From Kazakhstan to Korea, clever chemistry developed and engineered by Gloucester-based Advanced Insulation is being applied to new products which are keeping oil and gas pipelines, ships and oilrigs protected from the heat, cold — and attack by sledgehammer (of which more later).
Nothing can stop a new business thriving if it hits the market at the right time, with the right products driven by decisive leadership, even during a global recession.
The men who’ve steered Advanced Insulation from zero to superhero in less than ten years (annual turnover is now £58 million), are managing director Andrew Bennion and technical director, Simon Shepherd. Andrew and Simon met at Alderley Plc, another globally successful Gloucestershire company in the oil and gas sector headed up by Simon’s father Tony.
I met Andrew at Advanced Insulation’s factory at Quedgeley, Gloucester to find out more about the man behind the business.
Andrew graduated from Birmingham University as a chemical engineer. He took his first job at Monsanto’s Aspirin plant, North Wales so he could slalom canoe on the River Dee in his spare time. A move to the Laporte chemical company in Widnes saw him running several of the company’s sulphuric acid and effluent treatment plants. This sounds unenviable, but I clearly don’t appreciate the scientific achievements behind the processes. He also ran its power distribution plant and worked on processing edible oils and copier paper.
He moved to Alderley Plc and into general management. Here he completed an MBA at Henley Business School and became Alderley’s group finance director. In 2008 he and Simon completed a management buyout of the company subsidiary Alderley Materials and named the new company Advanced Insulation.
Investing to grow
The new company’s growth strategy was based on a commitment to research and development. “We’ve always invested around 10% of turnover in R&D,” explains Andrew. That’s a lot, and unusual for an industrial company where annual R&D investment usually averages around 2-3% of turnover.
Advanced Insulation’s core products are based on phenolic chemical compounds. A breakthrough in the company’s development came through collaboration with multinational energy company Statoil. Advanced Insulation adapted its formula for application on subsea structures at the oil producer’s North Sea Kristin plant. This opened up a rich new seam of business.
New grades of phenolic products were developed to meet the increasingly technical demands of the oil and gas sectors. Advanced Insulation then developed a new range of industrial insulation and protection jackets for large and complicated-shaped equipment such as valves. These removable fire protection covers are as efficient as bonded insulation materials.
Manufacturing across the globe
While the design and engineering of compounds and products is done largely at Advanced Insulation’s factory in Gloucester, the application of insulating material happens at the client’s site, and takes a great deal of skill.
“We do a lot of training because every skilled engineer must perform at their best in front of the client,” explains Andrew.
The manufacture of fire protection covers is also best done close to the end user, so the company established a manufacturing facility in Dubai. The facility now has around 75 employees and Advanced Insulation has since opened jacket manufacturing facilities in Kazakhstan, Korea, Brazil and closer to home, Nottingham (which supplies the company’s North Sea business).
Technology drives oil and gas development
It’s no secret that the oil and gas industry is having a tough time, so can Advanced Insulation’s success continue? “We believe the oil and gas market will come back,” says Andrew.
“Traditionally we focussed on upstream oil and gas because there were so many opportunities. Now we are diversifying into other areas such as sustainable energy, where our technology can be adapted to fit.”
And don’t write off the oil and gas industry yet, he warns. “There is less capital expenditure in oil and gas at the moment but we’ve lived through a number of cycles, though this is the longest. As technology evolves, oil fields can be developed in more hostile environments. Many of these fields are operating in extreme temperatures: hotter or sub-zero, so our new product innovations are ideal.”
Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation has won many awards. Half the weight of other insulation products, it can be applied to the underdeck of an oilrig. “Weight is a massive issue on oilrigs and MS400 is much more robust than a standard system of fibrous insulation held on by a stainless steel shell,” says Andrew. “Our product is bonded using the same glue used on A380 wings.”
Advanced Insulation’s MS400 innovation was so radical that one client, not believing its properties, took a sledgehammer to it.
