Big investments in stock are just the beginning of Van Leeuwen’s plans for the UK

Big investments in stock are just the beginning for Van Leeuwen UK

Van Leeuwen UK, a company with big plans, is making moves in the sector.

If we rewind back to late 2021, I spent the afternoon with Kris Bowling and Thom Bate talking about their plans for the business after the successful merger of Van Leeuwen and Benteler Distribution two years earlier. 

It sounded like the business was in a good position and had some big ideas, but I was pretty candid that I’d always felt Van Leeuwen were a bit of a sleeping giant in the UK, and different in set up to the Van Leeuwen businesses I had dealt with over the years in the Benelux.

In December 2021, I recorded the first of a planned 12 short features for the business. Jill Clements told me about the exciting news that Van Leeuwen UK were going to be adding an expanded range of carbon steel PFF stock (pipe, fittings and flanges) into the UK, and redistributing the current stock around the group to create a faster and more reactive service to their clients.

Fast forward to August 2022 and the additional stock is now here, so I caught up with Kris Bowling, the new Managing Director of Van Leeuwen UK, and we spoke about how the stock had been received by both clients and the sales staff within Van Leeuwen.

Kris was enthusiastic about how well the stock was moving, and commented on how the materials were meeting the pricing expectations of the market because of the buying power within Van Leeuwen Group:

“…because of the vast buying power of the group, and the volumes that they purchase of most of these sizes and dimensions, it means that it’s at the right price… and we can be both competitive and still deliver the high-quality product that our customers demand.”

Danny Quirke, who has worked in the PFF industry for as many years as I can remember, said that the carbon push is likely to just be the start of the growth:

“I think the next level is… we have a lot of A105 materials here, (but we’ll) possibly (be) pushing onto LF2’s, F5, F9 and all the special alloy flanges and fittings.”

As I alluded to at the start of the piece, there have been other big changes in the UK. Danny has overseen a lot of these operational changes in Middlesbrough, but having been on all the Van Leeuwen sites in the UK this year, I have seen the developments first-hand.

Along with new technology and new saws, the operational efficiencies have been improved by changing both stock and machinery locations. Danny said there was “…still a lot of room to continue improving, but that the changes had made a huge impact on the Middlesbrough site,” and would give the business “the ability to scale up our day-to-day order volumes, without affecting our contract work.”

Alongside the operational changes and stock increases, there have also been some new faces that have joined the company. Both Lucy Clinton and Claire Blakey have rejoined the company to push the PFF range. This experience aligns with the new stock and company strategy, and I do not think these will be the last of the additions. 

Attracting new talent into the industry has been a hot topic for years. We will be back out with Van Leeuwen to celebrate the end of an era at Brierley Hill, and look forward to seeing their new head office soon. The new purpose-designed head office will be fully operational before the end of the year, and will provide the Van Leeuwen UK team with a great advert for the next generation of staff to enter the industry.

Increased stock, new faces, a 21st-century head office, operational improvements and new equipment. The outlook for Van Leeuwen UK looks exciting.

Kris Bowling took over as MD of Van Leeuwen UK from Bob Heath shortly after we filmed this piece in Middlesbrough. Bob Heath, who retires at the end of the year, had been MD of Benteler Distribution and more recently Van Leeuwen UK since 2012, and had been continuously employed for 37 years, under various guises including Benteler Distribution and Pipe and Tube Group.

We wish him all the best and look forward to speaking to Bob on The Metal Guys Talk Business podcast before the year is out.

You can connect with Kris Bowling on LinkedIn, and find out more about Van Leeuwen by following them on LinkedIn or visiting their website: www.vanleeuwen.com/en

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