, the customer was never fully involved.
“I wanted to make the client far more involved, from the earliest possible concept. “I also enjoy solving people’s problems and seeing the variety of ideas that comes in to us.
“We have developed everything from docking stations for charging police body cameras, to baby cups that are sold in JoJo Maman Bebe, to horse ‘teether’ toys and parts for power stations; so it is a really wide variety.
“We never know what is going to come in – last week we were dealing with air freshener products.”
The company is excited about the up-coming launch of one product it has been heavily involved in – the Food Minder.
The brain-child of the company’s co-owner’s wife, the design was done in-house and the electronics were developed by Alan and his fellow electronic engineer.
Alan hopes the Food Minder, which is a visual reminder of the expiry dates on food, will help reduce food waste.
Over the coming years he also plans to expand the business, as well as sub-contracting production for some of his clients who are going to branch out into Europe and the US.
He also intends to progress some of his own ideas in the future, but for now he is happy to help make other people’s concepts a reality.