That didn’t work. He had to resort to a hammer and chisel on the bonded product before he could chip anything off.
Where there’s a need, there’s a solution
Advanced Insulation’s growth through innovation is complemented by strategic acquisitions. In 2014 the company acquired Plymouth-based Manuplas, which develops polymers for the marine, offshore, renewable and leisure markets.
The following year the company purchased Nottingham-based Covertherm to manufacture insulating jackets for use in the North Sea.
From £3 million turnover in 2009 to £58 million in 2017, what continues to motivate him? “I get huge satisfaction when a decision goes well. When I see our success, I see the individuals involved and how they’ve developed and taken ownership of projects.”
Andrew has an unshakeable belief that if his sales team can identify a need, Advanced Insulation can provide the solution. “We are best at adapting core chemistries to solve new and existing problems.”
Advanced Insulation is going to need a bigger awards cabinet. Added to its Queen’s Awards for Innovation and International Trade, it’s won many awards from respected engineering and manufacturing support organisations and was ranked 30th in the seventh annual Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200. Track 200 ranks Britain’s mid-market private companies with the fastest-growing international sales.
Quick Facts on Advanced Insulation
Advanced Insulation is one of the region’s fastest growing companies. It designs and engineers insulation and fire protection products and systems. The company has worked primarily in the offshore oil and gas subsea sector, but is expanding fast into sectors such as marine and wind energy. Operating globally, the company has recently secured its first contract in China.
Head Office: Gloucester
Group Revenue: £58 million
4 Facts on Andrew Bennion
1. Studied chemical engineering at university (little known fact: so did Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Bob Gore, the inventor of Gore-Tex)
2. Former slalom canoeist. Now a cyclist
3. Has competed in the world’s largest cycle race, the Argus Cycle Tour, in South Africa
4. Has no excuse for being late for work. He lives 10 minutes away from Advanced Insulation HQ, Gloucester
Jaguar Land Rover and the animated band Gorillaz (created in 1997 by rock group Blur frontman Damon Albarn and cartoonist Jamie Hewlett), have joined together to find the next generation of world-class electronics and software engineering talent. They have designed a code-breaking challenge found in the virtual band’s app.
The best performers will be fast-tracked through the recruitment process, helping to meet Jaguar Land Rover’s ambition to employ thousands of bright new talents over the next year. It’s a major change in the way the business looks for candidates, aiming to tackle the engineering skills gap and inspire and attract a diverse range of talent and new thinking.
The Gorillaz App launches a new Jaguar Land Rover recruitment area in the form of a 360-environment in the garage of the band’s home, which also features all the iconic vehicles from Gorillaz past. Here, applicants can explore and take a two-part challenge. The first part, designed to educate users about the benefits of electric vehicles, involves assembling the Jaguar I-PACE Concept, Jaguar's first all-electric five-seater sports car. Users can learn about the vehicle’s performance, battery technology, space, charging and range.
The second and more demanding part of the game, developed to engage and recruit budding electronic wizards and coders, will focus on cracking code in Alternate Reality Game format (ARG). The challenge takes them on a series of code breaking puzzles, that will test their curiosity, persistence, lateral thinking and problem solving skills - all real world attributes of a new generation of software and engineering talent.
Alex Heslop, Head of Electrical Engineering, at Gaydon-based Jaguar Land Rover, said: “As the automotive industry transforms over the next decade, fuelled by software innovation, we have to attract the best talent and that requires a radical rethink of how we recruit. Here we’ve found an engaging way to recruit a diverse talent pool in software systems, cyber systems, app development and graphics performance. It will be the first of its kind.”
The Jaguar I-TYPE, Panasonic Jaguar Racing's all-electric Formula E racecar, appears in the garage. Users can click on a poster of Noodle with the I-TYPE and ‘FanBoost’ which enables them to vote for the @JaguarRacing team drivers to gain a power boost during their next race or to follow @JaguarRacing twitter channels.
