17 November 2000

LYNXEYESHANDYNICHE IN FRONTLINKAGESUPPLIES

Since starting in business

eight years ago, Lynx

Engineering has developed

a niche market business

selling front linkages and

front-mounted equipment.

Geoff Ashcroft reports

WHEN Lynx Engineering started in 1992, owner Nick Ewbank grasped an opportunity to market the Dutch-built Zuidberg front linkages in the UK.

"It seemed a good idea at the time to market a product that few others were involved in," explains Nick Ewbank. "Front linkages were a developing sector and the Zuidberg range could be retro-fitted to virtually any tractor. Zuidbergs pto system is very good, and the accuracy of manufacturing meant holes lined up properly when you fitted a linkage."

Eight years down the road and the business employs nine staff and operates from 4000sq ft premises at Long Buckby, near Daventry, where administration, distribution of products and design of new front-mounted equipment takes place. And front linkage sales of about 500 units now account for about 60% of the business, with about 200 of them equipped with pto systems.

"Use of front-mounted equipment has increased dramatically over the last few years as farmers make more and more use of both ends of a tractor," he says. "Most of our front linkages are fitted to new tractors at the supplying dealerships, so when tractors are changed, those farmers using front-mounted kit usually specify a new linkage for their replacement tractor."

But the firm has been subjected to the volatility of the tractor market over the last couple of years, and when annual tractor sales halved two years ago, it had a considerable effect on Lynxs business.

"It was inevitable that we would suffer as tractor sales dropped off," says Mr Ewbank, adding that the development of the business over the last eight years has meant Lynx Engineerings product range now extends beyond front linkages.

The firm has recently taken on distribution of the Stoll tractor loader range and over the last few years has developed its own front-mounted cultivation kit, including Samurai cast ring presses, Sumo tyre packer and LynxPacker models to complement the linkages. Some of the models in the Lynx range have also been developed into trailed machines.

In-house design

But interestingly – and some might say fortunately – the company does not have any manufacturing or engineering capability. Lynx carries out its own design work in-house and then sub-contracts the manufacturing to a UK-based engineering company.

"The risks and capital required to start manufacturing were just too high, so it seemed logical to have machinery built to our designs and specifications. That way, we can control what is built – and how it is built – to suit specific customer orders," he says.

For this reason, Lynx operates a computer-aided drawing system and is able to e-mail final designs and specifications directly to the engineering firm that carries out Lynxs fabrication work.

It is a philosophy which also means Lynx can operate without expensive overheads and, perhaps just as importantly, without carrying large stocks of equipment in warehouses waiting to be sold.

"Everything we sell is ordered by customers and most items can be supplied within 21 days – shorter for more popular items of equipment or linkages," he says. "It is a technique that suits both the front-mounted equipment business and supply of front linkages. With so many different tractor models on the market, it would be financially impractical to carry a front linkage to suit almost any tractor."

And for the future? The firm is watching the trends towards minimal tillage and direct drilling very closely to see if theres scope to expand its press range any further.

"There should always be a need for specialist niche products to suit the varied needs of UK farming, and what we need to do is continue to work closely with tractor manufacturers and farmers to ensure our core business activity of supplying front linkages, is maintained," he says. &#42

In addition to front linkages, Lynx has designed a range of presses and packers for front-mounting.

Left: Just a small amount of stock is carried at Lynxs Long Buckby premises, with many items shipped directly to dealers.

Below: "Front linkages are the backbone of our business," says Nick Ewbank of Lynx Engineering.