Lyte Ladders & Towers - Made in the UK With Pride
Posted by Mark Hunter - May 07, 2013
Ladders hold a special curiosity for me. It's not that I'm mildly afraid of heights over 10 feet (approx. 3m) or the thought of scaling ladder sends shudders down my spine, or that I'm at all superstitious and the idea of walking under a ladder makes me what to break a mirror.
Rather it's because I was once a window cleaner.
I wasn't one of those fancy new window cleaners, using water-fed pole systems to spray de-ionised water onto the panes of my customers' homes.
No, I was an old-school, wooden framed ladder carrying window cleaner.
However, those days are long gone, but the curiosity with ladders and access equipment remains.
Hence, I was especially intrigued to be sent by Toolstop to visit the Welsh headquarters ofLyte Ladders and Towers. Not only was this my first trip to Wales, Swansea in particular, it was the first time a Toolstop correspondent had been sent to visit the manufacturer of ladders and access equipment!
I'll be honest; I didn't know what to expect. Typically a Toolstop trip to a manufacturer involves hours spent in pristine training facilities surrounded by the latest and greatest cordless and corded professional power tools. Yes, I'd spent a couple of days learning about Centaure access equipment last year, but said equipment wasn't being manufactured on-site.
Lyte's products are.
And for those who care about these things, it's worth pointing out, Lyte is British through and through, from the kite marked ladders to the guys and gals manipulating the aluminium.
Neil and I had argued how I was going to get to Swansea, what with there not being direct flights from Glasgow airport. Rail transport was settled upon, and with some input from Lyte's Dougie McCombie I had booked a room in The Village, a waterfront hotel in the heart of Swansea. I was promised a "sea view". And I received a "sea view". Sadly, much of it was obscured by the low clouds and driving rain, and when the sun did clear the way, all I saw was cranes and heavy lifting equipment. It seems Swansea's sea view is "under construction".
Dougie picked me up on the morning of the first day and we drove to Lyte's HQ. The first thing you notice about the place is the size of the car park; it is massive. I inquired about this and learned that Lyte has recently moved to these premises, the previous owner being Macro!
Upon entering the building I quickly noticed something else, something that you don't get when you visit the likes of Makita or Metabo; noise.
Because Lyte manufactures the aluminium and glass fibre access equipment right there in the massive factory, the noise is incredible, matched only by the sheer scale and scope of the processes.
I immediately asked if we could have a video tour of these manufacturing processes, tracking a pair of Lyte ladders from their embryonic state as a lump of aluminium, thought the stretching, cutting, milling, grinding, fixing and polishing stages.
No, I was told. Lyte likes to guard how it makes its ladders and towers.
Fair enough. However, Hannah Lewis from the sales department kindly allowed me to take some photos.
Asides from their proud-to-be-British manufacturing, what's the story with Lyte?
Well, for starters they've got 60 years experience in the ladders and access equipment market. Lowri, part of Lyte's marketing team, was proud to tell me that in 1953, when Sir Edmund Hilary successfully scaled Mount Everest, he used the sections of a Lyte aluminium ladder to negotiate crevasses en route to the summit.
And understandably the company is proud to be one of the few companies that still manufacture much of their portfolio right here in the UK.
And part of that portfolio is the Helix range of towers.
Now, towers scare me. Not only do they allow people to go up to the dizzying heights of over 5m, they need to be assembled. By you. On site. Lyte recognise that this can be a challenge, so they do everything they can to make sure the assembly process is as simple and safe for you as possible.
Dougie is passionate about this and he was full of little expert tips and pointers for making sure you stay safe while assembling and using a Helix Tower.
Check this out via our Toolstop TV video.
One of the features of a Helix tower is the automatic locking brace hooks.
This is the sort of attention to detail you'd expect from a UK manufacturing company with over 60 years experience; you can't always trust the operator to remember to lock the braces! Dougie pointed out that the braces lock automatically when the hook is placed over the tubing.
Assembling a Helix tower is an undertaking; these things don't put themselves up,youneed to do it and you need to do it properly.
In order to make sure you know which tube and brace goes where, Lyte has marked the diagonals from the horizontals, the latter having ribbed groves, the former being smooth.
As mentioned above, Lyte's products carry the British kite mark, and the safety of the user is paramount in the manufacturing process. Thankfully...
So, day one at Lyte Ladders and Towers was spent outside, in the sun (once the rain had stopped) dealing with the Helix Towers.
Day two was all indoors. Yes, because of the rain, but also because our focus was on Lyte's ladders, stepsand multipurpose ladders and platforms. This is the sort of equipment that anyone, whether a DIYer (reluctant or enthusiast) or professional tradesperson, needs to have in their kit.
Basically Lyte has split their portfolio of steps and ladders into two categories; aluminium and glass fibre. The latter is an essential feature for anyone working where electrical hazards exist.
Again, these products are rated highly, typically to BSEN131, meaning if weigh up to 23.5 stone (or 150kg) you can safely use them. These products are strong but also light, which marks them out from "Class 1" or BS2037 rated ladders and steps.
And end-user safety - ie. yours - is the theme that runs consistently through Lyte's product output.
Whether it's the non-slip treads on the stepladders, the k-straps at the bottom or the strengthening bars under each tread, Lyte really aim to live up to the kite mark standards.
As a former window cleaner I was particularly impressed with ELT230 extensions ladders. Again, these are certified to BSEN131 trade standard, and this is married to D-shaped rungs and non-slip molded feet, two features that anyone who spends significant amounts of time up a ladder cares about; your comfort and your safety.
And so, after a day filled with steps, ladders and multi-purpose platforms, it was time to head back to Swansea train station. As the rain began to ease off, just as my train pulled in, I reflected on my first trip to Wales.
Was I impressed? With Swansea, not so much. Maybe it was the miserable weather; I narrowly escaped the mass flooding that soon hit Wales!
What I was impressed with was visiting a traditional British manufacturing company that prides itself in excellent products, with no skimping on quality or safety.
And for those reasons, I'm looking forward to a foray south to visit Dougie, Lowri, Hannah and the Lyte factory again in the future.
To see Lyte products in action, along with other access equipment videos, check out Toolstop TV.
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