The project follows on from Jaguar Land Rover’s STEM initiative with Gorillaz in 2016, where founder member and female guitarist, Noodle, became Jaguar’s Formula E Racing Ambassador. As the UK’s leading investor in research and development, Jaguar Land Rover is putting Noodle at the forefront of its campaign to address the skills gap that manufacturing worldwide is facing.
The company has used its debut season in Formula E to promote Jaguar Land Rover’s thought-leadership position as a business that is shaping the future to solve the technology innovation and skills gap challenges.
Interested applicants can download the Gorillaz App
at the iTunes App Store ( https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/gorillaz/id1217997478?mt=8
) or Google Play ( https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Parlophone.Gorillaz&hl=en
To find out more about Jaguar Land Rover recruitment, click here www.jaguarlandrovercareers.com . For specific roles in Electrification see: www.jaguarlandrovercareers.com/jlr-roles/product-creation/electrification/
Traditional application methods remain open and CVs will be accepted, but Jaguar Land Rover invites potential applicants to download the app and break the codes and solve the problems to fast-track their way into employment.
It’s been a torrid night at the elections. We look at some early views and opinions from business support organisations.
Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-General, of the CBI said:
“This is a serious moment for the UK economy. The priority must be for politicians to get their house in order and form a functioning government, reassure the markets and protect our resilient economy.
“Politicians must act responsibly, putting the interests of the country first and showing the world that the UK remains a safe destination for business. It’s time to put the economy back to the top of the agenda.
“For the next Government, the need and opportunity to deliver an open, competitive and fair post-Brexit economy that works for everyone across all our nations and regions has never been more important.
“This can only be achieved if the next government doesn’t put the brakes on business, remains open to the world and sets out a pro-enterprise vision.
“Firms will support the UK develop our inclusive, innovative and open economy. More than ever, the new Government must work together with business to make the most of the opportunities ahead. Firms can provide the evidence, ideas and solutions from the shop, office and factory floor to secure our future prosperity.”
The Forum of Private Business
is calling more loudly than ever for the UK’s politicians to recognise
that the economic strength of the UK is reliant on the country’s five million
Chief Executive of the Forum, Ian Cass said: ‘The voice of small business has been completely ignored during the election campaign, with both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn both demonstrating that they have no real understanding of the critical role played by businesses to the importance to the UK, both in economic contribution and job creation,’
Facing a period of increased instability and uncertainty that a hung parliament will once again bring to the business community, Ian Cass is pushing for business to be put at the heart of government, with a Small Business Minister sitting at the Cabinet table and having teeth.
‘Businesses are tired of being paid lip service to. We have over five million business leaders in this country. Young and old, North and South, Remain and Leave, who have their feet firmly on the ground and need, once and for all, to be taken notice of, as the negotiations with Europe are progressed’
The Forum’s ‘Get Britain Trading’ campaign welcomes Members of Parliament into Forum member businesses so that they can truly understand what is needed to make the British high street great again.
‘With such a divisive split in the UK political scene, it is time for business to take control of the Country’s future,’ adds Ian Cass, ‘Not just big business with their sights purely on shareholder value, but small businesses who live and breath common sense survival in a changing world. In pushing for a proper, long term, Small Business Cabinet Minister, the Forum stands ready to support the government and its members in creating a strong and stable future UK. This will not come from politicians throwing verbal stones at each other and trotting out sound bites. It will come from a sensible and calm business approach,’ emphasises Ian Cass, a business owner in his own right.
‘The politicians have a choice. Listen and take note of the business voice, or continue sounding the ‘mayday’ siren,’ concludes Ian Cass.
Sophia Haywood, Policy Manager at Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce: “These results place even more uncertainty on our local business community, who have already persevered through recent years of political and economic turbulence. Businesses are already grappling with currency fluctuations, rising costs, and the potential impacts of Brexit. It is vital there is a swift formation of a functioning government to build business confidence and our wider economic prospects ahead of the EU negotiations. Just as businesses come together in difficult times, so should our politicians.”
