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Distribution



Blending solutions

By our Editorial Team - 20/11/2017

An interview with Russel Argo, President, and Richard Ward, COO, of Brenntag UK & Ireland, about Brenntag Blending Solutions’ new facility in Lutterworth.
 
Brenntag’s blending solutions business has grown substantially over the past 10 years. Today, the Brenntag UK & Ireland business is operating from nine separate locations, with each location providing a particular specialism that the company thinks is important to the market. Conventionally viewed as a ‘Distribution’ company, Brenntag is making clear movements to complete an integrated offering, as the company continues to grow its service in blending solutions. In this interview, Russel Argo, President, and Richard Ward, COO, at Brenntag UK & Ireland, talk about the company’s new facility in Lutterworth, how it will extend their services across the UK, and how it will offer greater flexibility to add new products to customers.

How have you gone about the whole project of building this facility?

Richard Ward:  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.

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

Russel Argo: 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 of course of England gives us a really strong base from which to grow our business throughout the Midlands and further into the south…  We have recognised that there is a cost to logistics and a cost to distribution, so the location of Lutterworth is a perfect situation for us to start to offer all of these added value services to the whole of the UK.
 
Which new capabilities does the new blending facility bring?

Russel Argo:  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 customers’ own formulations to now also offering our own off-the-shelf formulations in certain industry sectors.
 
How are you going to maintain quality with this big operation?

Russel Argo:   The industries that we supply demand a high quality of products and of operation. We have invested in additional laboratory and quality control equipment in the site as well, to back up the investment in the manufacturing plant. The feedback we’ve had from of our customers so far is that we’ve made the right level of technical investment which will enable them to buy from us in confidence.

Richard Ward: Each of our blending facilities often has a particular specialization, so when we are making more complex, multicomponent blends for customers, we can make several of the different blends in different locations, then bring them together in one central location which could be much closer to where the customer is. We use the benefit of Brenntag scale in terms of raw material purchases, also in terms of asset and infrastructure investment to bring things together in one location to offer that product to the customer and that has proved to be very successful so far.
 
How important is that flexibility?

Russel Argo: We think that is one of the key things that differentiates Brenntag from the competition in the market - 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 organization brings, so that combination of offering and skills is probably one of the key things to  success.

Customers can also potentially reduce their inventory levels and the working capital benefit that that can generate to them and I think also they can have a cost reduction by allowing us to make the product for them rather than them having to make it themselves because, generally speaking, these are non-core activities for our customers. At the end of the day that’s our game; we’re very good at applying those raw materials the customers need.

Richard Ward: We like to be able to position ourselves at any point in the 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, it’s about selling ourselves to our customers but also selling ourselves to our suppliers. We can be that vital link in the supply chain that delivers value.

What we’re finding is that customers are needing to operate much more efficiently than they ever have, if they are able to continue to compete in the markets so that changes their behaviour and their focus on to their end markets. We support them in keeping their focus, solve their problems and we provide them with solutions. We’re there to do that and I think the changing marketplace meant to us that we’ve had to get much closer to customers as well to understand more about their business and that enables us then to provide the right level of service for them.