Easy environmentalism

Offering a variety of spill control, spill containment and spill response solutions, Empteezy is a specialist manufacturer working for the environment

Bruce Wishart was a General Manager in the recycling industry in the 1980s when the sector opted to replace its steel silos with large demountable skips. The switch led to customer complaints about how to empty waste into the new vessels and Bruce sought to develop a solution. His answer was Empteezy – a container that could be used with a forklift and from which waste could be ‘emptied easily’.

After acquiring a patent for Empteezy, Bruce began large-scale production of the product – first subcontracting out the manufacturing, before opening up his own manufacturing plant in the late 1980s. Soon, Bruce was adding more products to the line, expanding the fledgling company’s offering into health and safety solutions before moving into the environmental market. After almost 35 years of tremendous growth, Bruce’s company now has over 978 production lines and bears the name of his first innovation – a fitting reminder of how far the firm has come. Today, Empteezy is more than just a product; it is a company that solves problems.

“We see ourselves as more of an environmental company these days,” explains Bruce. “All the products we manufacture are tied into environmental regulations for the protection of, mainly, groundwater and water resources . Our focus is on the industrial handling and storage of hazardous liquids and chemicals. We do a little bit on the marine side, but the main focus is the industrial slips and spills where the market is very much driven by compliance with environmental regulations.”

Operating from five manufacturing plants across Europe – two in Scotland, two in France and one in Spain – Empteezy produces a complete range of environmental protection products for the storage of hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals. Working in steel, plastic and polypropylene, the company offers everything from £10 spill trays up to large-scale storage systems worth £1 million.

“Most of our products come from solving problems for customers,” Bruce says. “If a solution seems to have applications elsewhere, we will take it further and it might be introduced as part of the range.

“As of 2020, our products run into the hundreds and we have a highly diverse offering. The latest product we introduced was facemasks. We have distributors in the Far East, Russia and Australia, and we have watched how SARS and Bird Flu have affected behavior in these areas, so when Covid came along we started making masks. One of our factories that makes industrial absorbents also makes filter material used in masks, which means we had control of the supply chain. The move has created 35 jobs and the masks have serviced the UK market as well as the export market. Our factory in Livingston is an export hub from which we serve around 49 countries.”

Though the Covid-19 pandemic was disruptive for Empteezy in 2020, Bruce describes the impact of the virus as ‘no more than a stumble’ for the firm. After closing its doors at the very beginning of the crisis, Empteezy tweaked the layouts of its large 75,000 to 100,000 square foot facilities and was back in operation in less than three weeks.

“As it was for everybody, Covid was a shock, but we got over it very quickly,” Bruce remarks. “Despite the pandemic, we’ve hit historic highs in output and production in the last couple of months, in France and in the UK. We are now going into January with the biggest order book we have ever had in 40 years of business, right across all our product lines and all our factories.”

Empteezy’s recent success is the continuation of a five-year trend that has seen the business double in size with revenue growing by 10 per cent year-on-year. Named as one of the London Stock Exchange’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain, Empteezy continues to secure major projects across the world and at the beginning of 2020, fulfilled a large contract for the Nigerian Ports Authority.

“The project in Nigeria lasted eight months and was completed in February 2020,” Bruce reveals. “It involved the design, manufacture and supply of products for liquid chemical storage at a fuel docking bay.

“More recently, after the height of the Covid crisis, we worked in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover on the design and supply of lithium battery storage for both waste batteries and batteries for production. It was another six-figure project and it took over a year, start to finish, working to design a system that would meet Jaguar Land Rover’s requirements for electric vehicles.”

With expectations high for more expansion on a global scale, Bruce is confident that Empteezy will be able to double its turnover over the next three to four years. However, with so much business conducted in Europe, Brexit will certainly have an impact on the company’s operations going forward, but that doesn’t mean Empteezy won’t be prepared for it.

“Everything will depend on whether the UK and EU can come to terms on a deal,” claims Bruce, “but we are already taking action and have duplicated some of our production. The main French production centre will stay in France, but instead of expanding that factory, we have put a production line in the UK, which will reduce the amount of any potential tariff.

“If, at a worst-case scenario, a six per cent tariff was imposed on us, as a UK employer we tend to have an advantage when it comes to the social cost of employing somebody. It is about 30 per cent here, compared to around 50 per cent in the rest of Europe.

My gut feeling is that, in general, Brexit won’t slow our growth. We’ve planned for it and I think we are probably better placed than a lot of companies.”

Even with the uncertainty of the year ahead Empteezy knows that it can rely upon its 250 team members across Europe to drive the business forward in the face of adversity, just as they have done in 2020. The workforce at Empteezy, Bruce indicates, is an extension of the firm’s clients and the company prides itself on fostering excellent working relationships internally and externally.

“Across the years, we have only expanded where we can find the right people to uphold our company values and do the job to the level that we require,” Bruce states. “People are the heartbeat of this business. They are what has made Empteezy possible.”

The focus on people extends to Empteezy’s social responsibility initiatives too. For a number of years, the company has supported homeless charities in Scotland, including Social Bite, a major employer of homeless people, as well as the largest provider in the UK of freshly made free food for those in need.

“I believe businesses should put back into their local communities, so we have been a big supporter of Social Bite and others for many years and regularly take part in big sleepouts and other fundraising events,” Bruce reports. “We campaign every year and have raised well into six figures for homeless causes.”

As we move into the New Year, Empteezy has over £8 million worth of orders in progress and sits at around £48 million in total turnover. Though the Covid crisis is not over, and the next stage of the Brexit fallout is just beginning, Bruce and his team are brimming with confidence for the future of the business.

“It’s my hope that events like Covid will make governments realize that the current outsourcing of everything is short-sighted,” he comments. “On an environmental front, very few companies today factor in the carbon cost, and the life cost, of buying cheap goods from low-cost labor parts of the world. One thing that may come out of Covid is we might start to see an acceleration in the return of onshoring.

“I believe in manufacturing,” Bruce declares finally. “My kids say that if you cut me, I bleed oil, not blood. I am a manufacturer at heart and this is very much a plea from me to bring manufacturing back.”

Empteezy Ltd
Products: Environmental protection products