By Ian Mean, director for Gloucestershire, Business West
With a hung Parliament today - no overall majority for the Conservatives - business will be very concerned about more and more uncertainty and delays in the Brexit process.
When you think that Theresa May had committed us to start the initial Brexit talks in just over a week’s time, the political earthquake that has now erupted puts a big question mark over the whole Brexit negotiation.
Will the opening Brexit talks actually go ahead on Theresa May’s timetable?
Will she even be prime minister by the end of today? Or even in a few days? There are already calls this morning for her to resign.
Our Business West members have told us in our recent survey how frustrated they are with the lack of information on the ongoing Brexit process.
They will be even more annoyed that our government’s standing will be at rock bottom with the EU now that Theresa May’s credibility has been shattered by the General Election result which she totally focussed on Brexit.
Calling a snap election with just eight weeks to give herself a stronger hand in the EU talks was a big gamble which the British people rejected.
Never underestimate the electorate is an old adage used by experienced politicians and today they have confounded expectations.
For many months now, companies I have talked to in Gloucestershire have been doing their best to ignore the “noise” generated by politics in order to focus on their own operations and ensure they retain good relationships with their export customers.
So, what will happen now?
More frustration for these businesses who now face the prospect of those initial Brexit talks being further delayed, because we might now have a Tory Party leadership election on our hands.
If Teresa May does resign, that delay in the talks could be as much as three months, and on top of that she will not be in charge of the Brexit process.
How can she retain any credibility with the EU, having had her wish for a stronger mandate for Brexit well and truly torpedoed?
For many companies in Gloucestershire where the strength of the pound is a big issue to make them more competitive, the lack of urgency created by a hung parliament could well affect their profitability for quite a period.
The key word here for companies is: confidence.
From day one when David Cameron committed us to an ‘in or out’ referendum, confidence has been the key issue for business.
In my experience in Gloucestershire, few companies have had any confidence in the government’s secretive Brexit process and during the Prime Minister’s election campaign, it became no clearer at all.
And at the heart of the government’s poor showing in the election was that the British public rejected the Prime Minister’s hard-line focus on getting the best deal for Britain.
She failed with a lacklustre election campaign where she almost hid from real voters - as opposed to party activists. This was the case particularly when she made a whistle stop tour to Cheltenham this week.
Most voters did not understand her Brexit argument in my view. They were more interested in domestic matters like the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and the NHS.
By contrast, Jeremy Corbyn ran an old-fashioned people-focused election campaign meeting everyone he could possibly meet.
Despite his obvious political shortcomings and a vicious right-wing press campaign against him, his anti-austerity ticket resonated with the public - particularly young people.
Business has been largely ignored in the election campaign.
That has to change and quickly.
Whoever now leads the country has to understand that the whole Brexit process will not be successful unless companies are regarded as important passengers on the journey - they must not be left standing on the platform
XLR – part of the Stratford-based Rigby Group – is to significantly expand its operations following the acquisition of the Marshall’s 24/7 corporate aviation facilities at Birmingham Airport.
The executive aviation specialist is now poised for significant growth as it prepares to engage with a range of new markets and opportunities from one of the UK’s busiest executive flight destinations.
The deal, which will see it take possession of the custom built facility with immediate effect, places the company at the heart of a round-the-clock operation with multiple connecting customer flights linking New York, Delhi, UAE, and Qatar.
XLR - is part of Rigby Group’s aviation division, which already runs two successful executive jet centres at Coventry and Exeter, earlier this year revealed its intention to expand operations across the UK.
The announcement, which underlines the company’s determination to fuel rapid growth through a blend of acquisition and organic expansion, represents a significant milestone in that strategy.
Rigby Group Founder & Chairman Sir Peter Rigby said: “The establishment of a new XLR Jet Centre at Birmingham Airport marks a huge step forward in our plans for the company, placing its operations at the heart of one of the UK’s busiest and most accessible airports and opening up significant opportunities not only in domestic executive travel, but also in servicing the growing market across Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
“Following our most recent investments in Exeter and Coventry, the Birmingham acquisition leaves us superbly positioned to execute our strategy of leveraging the group’s expertise and commitment to excellence to create a new major player in the corporate aviation market.”
