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Tank Storage Magazine Feature: Agility and innovation

Posted on 11 November, 2020

One of the UK’s leading bulk liquid storage companies has put in place a new strategic growth plan and unveiled a name change. UM Terminals Managing Director Bryan Davies explains.

Until a few weeks ago, UM Terminals was known as UM Storage.

But the Liverpool-headquartered business has ambitious growth plans and felt that their old name did not do full justice to today’s business.

Commenting on the company’s new name, Managing Director Bryan Davies said: “We felt that UM Terminals and the strapline ‘Bulk Liquid Solutions’ better described the services we offer. The range of services we provide our customers with goes so much further than storage.”

UM Terminals operates out of 8 terminals, strategically located across the UK, handling over 40 different products for its customers.

It currently has a capacity of over 300,000 cubic metres of bulk liquid storage across 280 tanks of varying sizes. The plan is to grow this to over 400,000 cubic metres.

One of the strengths of the business is the diversity of services it offers and product solutions.

Product solutions include vegetable oils, industrial, food and feed, chemical, fertiliser, fuels, biofuels and base oils.

Services include blowing, blending, heating, processing and sampling among others.

The company’s rebranding project coincided with the twin challenges of Brexit and then the Coronavirus pandemic, which provided the company with both challenges and opportunities.

Bryan said: “We pride ourselves on our flexible, agile approach, something that has held us in good stead this year.

“On the two occasions so far when it looked like we were heading for a hard Brexit, we have seen a spike in enquiries from customers wanting to ensure their supply chains remained resilient. Depending on how negotiations play out over the next few weeks, it is possible we will see another spike, something for which we are prepared.

“Our adaptability was also highlighted during the recent lockdown when we partnered with INEOS to create a hand sanitiser product to meet consumer demand during the pandemic.

“In just a few days, both parties were able to agree a strategy incorporating a comprehensive governance procedure, to ensure all relevant health and safety guidelines were met efficiently, and a full review of the key requirements detailed by INEOS.

“Once authorisation was received from HMRC, a new bespoke product was created using an in-line blending system at our UM terminal in Hull. We were then able to provide the necessary operational cover to facilitate the increase in product movements via road and sea.

“I’m incredibly proud of the UM Terminals’ team. The way they responded during the pandemic was inspiring.

“Every member of the team helped to give Britain what it needed. This included pharmaceutical products for our healthcare workers and families; animal feed that produces dairy and meat products; fertilisers to produce fresh fruit and vegetables; and vegetable oils for food products such as bread, cakes and biscuits.

“Our team were classified as key workers and our terminals were expected to continue operating as normal. So, we adapted quickly, introducing split shifts to reduce the number of people on site at any one time, but with the overriding objective of ensuring we were always matching the right resource to demand. Alongside this, we had rigorous procedures around sanitisation, cleaning stations, ventilation and social distancing.

“Our team worked tirelessly to keep Britain moving, often in extremely testing circumstances and it highlighted the fantastic partnerships we have with our customers.”

One of the more recent innovations at UM Terminals has been the launch of its new Client Central Services operation during lockdown.

Based out of its Regent Road Terminal in Liverpool, the new service integrates all weighbridge and administration from across the 8 terminals.

A dedicated portal gives clients instant access to essential weighbridge documentation and current stock levels for each tank. They also have a secure log-in and can access their data 24/7, 365 days a year via a desktop, tablet or mobile device.

Bryan said: “It is something we had been planning for some time, but rather than running it out of Regent Road, we had to flex quickly and run the service from our people’s homes. Because we had invested in the right technology, this was something we were able to do at speed.

“Despite having to contend with a global pandemic, our metrics show that the quality of our customer service did not suffer at all.”

Customer service is something most businesses will tell you is central to their success, but at UM Terminals it is even more vital.

Bryan said: “We operate in a crowded market which means it is essential we have points of difference from our competitors. Part of this comes from the variety of products we can store and from our deep-water port facilities.

“But even more important is the emphasis we place on having a ‘can-do’ attitude. We have a partnership approach to our client relationships, listening to their requirements and then providing the most appropriate and innovative solutions.

“The need for continuous improvement is part of the DNA of the business. Client Central Services was introduced because of the importance we place on communication.”

UM Terminals employs 63 people, working 364 – sometimes 365 days – of the year meeting its customers’ needs.

The company is a key part of today’s UM Group which has a distinguished history stretching back almost 100 years.

UM’s founder, Michael Kroyer-Keilberg, was involved in bulk liquid storage even earlier than this – he constructed his first tank for the storage of bulk molasses in 1911 at Victoria Dock in Hull.

The tank had a capacity of 3,000 tons and received its first shipment of molasses a year later from the sailing barque, Sunlight.

The Group’s other services include the international trading of molasses, the sales and distribution of molasses and the procurement and marketing of vegetable oils for use in the animal feed industry.

In August, Ben Macer succeeded Chris Roberts as CEO of UM Group having previously been Finance Director.

UM Terminals’ new strategic growth plan aims to build on the significant investment the business has made into upgrading its facilities and operations over recent years.

There are three main strands to the strategic plan. Firstly, the business wants to maximise its UK capability which may include expanding existing terminals or building new ones subject to demand.

Secondly, it is looking at ways in which it can harness the assets of the wider UM Group which has a network of facilities in Europe and other parts of the world storing molasses but which could be used to store other products to meet the needs of existing and new UM Terminals’ customers.

The third part of the strategic plan is to look for acquisition targets that would be a good fit with the UM Terminals business.

A key aspect of any strategy moving forward will be to continue innovating and seeking to meet emerging customer needs in the green space, with the Government’s Road to Zero strategy central to this with its focus on increasing green infrastructure and reducing the UK’s dependence on fossil fuels.

Bryan said: “We are already seeing an increase in enquiries from clients in Europe wanting us to store biofuels for onward transport to their customers in the UK.

“This is set to be an increasing area of demand over the next 10-20 years as global power requirements continue to evolve.

“We already have the assets to meet these changing needs. We have built our business on successful long-term partnerships and this will continue to be the case. All that will change will be the storage requirements of our customers.”

Bryan concluded: “While we are hugely proud of our history, we want to ensure that we still have a successful business in 50- or 100-years’ time.

“The new strategic growth plan offers an exciting future for UM Terminals with its three core elements of maximising our footprint at our existing UK terminals, looking at ways to harness Group assets in Europe and elsewhere and looking for the right acquisition opportunities.

“Alongside this, we will continue to invest year-on-year in our facilities ensuring they provide our customers with flexible and innovative bulk liquid storage solutions underpinned by the highest quality, health and safety and environmental standards.

“We have a set of core values which were created by our entire team covering customer focus, teamwork, people development, commitment to safety, positive attitude and integrity.

“While our business and the requirements of our customers may change, the ethos that underpins the way we do things remains the same.”

www.umterminals.co.uk

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