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William Rowland Business Update 2022 - Winds of change

July 27th 2022

The last four years have been quite a period for William Rowland Ltd (WR), even in the context of an almost 200 year old business that has channelled metal additives into key supply chains, through several significant global events, including the 2nd world war.

" I won't use this article to tell our customers and suppliers how we have coasted through the challenges of the last three years as this isn't the case. I will tell them we have enough ingenuity in the team, strength in ownership and pace overall to weather the biggest challenges and keep metal flowing into the supply chains we are passionate about, which following this period is without question". 

- Richard Lowe

The last four years have been quite a period for William Rowland Ltd (WR), even in the context of an almost 200 year old business that has channelled metal additives into key supply chains, through several significant global events, including the 2nd world war.

2018

In 2018 the business received approval from the board of its parent company, Amalgamated Metal Corporation (AMC), to relocate its Sheffield Headquarters. The proposal would involve relocation to a new purpose-built facility nine times bigger than the present one to accommodate the growth of its newly established superalloy recycling operations totalling £10m. 

2019

In the Autumn of 2019, the weather presented some challenges. Taking this into account the site move was completed on the 9th of March 2020.  

Whilst the move itself was managed well and safely on the 23rd March, Boris Johnson declared the first UK lockdown due to the rise of Covid 19. In addition to the site move and around the same period, WR also acquired the business of EF Westaway, a chemical finishing business in Sheffield with a similar legacy to WR.

WR saw its markets plunge in a relatively short time, as nation after nation locked down and air travel ground to a halt, aviation being a key market for WR. 

2020

Despite these challenges and after introducing many covid safety measures, the business traded every day, never paused even briefly, and the employees at WR never wavered, focusing only on completing the final stages of the site move and integrating the newly branded WR Metal Finishing business. 

Approaching the end of 2020, another hurdle was presented to UK business in the shape of Brexit, that followed the integration period agreed between the UK and EU. Many met this with trepidation, but again at WR we prepared to export more, not retract, and established many processes to ease this new arrangement. This included streamlining arrangements around VAT to enable us to trade seamlessly through DDP terms and the addition of inward processing relief (IPR) to allow us to continue services to the European market. In addition, constant engagement with our EU partners to grow exports remained WR's strategic objective, this without disrupting the existing business.

Despite the political rhetoric, Brexit is still not done and, in our opinion, it will take a generation to settle, but the preparations made by the business have ensured there was no material disruption to our trade with the EU.

2021

In mid-2021, the business started seeing an upward change in activity as nations emerged from their most severe restrictions. Supply chain amplification from pent-up demand was tied to this. This presented numerous challenges for the business and its partners. Still, we were able to stay closely linked to the demand cycle, albeit with some uncharacteristic latency on delivery promises due to the impact of international freight cost and availability.

2022

The strong demand from the metals industry continued through the balance of 2021 and into 2022; however, in February, we witnessed the sad circumstances surrounding the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The impact of this forced the price of various metals upward as supply routes in and around Russia were by impacted by sanctions.

WR was very active throughout the balance of Q1 and Q2, 2022 in shoring up its supply of materials and ensuring it had enough diversity of supply to fulfil existing contracts and offer new ones. One of the most significant challenges during this period was the suspension of nickel trading on the LME following a spike to over $40,000. Despite the risks, WR continued to bring this key base metal to market, enabled in part by its sister business AMT, which is the oldest category one ring dealing member on the LME. No contracts have gone unfulfilled, and as trading resumed, WR continued to support its customers to navigate through this period.

The war in Ukraine has created significant challenges for energy-intensive industry, a cornerstone of the WR business. These headwinds are in the early stages of being navigated and present undoubted uncertainty, but the market can be assured WR will be willing and able to handle their needs.

The last three years have been challenging, but the business remains strong and perhaps more robust than before by continuing to address its infrastructure, train its people and recruit selectively. Uncertainty lies ahead, but WR is not a business that fears this, so we are poised to embrace whatever comes our way so we can remain a reliable partner in the metals industry.

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