Granville has grown from occupying the space above a residential garage, through sub-letting office space from British Benzol and finally moving into its own premises in the mid-nineties; the journey has been one of continued evolution and improvement.
Managing Director, James Holland, takes you on that journey:
In the early 2000s, Granville began manufacturing engine oil on-site and filling became a larger and more sophisticated part of the business as the years progressed.
Perseverance and ambition following Brexit
Granville was acquired by Tide Water Oil Company in 2016, an Indian lubricant blender looking for a manufacturing base inside the EU. It selected Granville in the UK as an established and successful business with clear potential for growth and development and a shared desire to offer quality products at affordable prices. Little did it realise that just two months following the completion of the transaction, the UK public would vote to leave the EU.
Despite the challenges presented by Brexit, Granville embarked on an ambitious campaign of expansion. In 2017, following negotiations with the current owners, Granville acquired Unit 28 – immediately next door to our existing manufacturing facility – adding 8,000sqft to the existing 37,000 enjoyed by the business. This smaller building provided a significant opportunity through the land surrounding the two buildings.
Outwardly, the business appeared to be plateauing in terms of sales volume; internally, work was continuing in earnest on an end-to-end programme of improvement. First the bund, a concrete area of containment within which our tanks are sited, was doubled in size. This made way for six new base oil tanks and five additive tanks to be installed in 2018 – adding 520,000L to our raw material storage and reducing the need for handling of barrels to the blending platform by 90%.
From there two new high speed filling lines were installed along with in-feed tables and the foil sealing of the product to ensure product quality at the consumer.
By 2019 Granville embarked on our biggest project yet, the design and install of a solubilisation plant. Base oil thickness at different temperatures is modified using specially formulated packages named viscosity modifiers. These provide the low and high temperature pumpability that engines require – 0W/20 or 5W/30, for example – and are made by dissolving different polymers in base oil. These polymers must be shredded and dissolved at high temperatures to ensure that they form a fully homogenous fluid.
To achieve this, Granville acquired new mixing vessels and an ultra-modern thermal fluid heating system – a more environmentally friendly alternative to steam heating. To ensure that the polymer is able to dissolve efficiently, Granville’s maintenance team designed and built our own shredding platform that reduced the polymer to the exact size that we require whilst minimising stress to the product.
Following the acquisition of the ‘red building’, as it is now affectionately known, in 2017, plans were drawn up and the process of planning approval had been progressing in the background. When this was finally granted in 2019, the project was tendered, and Hobson Porter was appointed as main contractor to execute the £2.2m expansion to the rear of the building.
Incorporating warehouse space, dedicated loading docks and charging stations for our expanding fleet of ride on pallet trucks, the site is now efficiently segregated between the ‘blue building’ housing raw material/component storage, bulk oil blending, quality control (QC) and production/filling functions. Meanwhile, the ‘red building’ now serves as Granville’s dedicated distribution facility with everything being produced transferred across the shared yard. Finally, a dedicated goods-out yard on the west of the site ensures that incoming materials do not affect finished goods being shipped to customers.
Combatting raw material shortages triggers “all-time high” in demand
If constructing a new building whilst dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing requirements – whilst being a key part of keeping UK haulage moving – weren’t challenging enough, raw material shortages quickly put the business under significant pressure. With that in mind, two 125,000L tanks were hurriedly procured, installed and commissioned during a six-week period in the summer of 2021 – adding an additional 250,000L of base oil storage to the site in an effort to ensure continuity of supply to our customer base.
With expanded storage, additional blending and filling capacity and newly completed storage space, demand for Granville lubricants reached an all-time high. With limited space and social distancing constraints, the only option for the business was to introduce shift working. Such a drastic change to working patterns is usually a protracted affair with challenging negotiations, but as Granville has always been – and continue to operate as a ‘family’ style business – staff were happy to adjust. Following brief consultations, they voluntarily moved to shift working almost immediately – a testament to the team spirit for which we stand!
Now operating 16 hours, five days-per-week, with the additional capacity from investment finally paying dividends to the performance of the business, the time was right to overhaul the laboratory on site. Much more than a QC lab, Granville operates an end-to-end development environment, tuned to ensure that our products excel at providing maximum engine protection and the highest levels of fuel efficiency. To that end, the lab was relocated near to production and doubled in size with over £100,000 of additional equipment capacity to vital tests, such as NOACK volatility and high temperature high shear testing. This ensures that our lubricants are fully and comprehensively tested for even the latest generation of hybrid vehicles.
As 2022 progressed, even with all the additional expansion and investment, the plant continued to struggle – mainly due to bottles!
The sourcing of bottles, especially when using bespoke bottle designs as Granville does, is always a challenge, as bottles are often ordered 14 weeks in advance – production delays add a further headache to production planning! Consequently, at the end of 2022, Granville made the decision to invest in blow moulding equipment, so that we could manufacture our own bottles on-site.
With two modern and environmentally friendly ‘all electric’ blow moulding machines on-site, Granville embraced the challenge of blowing bottles, but with one final challenge: moulds are made to suit a machine, and whilst our ‘performance’ mould used for the gold range could be modified to fit the new machines, our Hypalube bottle would not fit and would require a new mould to be manufactured.
As that design was already six-or-seven years old, the decision was made to modernise and redesign the bottle from scratch. With the opportunity too good to miss, we chose to completely re-brand.
As the journey to refine a new bottle progressed, we turned to nature and embraced the hexagon – the strongest shape in nature for the foundation of our new logo, with a three part ‘G’ emblem symbolising our three pillars: service, distribution and availability.
Following the new flexible logo design and premium gold look, the ‘hex’ bottle sought to pair sleek modern lines with the hexagonal pattern for an added flourish. The new logo, bottle and labels work together to project a modern and consistent look and feel to the new branding.
Article first published Wednesday 6th Sep 2023 12:00:50