Russel Argo and Richard Ward on Brenntag’s UK and Ireland investment

Tell us more about the blending solutions infrastructure and services in the UK & Ireland

RA: “Our blending solutions business is one that’s grown substantially over the course of the last 10 years. Today we’re operating from nine separate locations in the UK and Ireland and each of those locations provides a particular specialism which we think is important to the market. Brenntag is able to offer products to customers in all sorts of ranges of delivery sizes from 28 tonne bulk tankers loads right down to five litre packs and any of the products that we offer can be either to customer own formulations or to our own off the shelf formulations for different industry sectors.

What is the difference the new Lutterworth site is going to make?

“Lutterworth is our ninth facility of this type. It was a great opportunity for us to invest in one of our larger and probably one of the most futureproof sites, to start adding more value to the customers, particularly in that region but to also add some new capabilities into our offering as well to the market. The evolution of our blending business has been in the more traditionally industrial bases in the north of England and the north of the UK. So the location of the site in Lutterworth which is right in the middle gives us a really strong base from which to grow our business throughout the midlands and further into the south, particularly in the London and east of London areas as well.

The site is right there smack in the middle with location ability to get to the M1, M6, M5, A14, so really we can deliver logistically from there better than we can from any other location in the UK. So if you’re going to put a facility which is servicing as many customers as possible in the midlands and the south, then Lutterworth is about as good a place you can possibly be.

Operationally it’s brought you further south, talk to me about the footprint

RA: “That’s a good question because traditionally, a lot of our blending capabilities were in the north of the UK and Ireland. We have recognised that clearly there is a cost to logistics and a cost to distribution. So the location of Lutterworth, whilst it’s right in the middle of the country, is a perfect situation really for us to start to offer all of these added value services to the whole of the UK now with the right level of cost base behind us and I’m very excited about the possibilities that this gives us really.

What new capabilities does Brenntag Lutterworth blending facility bring?

RW: “The new blending tanks that we’ve put in place are larger than some of the others that we have operated before – that gives us better batch control and batch quality control in particular to give a much finer and finished product for the customers. It also allows us to make blends that we weren’t actually able to make before in other locations and so we’re adding new products onto our portfolio. I think the great thing about the Lutterworth facility is the flexibility it gives us to move from manufacturing customer’s own formulations to actually now also offering our own off-the-shelf formulations into certain industry sectors.

Tell me about the other benefits you offer your customers

RA: “The great thing about Brenntag, as a business whole and not just the blending solutions side of it is that we can offer customers product from a 28 tonne road tanker, right down to a 10 litre pack, so it’s the full range of products and pack sizes – all from one phone call, to one location, to one account manager and that’s been a great strength of the growth of our business in recent years. I think that this complexity of offering will enable customers to continue to buy from us in future and also talk to us more in partnership about some of their non core activities which perhaps they would want to outsource to a company like Brenntag where we now have made this long term large investment in our future capabilities”.

RW: “We think that that is one of the key things that differentiates Brenntag from the competition in the market – that is the absolute added value we can bring so attention to detail and an understanding that a customer needs to be looked after on a local basis through our local network as well as having access to all of the strengths and benefits that being part of a global organisation brings, so that combination of offering and skills is probably one of the key things to Brenntag’s success.”

How have you go about the whole project of building this impressive facility

RW: The great thing is that we’ve actually designed and built it from scratch – it’s not a modification of an existing plant. It’s been designed from the ground up to do exactly what we want it to do. And that design essentially came from the research that we carried out in the market, asking our customers – but also our suppliers – what they expected from us and what they would like us to provide them with in terms and offering. Using that feedback enabled us to design the highest quality, state of the art facility which we think would give us strong growth from now right the way through to the future. “

Could you describe the relationship that you have with your customer?

RA: “We like to be able to position ourselves at any point in that supply chain to the customer.We really want to view this as a partnership with the customer and potentially a partnership between a customer and a supplier as well where we can add value in the middle. That’s what chemical distribution is about – selling ourselves to our customers but also to our suppliers. We can be that vital link in the supply chain that delivers ultimate value. “

RW: “What we’re finding is that customers are needing to operate much more efficiently than they ever have, in order to compete in the market, so that changes their behaviour and their focus to their end markets. That’s where Brenntag comes in. We support them in keeping their focus, solve their problems and we provide them with solutions. The changing marketplace has meant that we’ve had to get much closer to customers to understand more about their business and that enables us then to provide the right level of service for them.

This closeness is one of our great assets as an organisation as we understand markets on a local level, and its very clear that the local market can be very different from region to region, and particularly country to country. So Brenntag’s ability to have knowledge of markets across the whole of the globe as well as more regional European markets and local markets ensure that we can remain competitive and secure our customer’s positions in their end markets.