What’s so special about LTW?
Pictured: LTW Founder, President, & “Dreamer,” John Lanphear: testing an LTW lift table in 2003 (even before ergonomics was cool).
Over 30 years after company’s creation, LTW now serves companies across the globe with patented industrial products. We’re still passionate about helping companies provide ergonomics for their employees with height adjustable workspaces. Whether that means tables, machine bases, workbenches, or operator platforms – we can help you succeed with it all.
We don’t just claim to be the best in the business. See what our customers actually say about LTW.
From a Tin Shed and Underground Beginnings
In 1992, founder John Lanphear started LTW in the tin shed behind his doublewide trailer that he and his father built. John learned the machinist trade from Van Buren Tech in Lawrence, Michigan, and was hired by Stryker Corporation in Kalamazoo, Michigan, working as a CNC machinist during his senior year at Lawrence High School as a co-op student. He worked the second shift, 3-11pm, while living on his own and going to school in the mornings.
While operating many CNC machines, he found out that one of the oldest machines, a Hurco KM1, was going to be retired. He quickly asked his boss if he could buy it, and eventually they sold it to him for $2,000, borrowed from his cherished grandmother Glenadine Lanphear (who is remembered saying she “always believed” in him). John took the CNC milling machine back to his tin shed and added it to a collection of old machines, starting Lanphear Tool Works and Engineering.
Over the next seven years employed by Stryker, John credits God in helping him move up from Production Machinist to New Product Development Prototype Machinist, to working in the engineering department (without a degree). He says that “God gives everyone different gifts and talents, and one of the talents He gave me was dreaming up and designing new products.”
In 1994, John met the love of his life, Mindy. After marrying, they purchased John’s great grandfather’s house down the road from where LTW began. John borrowed a local farmer’s tractor to dig a ramp to the basement of the old farm house. His father helped him cut a door through the block wall and put many of the machines from the tin shed into the basement. One of those machines was the Hurco KM1, which wouldn’t fit under the rafter ceiling of the basement. John and his father jackhammered the concrete floor down a couple inches to make it fit between the rafters.
For a while, there was no door on the basement opening. They hung a blue tarp to keep some wind out, but when it rained, the water would pour down into the basement to fill it with water and mud! Before starting work on rainy days, John and his first employee shop vacuumed the water and shoveled out mud. The home’s laundry was in the basement by the opening, requiring boots in order to do laundry. For the next few years, John and Mindy hired many talented people to help design and build computer controlled assembly machines.
While building assembly machines, one of John’s customers told him they wanted to make their machines adjust up and down, sharing a design using trailer jacks and a crank. John prayed about it, asking God for a better solution. John got “a download from God,” as he calls them, of an idea for an adjustable height table using a hydraulic scissor jack modified to make foot actuated pump (raise) and decent (lower) pedals. This became his first patented product.
After manufacturing the first LTW ergonomic tables and machine bases, still in the basement of his home, John purchase one of his first brand new pieces of equipment: a Lincoln MIG welder. Bars of steel were set across the sides of the ramp down to the basement as hangers for the frames to be painted on.
In 1998, a wonderful change came into John and Mindy’s life that necessitated them to find a new place for their growing business: they had a baby! They prayed for God to help them find a new location, and found an old canning factory near downtown Lawrence that had recently become available. The upgrade from the basement of their home to this manufacturing building made any of its flaws seem insignificant. After painting the floors and walls, they drug the machines out of their basement and into ther new location, where many of them are still in operation today.
Over time, many of these first generation hydraulic “pump pedal bases” were made and put into use by companies, but an inherent hydraulic lift system flaw slowly surfaced: they eventually leak! After fixing or replacing many leaking hydraulic pumps on his bases, it became apparent that a new solution was needed. John again began to pray for God to show him a new solution to this problem. One day he was at his desk and saw a brochure for an electric linear actuator, and immediately the “download from God” came to him to replace the hydraulic jacks with these actuators by putting them on the sides of the frames. He drew a quick sketch and gave it to his team to prototype. After proving the success of the design, John filed a patent for it, which became the foundation for many products that are still in production today!
Over the 30+ years of business, John and Mindy are still very active in their business. They like to say they have been blessed by God in so many ways, including many more patents as a result of more “downloads from God!” They enjoy spending time with their three grown children, Heather, Hannah, and David, and Heather’s husband, Joel. John and Mindy love healthy living, exercise, and outdoor sports, including mountain biking. They are also active in various ministries God has blessed them with and the church they attend, being especially passionate about helping youth and families.
John loves to help inspire people to “dream big,” saying “the best dreams come from God!” He is known to say “Nowadays, if you don’t know something you typically go to Google and ‘upload’ your question to it, and then Google ‘downloads’ what it thinks you want to know. I have found that you can bypass Google, by going to ‘The Big G,’ The God of the Universe, and ‘upload’ your problems to Him, and He can wirelessly ‘download’ to you His solutions! I have then found that the key to the success of this perpetuating, is to always give Him the honor and glory!”
Giving is at the core of our business. Purchasing LTW’s ergonomic products is not only an investment in the health of the people using them in your company. A portion of your business goes towards supporting those in need and our home community. Click the button below to see LTW’s current charitable giving.See LTW Giving