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  • Writer's pictureElise Garner

Spotlight: Lankelma

Updated: Feb 26

This February we had the pleasure of talking to Chris Dimelow from new member, Lanklema. We took a deep dive into the innovative approach they're taking to ground investigation.



1. Tell us a bit about your business

Lankelma is a specialist ground investigation company. We were founded in 1999 by previous owner and former Managing Director – Eric Zon who lives in Winchelsea Beach – so we’re now in our 25th year.  Eric retired in 2022 and I became Managing Director. Our parent company is ConeTec who are based in Canada.


I’ve been with Lankelma since 2011 when I joined as a junior engineer. Before joining, I started my career in Dubai working on the reclaimed land that forms The Palm Islands – an area where ground investigation is integral to the ability to be able to build on it. So that’s where I learned the trade. When I returned to the UK Lankelma was the logical choice – because this is where the expertise lives. 


The office in Iden is our only office but we travel internationally for clients. We have field agents based around the UK but all the heavy plant and the kit we use lives in Iden which means that if we’re working on an overseas project very often we’ll be driving our equipment to that location. 


Ground Investigation is part of the construction industry – but we’re a very niche part of that.  And Lankelma occupies an even more specific space – that of Cone Penetration Testing, so in effect we’re a niche business within a niche business.


We’re usually the first people on site when it comes to a construction project – be it a housing development, or the building of a train line for example.   The actual technique involves pushing a probe into the ground to determine the properties of the soil, primarily for building purposes. It’s the information this gives us on the strength of the ground that informs the foundations required. 


We’ve worked on every continent and the size and scale of our projects vary. We did a tiny project last year for a local private individual wanting to put up a conservatory, and at the other end of the scale we’re working on a £3m project. We’ve worked on road building projects like the Bexhill relief road, and on flood defences near Lydd and Dungeness. We’ve done work with the environment agency in East Anglia on flood alleviation. There are only a handful of businesses who do Cone Penetration Testing and we are the best so our reputation means that we are sought after globally.



2. What makes your business unique? 

Well, the actual cone penetration testing technique is unique – so that immediately sets us apart from the few other players in the field.


We don’t compromise on quality. Of course, safety is paramount but actually it’s our integrity when it comes to quality that makes us unique. You can’t compromise on quality because there are structures at stake. The difference between the tiniest measurement on a probe could make millions of pounds worth of difference to the building of foundations. So, the integrity of our data is vital.


We have an animation on Youtube that explains the process:



3. What are your business values?

Other than integrity, sustainability is top of the list. We feel like we’ve been at the frontline for environmental initiatives for a long while. Our office has solar power, our electricity supplier is 100% from renewable sources. We have a biodigester for waste. There are EV charging points on site, and charging points for electric bikes too. 


We have an established track record in working with Clean Growth UK. 


We have the world’s first plug-in Cone Penetration Testing  (CPT) rig, and now also the world’s first battery-powered CPT. These specialist vehicles have been commissioned by us – and we secured LEADER funding for one of them. 


4. What are your plans for your business in 2024 – what are you focusing on?

We’re focused on sustainable growth. We want to grow – the demand is there. We’ve expanded from 28 to 39 staff in 12 months and we’re still hiring. 


While, at the moment we are based in Iden and will drive our rigs and ship our equipment around the world to our clients’ locations, a future goal will be to have overseas locations / offices too. 


5. What are the challenges your business faces this year?

Hiring is a challenge for us because of our location. Companies like ours you might expect to be based in or close to big cities, not tucked away in rural East Sussex, so when we recruit for our specialist roles – the engineers who analyse all the data returned from site testing -  inevitably it means they need to relocate.


It’s a different story for our teams who operate the rigs and drive them to locations those team members come from a variety of different career backgrounds. One of our team is a former chef – it’s not as though CPT is a skill you can learn before you work in this environment so we train them to become experts in this field. 


Brexit has been a challenge for us. It used to be that if we were taking a truck into Europe it was easy, but now we get stuck in customs. The most disappointing thing is that you pay money to a freight forwarder in a bid to mitigate any customs problems but the box-ticking requirements seems to change every time, so no one really has a handle on what is required and how to make the process easier.


All of our cone penetration testing equipment is manufactured in The Netherlands and so when Lankelma first set up in this part of the world it was an advantage given our proximity to the ports, but Brexit has seen to it that the advantage has now been lost. 


6. What are you most proud of in your business?

Our people. I believe we have a friendly and fair working environment where everyone’s ideas are valued and acted upon.


The team at Lankelma
The team at Lankelma

7. Is there a piece of advice you’d give to anyone starting out in business?

Something I’ve always tried to maintain is to treat everyone like you’d want to be treated.


8. What’s the biggest change you’ve seen to your business or your business sector since you started?

Technology has changed – we’ve always been technologically advanced because our product is at the forefront of ground investigation so we have to maintain that position. Our equipment manufacturers aren’t in the business of operating this equipment so they rely on us to give them the feedback they need to develop their products and keep improving them.


One of the reasons so much of our heavy plant is unique to us is simply because we’ve commissioned the equipment to meet our incredibly specific requirements so we can navigate projects in all sorts of conditions and environments. For example - we have two Jack-Up Platforms – these are floating platforms that can access off -shore areas we need to investigate. The platform is transported to a location in pieces – once it’s on site it takes three days to put it back together and it is then floated to the location by tug boat. It then lifts up to provide a stable platform so that the waves and tides don’t disturb what we are doing. They go all over the world – Venezuela, Africa, Europe. We pride ourselves on being able to ground test almost anywhere.  

 

Check out Lankelma's website and Facebook page to learn more.


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