XLR has experienced solid growth over the past 12 months as the market for corporate aircraft has remained firm. The Coventry centre has built a growing reputation as a major alternative to London for transiting private flights, while Exeter’s access to the South West has seen the volume of private jets arriving grow steadily, particularly during the field sports season.
While XLR already services an extensive client list of brokers and operators, individual clients and aircraft owners through its facilities, the addition of Birmingham’s 27,000 sq. ft. heat controlled hangar, multiple large parking ramps, and a 3052m runway capable of taking the giant A380 has boosted its capacity at a stroke.
Chris Beer, XLR Director of Corporate Aviation, added: “While we have already built an excellent reputation within the industry based on an extremely customer-centric focus, this latest acquisition will enable a significant step up in terms of the both the markets we are able to compete in and our operational scale.
“With a prestigious base now fully operational at Birmingham and ready to fly, XLR is ideally positioned to capitalise on Rigby Group’s accelerating expertise across the aviation sector to create a new force in executive jet travel.”
Charles Hughes, Business Development Director, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group, added: “XLR and Marshall share the same focus, in that, people are at the heart of our success and the addition of the impressive Birmingham FBO facility and the dedicated team within in make a strong fit for XLR. I wish the team and the business the very best for the future.”
The long-term initiative from MEPC aims to reduce car journeys to improve the environment for all
MEPC, the manager and developer of Milton Park, is excited to announce a forward-thinking travel campaign and range of initiatives to encourage companies and their employees to undertake greener travel.
Vectos, a transport planning and active travel specialist consultancy, has been brought in to work with the Park’s community to encourage as many people out of their cars as possible. A range of initiatives are being introduced to raise awareness of the need to consider more sustainable and active modes of travel.
The campaign aims to inspire, motivate and reward people who make travel changes and forms part of MEPC’s long-term commitment to responsible property investment at the leading Science and Business Park in Oxfordshire. By reducing the number of single occupancy vehicles on the Park and surrounding roads, the measures will improve congestion and air quality for Milton Park’s occupiers and nearby residents.
A new ‘Liftshare’ platform will be central to this by actively encouraging employees at the Park to register on the platform to find someone to share their journeys to and from work and has already seen 450 people register. By signing up to ‘Liftshare’, employees can enter their details to either offer or receive a lift and therefore reduce the number of cars on the road and emissions produced. MEPC offers a ‘guaranteed lift home’ to active “Lift Sharers” registered on the platform having teamed up with local taxi firm Go Green to ensure everyone has a lift home.
One employee at Milton Park who is behind the scheme is Kaspar Storrs, commented: “It is amazing what a difference less cars on the road could make to the quality of life for all those working on the Park as well as those nearby. ‘Liftshare’ is a fantastic part of the green travel campaign. I travel from Oxford and knowing there is someone who I can give a lift to makes me feel like I’m doing my bit for the community. I look forward to seeing what else MEPC does to make Milton Park a ‘greener’ place to work.”
The action follows results of a travel survey conducted at Milton Park at the end of last year, which showed significant potential and appetite for change. The survey identified 1,300 people across the park who said they would be happy to consider alternatives to driving on their own.
An active Milton Park Travel Forum has been set up to communicate more effectively with occupiers and to support them to encourage sustainable travel to and from the Park. Made up of representatives from over 250 companies on the Park, the forum looks at tailored solutions so that everyone can ‘enjoy their commute’. A personalised travel planning service is also available to support individuals in exploring other options for their journey and to help them sign up to ‘Liftshare’ and bike to work schemes that offer tax breaks as well as a rewards and incentives scheme.
