Chemical Industry Journal asked Russel Argo, President Brenntag UK & Ireland for an update following the feature in the Spring issue.
What is the current level of business confidence in the UK chemical sector? How would you rate the impact of Brexit?
There is certainly a degree of nervousness about what the outcomes of Brexit negotiations may bring in terms of trade fluidity with Europe. Recent devaluation in sterling versus the dollar and euro have meant any imported materials have proven to be more expensive than in the previous seasons, which has put many of our customers under pressure of increasing cost of manufacture. Brenntag have been working very hard to try to mitigate and reduce the impact of this for all of our customers in the UK.
I am supremely confident in the adaptability of our customers to be able to react to current changes. We supply chemical ingredients and products to the majority of British chemical industry and we have always recognised our customers’ innovative excellence, ability to respond to change and to seek new opportunities. Our agility, close working partnership with suppliers and customers and of course Brenntag’s economies of scale continue to be our ongoing strength. Brenntag UK & Ireland has the unique ability to assist our customers with various aspects in order to seize opportunities, whether in terms of formulating new products or providing alternative supply chain solutions. Certainly should we find a situation where importing material from the EU becomes more challenging or more expensive with for example trade tariffs, then we will be looking to the wider global market- which of course is easier for us with the global reach of the Brenntag Group.
Where do you see the main opportunities for Brenntag UK& Ireland in the near future?
I believe change is good because we are uniquely able to adapt and support the change in the market place. We will always seek to ensure we have the right supply chain in place in terms of quality and value for our customers, across the complete range of their relevant requirements, be it technical and formulation support, sales, commercial or logistics. In order to achieve this, we will continue to invest and offer even higher level of expertise to serve them effectively across all sectors.
We focus on continuously enhancing our fleet’s efficiency in line with sustainability and safety targets set within Brenntag. For instance, only last week our Brenntag Sandbach site took delivery of 16 new Volvo Euro 6 vehicles as part of our ongoing investment plan to deliver Brenntag sustainability and safety strategy crucial to our long-term business success.
Throughout all our developments, customer service is always at the forefront of our planning and investment. Our program of investments allows us to offer our customers an even more comprehensive range of added value services for both life and material science sectors. We have built on our expertise in various markets, for instance dyestuffs, pigments and performance products through our well established Brenntag Colours business. Our Solvents business is having a really good year with good volume growth particularly in packed with some great market opportunities lined up; we continue to invest and our new life science filling facility scheduled to be completed very shortly will further our growth in the food/feed and pharma sectors.
We are progressing a great number of projects across the industries we operate in: actively developing the markets of metal surface treatment, agrochemicals and renewable energy, making a step change in oil & gas, paper, rubber & polymers, animal nutrition, building on our successes in cosmetics & pharma, food, coatings & construction, and industrial cleaning. We have always been an industry leader in water treatment, and have further invested in our technical and commercial capabilities in this sector with the expansion of the technical team, creation of a new water treatment laboratory for customer specific trials, and extension to the product range to achieve a highly efficient delivery process for our customers.
Last time we spoke about a number of ongoing projects; could you update us?
Our product portfolio has been expanded with new distribution agreements and innovative product lines across all industries. Ingredients supplied by Brenntag are on the list of some of the most innovative- as well as the most popular – products we purchase as consumers. Our teams have been instrumental in supporting formulation development of products and services across life science, material science and environmental applications. For example, new exciting products for consumer car and van market have been developed by our AdBlue team and recently launched at the Forecourts Show at NEC, Birmingham.
The offering of Brenntag Blending Services (BBS), which already maintains the highest level of service at a number of strategic operational locations across the UK & Ireland, is this year set to expand even further as we upgraded our blending facilities and the application laboratory at Bradford BBS facility. We have just completed the major multi-million pound investment at Lutterworth, opening a brand new standalone blending facility which will enable us to meet all our customers’ solutionising needs, servicing the Midlands, the South of England and Wales.
The Brenntag Food Application Centre featuring formulation, product and stability testing is also completed and fully functional at our Widnes food hub site. To best enable our business partners to compete in today’s market and fully leverage our expertise in food applications, Brenntag food & nutrition team organises seminars, bespoke technical sessions and innovation workshops, featuring presentations by our key suppliers and industry institutes.