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Briar Chemicals celebrates its third anniversary after being sold by Bayer CropScience Ltd and becoming an independent company.

Since being sold in September 2012, the independent company has invested on the site at substantially over £2m/pa. In December 2014, Briar completed a £4.6m investment in a new, highly automated waste water treatment plant.  The major benefit for the company going forward is that this new plant enables cost-effective treatment of more materials in waste water and so widens the scope for new products to be manufactured at the Norwich site.

Tim Green, Site Manager says that it’s been a successful period:  “We’ve had a busy three years with continued investment, recruitment and new products, and with hard work and commitment, this site has good prospects for a long-term future.”

Last year also saw completion of a £1.1m investment in the control room of its multi-product plant which will also increase its flexibility to bring in new business. In addition, four new refrigeration units have been installed at a cost of £200k each, all improving efficiency and using more environmentally friendly technology.

As Tim explains;

“Our aim is to continuously invest to improve our safety standards and our efficiency as a manufacturer. This approach ensures that we remain competitive, deliver to customers on time, increase our flexibility and build for the future.

“We have recently replaced a 14 year old storage tank with a new upgraded design costing £380k. Manufactured from a specialist grade of stainless steel, the tank will have greater flexibility in storing raw materials as well as a life-span more than twice the original. Similarly, we will shortly be replacing a titanium drier with a newer model and modernising the associated control system in order to handle a wide range of materials. As an independent company, we need to appeal to a broad spectrum of third parties.”

Briar Chemicals becomes independent company
Briar Chemicals site manager Tim Green at the Norwich facility

There has also been an ongoing recruitment drive at the independent company. Six new operators have just started on the site which is also currently looking for an experienced chemist and a chemical engineer.  “We have always invested in our people, and it’s not always easy to find specialists locally.  We work closely with the University of East Anglia (taking on summer interns) and we also have a 15 month intern from Loughborough University.

Furthermore, we have two apprentices in our engineering department and we work closely with local schools, encouraging the enjoyment of science learning through various activities such as school visits to the site and hosting the East Anglian final of the Top of the Bench competition.”

Tim Green says there are three main areas of focus at the core of the business; firstly that safety is the top priority. The site has a Cogent Gold Training standard; “We were one of the first  chemical companies to achieve external validation for the thoroughness of our training programmes and several other similar businesses have now followed suit.  It is fundamental to everything we do.” The second area is keeping costs down to maximise efficiency, by investing in the best technology and keeping a tight rein on spending. “Our long-term sustainability is critical and maintaining high standards in personnel and equipment are essential if we want to attract new business in an extremely competitive global market which is our 3rd area of focus.”

In April this year, Briar employed Susan Brench as their Commercial Manager, to drive new business development, primarily through expansion of the independent company’s third party contract manufacturing activities. To date, there have been two new products introduced to the site, both herbicide formulations and both destined for overseas markets. One of these customers has since invested £28k in new equipment on Briars ’site with a view to extending the existing production schedule as part of a multi-year deal. Briar already exports more than 95% of its production, shipping to over 25 countries worldwide on all continents.  It is expected that new business will continue to be derived from export markets, principally Continental Europe, North America, and Japan.