Other planned changes include improved cycleways and facilities for cyclists, who can take advantage of Milton Park’s on site Bike Doctor as well as free breakfasts. A new bike loan scheme for Milton Park occupiers has also launched. With over 100 members so far, it is proving very popular with occupiers to get around the Park and to and from the station.
The campaign supplements existing measures such as Milton Park’s electric hybrid Shuttle Buses which already save up to 888 car journeys each day. The service costs £20 a year to use and is bespoke to Milton Park. Members of the surrounding villages can also use the buses at public rates.
MEPC has designed the campaign initiatives around the needs of its resident businesses and their employees, recognising the clear appetite on the Park for a greener environment and improved parking.
James Dipple, CEO, MEPC said: “A responsible approach to property investment is the cornerstone of MEPC’s business. We are therefore committed to working with our occupiers to improve the environment for those on the Park and living nearby. Encouraging greener travel is a way of not only improving traffic flows but also people’s health and wellbeing – it is about long-term changes as opposed to a one-off campaign.”
Veronica Reynolds at Vectos, added: “MEPC’s commitment to improving the environment at Milton Park through this travel campaign is clear to see and it has the potential to significantly reduce traffic congestion in the area.
“Our approach is to focus on encouraging as many people as possible to make small changes, where they are able to, in the way they travel. Our experience tells us that collectively these small changes will have a big impact. We are delighted with the interest we have already seen from those on the Park and would welcome any other individuals or businesses to come forward to discuss how they can make small changes for a big difference.”
To find out more and to be a part of it please visit www.miltonpark.liftshare.com
NIC Enterprises Limited has acquired a majority ownership of Worcestershire based, Orchard Valley Foods Limited. Mike Forrester and Cherry Blumberg remain as shareholders, and also become board directors of NIC, with Cherry remaining as Managing Director of OVF in a “business as usual” arrangement.
NIC currently owns three other companies in the UK all involved in the supply of decorations, inclusions, wafers, cones and other consumables mostly to the ice cream industry via food service and retail. There are a number of other NIC companies based in Europe including Candeco in Sweden which is a long-term business partner for Orchard Valley Foods.
NIC is part of Orkla Food Ingredients within the Orkla group, head quartered in Oslo, Norway.
Orchard Valley Foods said shareholders welcome the fact that synergies between the group companies in both the UK and internationally are likely to bring new opportunities to OVF at Tenbury and Leominster. Some of these have already been identified and work is underway to transfer business to OVF. Leominster is likely to become the distribution point for the group into the Midlands, North England and Wales. OVF makes up half of the sales of the combined NIC UK businesses and bring experience to the group of working with food manufacturers.
The Corsham (Institute) Augmented and Virtual Environment brings together research, innovation and reality in an area designed to optimise thinking.
This technology is currently used in a variety of sectors; at MTC it is used by architects and constructors to formulate building plans; at BP it is used to train for oil platform usage. At Welsh Water it is used for touring sites using Google Earth, and at the University of Brighton, VR is used for sports training – timing starts and analysing performance.
In our CaVE there’s a work zone with a conventional set up, where a group of people can plan and deliberate. The adjacent tech zone provides a space that has projections on three walls, so that visitors are surrounded by a different reality. Although the space is for one person, others can see in, interact and make suggestions from the outside.
There is also an HTC Vive Virtual Reality headset.
The Corsham Institute says it is creating a real eye-opening experience to encourage out of the box thinking and dynamic discussion and is hoping to work with developers on projects that will deliver Corsham Institute’s vision of a fair, inclusive, prosperous and creative society.
Corsham is a southern Cotswold market town in Wiltshire. In 2010, the Ministry of Defence consolidated its core communications and ICT activities onto a single site in Corsham to form the Global Operations and Security Control Centre and in 2016 the Government announced that a further £40 million would be spent on a new Cyber Security Operations Centre (CSOC) centred on Corsham.
This activity has been mirrored by investment and development by the private sector with secure data centres located in Corsham and clusters of SME digital activity, making Corsham of strategic importance to the UK’s digital economy.