World beaters are gaining new heights
Magnesium Elektron is a pioneer in an innovative niche marketplace and its advances into areas such as Formula 1 racing and aerospace have gone global
by Andrew Edwards
That winning feeling that comes from succeeding as a result of hard work and innovation is something the team at Magnesium Elektron has grown used to over the years.
Not that the pioneering developer and producer of high-performance magnesium alloy products will be getting complacent any time soon.
You only have to talk to the Manchester-based firm’s Managing Director Graham Bond and Paul Lyon, who heads up Programme Technologies, to understand the sheer energy and driving force behind the creative philosophy that runs through this world-leading business.
Part of the international Luxfer Group (NYSE: LXFR), but very much a business with Manchester in its heart, the company has been a pioneer in the niche marketplace since its formation in Manchester back in 1936.
“Don’t stand still, research and develop new products with customers and end-users in mind and always remember you are only as good as the people in your business,” says Graham, who will have completed 40 years with the Group in September.
Magnesium Elektron’s advances in research and development, technology and production techniques have inspired a succession of new applications of magnesium, ranging from Formula 1 racing car wheels and helicopters to life-changing medical implants and oil drilling equipment.
Right now, and among a myriad of other projects, the business is working on extra lightweight magnesium products that can help make the military kits for soldiers an easier burden to carry.
Fresh from winning the ‘Advanced Manufacturing/Technology’ title in the Made in the North West Awards and being highly commended in the national Made in the UK finals, Magnesium Elektron shines a beacon for North West businesses and the Northern Powerhouse.
Active members of the EEF, Magnesium Elektron’s success in developing world-first new super-lightweight alloy products has resulted in a business model that is punching above its weight—and selling 95% of its products abroad.
In line with the ‘never stand still’ philosophy, the business is focusing on making sure it fully exploits the opportunities offered by what is commonly termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, or 4ILR.
Paul says: “The business is making considerable inroads in terms of research and development and is a crusader for modern modelling and prototyping techniques, including computer simulation of extrusion and casting processes. This makes us faster, more efficient and effective for our partners, customers and end-users.”
Magnesium Elektron is an operating company of Luxfer Group, a global materials technology company specializing in the design and manufacture of high-performance materials, components and gas-containment devices for environmental, healthcare, protection and specialty end-markets.
Both Graham and Paul agree that being part of a larger operating company has been good for the Manchester business, adding muscle power to the local operation.
Graham said: “The relationship is excellent. Our board regularly backs us on new projects. Of course, that comes with an accountability on our part and a responsibility to deliver on what we’ve promised, and that’s how it should be.”
Now with a workforce of 145 and with trading connections worldwide, Magnesium Elektron is a leader in its field, which is why winning a succession of awards is an honour for the team, but not a distraction.
The firm’s pioneering SynerMag® magnesium alloy, used in medical stents (known as scaffolds), won the coveted BIONOW ‘Product of the Year’ award in 2016 and subsequently the Advanced Manufacturing/Technology title at the Made in the North West awards in May of this year.
SynerMag® alloy is designed for patient implants that are only required on a temporary basis. The alloy is the key structural material in Magmaris, the world’s first clinically proven, bioresorbable metallic cardiovascular scaffold implant, which is manufactured by Berlin-based Biotronik.
Having won European CE approval, Magmaris is now being used in the healthcare sector to improve the lives of patients with the implants simply dissolving naturally after they have done their job.
Elsewhere Magnesium Elektron innovation has helped the firm make further advances into the aerospace industry, which craves lightweight products that can help make huge savings on fuel costs, meet environmental objectives and fly longer distances.
Recent innovation promises success in the aircraft interiors sector with the introduction of an alloy for magnesium aircraft seat manufacturing that can significantly decrease the weight of the plane as a whole.
Elektron® 43 alloy passed rigorous tests conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Fire Test Working Groups, which subsequently lifted long-standing restrictions on the use of magnesium alloys in commercial aircraft interiors. By following the guidelines, Elektron® 43 alloy is setting the standard for the reintroduction of magnesium into aircraft interiors.
The firm has also recently developed new magnesium alloys for the oil & gas industry. SoluMag® alloys are high-strength, controlled corrosion-rate magnesium alloys, developed specifically for ‘down-hole’ functions.
It has resulted in a healthy export market to North America and Canada.
Asked what has kept the business ahead of the game for so long, Paul said: “We’re where we are through people development, growing into new markets with innovation and focusing on a genuine long-term partnership approach with customers and end-users.
“We can boast a number of long-term customer relationships based on the fact that we continue to work with our partners over the long term, long after initial development and first product sales were achieved.”
Between them Graham and Paul have over 70 years’ experience working with Luxfer Group, and they both stress that they are as driven today as they were when they first walked into the plant.
Graham said: “I regularly say that I’ve been here a long time, but I have the same energy as I had on day one. I’m driven by passion for the business, the products and the people who work with us.
“As a company, we constantly question what we are doing, and we’re not afraid to change direction if we’re going down the wrong path. It’s a passion that certainly keeps us young!”
Members of a team that aims to win
People should be at the heart of any business, and the philosophy at Magnesium Elektron is that everybody gets treated as partners on a journey.
All employees are salaried and MD Graham Bond stresses that “without having people who feel part of the team, we are going to struggle to achieve our ambitions.
“We are driven by a clear philosophy that our business is our people and our employees are our equals.”
Every year for the last ten years the business has been sending members from all parts of the company onto external courses to help them better interact with internal and external contacts.
In addition to sponsoring employee MBAs, it runs its own highly successful apprentice scheme, giving young people the chance to join one of the region’s most progressive companies and build a successful career.
The scheme was recognised recently when a group of the firm’s apprentices was invited to the Houses of Parliament.
Magnesium Elektron has close links with universities, including Manchester, and regularly recruits from academia to maintain its high reputation for high-quality research.
“If the people who work for our company feel they are valued and respected, they will feel part of what we are doing and are our greatest asset for the future,” says Paul.
A recent internal awards event certainly seems to have illustrated that point.
A process operator, who picked up one of the accolades for his contribution to the business, accepted his award, lifted it towards the audience and said simply: “Proud to work for Elektron.” Now you don’t hear that every day.