In December 2021 Jill Clements told me about the Energy Project that had been signed off by Van Leeuwen UK. Jill was animated when talking about the news, and excitedly explained the potential that this opened up to her and the team.
“I am very excited about it. I am really happy that finally we are making it happen.”
It sounded simple, repurpose an existing warehouse, fill it with carbon steel fittings, flanges, pipes and 3000# products that customers expect to be able to buy off of the shelf, and then start servicing the users for these materials across the UK.
I’ve personally done business with Van Leeuwen for many years. When I had my stockholding business they were a big account for me, but all the business I did with them was in Holland and Belgium. The UK business seemed quite a different animal to their European counterparts. Having now worked with Van Leeuwen UK for more than 18 months I have seen the business shifting. The European approach is being adopted into the UK operation and it’s an exciting place to work.
If we fast forward from my first meeting with Jill to now, the summer of 2023 the business has made huge progress. The merger of Van Leeuwen UK and Benteler Distribution into one business, the change in management with Kris Bowling taking over from Bob Heath, a recent SAP integration to get all areas of the business on one operating system. The new head office at Brierley Hill is complete, and there has been a redistribution of stock and equipment throughout the group to streamline the operational effectiveness of the business.
I’m back at the Middlesbrough site, and getting to see first hand the changes that have been made to create the Energy Warehouse. Phil and Jill show me the stocks, and talk about the next steps that involve more grades and deeper stock levels to support the growth into the UK energy sector.
There is already a huge amount of material in the warehouse for major UK energy contracts won in the last 12 months that is being held for call off. These projects will be running for years to come and the know-how from the wider Van Leeuwen group means that business of this nature is in safe hands and will grow further in the coming years.
Against a backdrop of rising energy costs, Van Leeuwen are now well set to take advantage of the changing energy landscape in the UK. Recently the Guardian reported that the UK was in a perfect position to go beyond net zero:
By going “beyond net zero” the UK’s economy would attract trillions of pounds of global private investment and double the £35bn a year economic benefit forecast for its current path, according to Walker.
I say it a lot, but it’s an exciting time for the UK Steel industry. The energy sector is an extremely important market and it’s been a pleasure for me in some small way, to have got behind the scenes and document the story with a company that is making moves in this marketplace.