When people asked Malcolm Knott what his company did, he used to be unsure of the best answer. It’s easy to understand why.
If he answered that they were an independent automation systems integrator, dedicated to increasing the visibility of real-time information to improve the performance of manufacturing and processing companies, many would send a blank look in return.
But he’s now much clearer on an answer that means so much more to those who ask.
Malcolm has been MD of Industrial Technology Systems (ITS, it’s easier to say) for 28 years.
He’s not only Teesside-born and bred, but has spent his entire life in the region apart from a short spell over in the North West for four-and-a-half years when he was getting the business off the ground. Like many engineers from Teesside, Malcolm was ICI-trained as a chemical engineer.
He recalls: “I worked for a few managers in my 20 years at ICI but, more importantly, I worked with a few great leaders – people who inspired me and helped me to improve, people who demanded more of me, without demanding anything from me.”
They inspired him and gave him the confidence to set up his own business nearly three decades ago. Now, however, people often ask him: “Well, what do you do?”
His initial reaction was usually “That’s hard to answer”.
He could get all technical and talk about bits and bytes, data points and I/O – or he could go a little higher level and talk about process control, management information systems and some of the specialist things ITS do. Techie things such as automatic inspection systems and GAMP compliance might also come into his answer.
But then Malcolm’s business coach asked him recently to “Really think about what ITS do” – and he came up with a new summary.
“We prevent pharmaceutical products from entering the market place without proper checks on efficacy, sterility, identity and integrity,” he begins. “Over the years we’ve been involved with more than 1,500 projects aimed at doing just that.
“We ensure nuclear workers are not exposed to unacceptable levels of radiation. Our systems at key nuclear sites in the UK run 24/7 to make sure the risks are minimalised round the clock.
“We put in place controls that prevent harm being caused to human beings and property. In biopharm, chemicals, automotive and energy – hundreds of our systems protect people and customer equipment.
“We ensure specialist software that’s used to remove counterfeit drugs from the market place to work around the clock, so that people can know the pharmaceuticals they buy are genuine.”
He continues: “We make some of the world’s most important chemicals. We work for people in the top five global chemical manufacturers and we make sure we do it safely and efficiently.
“We make sure that hundreds of babies every year are fed correctly and safely.
“We ensure food processes run safely by removing unsafe products from the potential market.”
He explains that ITS remove risk and danger so people who work on their customers’ plants go home safely. That they innovate new and ground-breaking ideas to improve processes in pharmaceuticals, medical device, biopharms, food and energy.
And, in addition to all that, he adds that ITS try to put something back for young adults, through organisations such as The Young Entrepreneur Awards, North East Process Industry Cluster [NEPIC] and Tees Valley Combined Authority, and to younger children through the Children Challenging Industry scheme.
“We care,” he says with pride, revealing how ITS have raised more than £26,000 for Butterwick Hospice over the last five years.
“In short, we spend our working lives saving and improving other people’s lives. We give people a better standard of living and we keep people safe. That’s what we do!”
ITS is seeing the benefit of having made some significant changes over the last two years. The company is growing but Malcolm wants to demand more of the people in the business, without demanding anything from them.
So if you’re interested in being part of their growth story, let him know!