Robinson Brothers

Highlighting best practice as a representative in The Parliamentary Review

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Robinson Brothers is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Highlighting best practice
Pilot Plant Technician Jamie Wilkes
monitoring the fractional distillation
of chemical compounds
Based in West Bromwich for 150 years, Robinson Brothers
Ltd competes across the world in fine and speciality
chemicals. The company develops and manufactures a
range of molecules, intermediates and substances to meet the
challenges of a constantly changing global market. Speed of
response, flexibility of approach and agility are key factors in the
company’s success. Today 67 per cent of its sales come from
outside the UK. Family-owned and professionally managed,
the company is regarded as a trusted partner by customers and
suppliers alike. Managing Director Adrian Hanrahan says more
about the company and its approach to business.
Adapting to change
From its inception, our business has adapted constantly to changing market
trends. Robinson Brothers began in business by building and operating gas works
throughout the UK. When local government took over the gas works, the brothers
moved into tar distillation. After the tar works were absorbed by another business,
they turned to chemical development and manufacturing. By 1939, Robinson
Brothers had established the ROBAC brand of rubber accelerators with a particular
focus on the automotive sector. In the 1960s, we began making gas odorant,
which gives natural gas in the UK its distinctive smell. We also started developing
and producing fine chemical intermediates for use in drugs such as Tagamet and
Zantac. All these activities are still important today.
»Managing Director:
»Established in 1869
»Based in West Bromwich
»Services: Development and
manufacture of fine and
speciality chemicals
»No. of employees: 250
»Works in worldwide markets
»In 2014, Robinson Brothers
was named “Company of
the Year” in the Chemical
Industries Association Awards
Robinson Brothers Ltd
In addition, with our expertise in
sulphur chemistry and handling
hazardous chemicals, we have gained
a reputation as the company to
approach for difficult and complex
projects that are beyond the capabilities
of our customers. These challenging
projects remain a significant part of
our business along with our own list of
Today, we supply chemicals globally
to the pharmaceutical, agrochemical,
flavour and fragrance, food and
beverage, electronics, performance
and effect chemicals, rubber and latex
industries. Our platform technologies
allow us to supply to a diverse market
range, and it is this diversity that has
driven our growth.
Research and development
Robinson Brothers has a long
record of investing in research and
development. The R&D department
was set up in 1920 under an Oxford
graduate in chemistry. Since then,
we have invested consistently in the
recruitment, training and development
of high-calibre chemists and chemical
engineers. To meet customer
specifications, the R&D team works
closely with the technical sales team
and the production team. As our R&D
Business Manager, Dr Bal Kalirai, says,
“Building relationships with customers
is very important.” Customers value
the technical advice available from our
sales team and having complete access
to the research team.
We have also forged strong links
with several universities, including
Aston, Birmingham, Nottingham,
Warwick, Queen’s University Belfast
and a number of others within the
UK and the EU. This is all part of
our commitment to innovation and
collaboration, which are essential
for us and critical for the company’s
future. As well as providing placements
for students, both research and
non-research, Robinson Brothers
has collaborated with universities
and other stakeholders on funded
projects for the development of safer
chemical compounds. For example, in
partnership with Aston University and
the University of Milan, we took part
in the EU-funded Safe Rubber Project.
The outcome was a new safe rubber
accelerator, SRM102, which replaced
an existing toxic compound from
one of our large global competitors.
This won us the Chemical Industry
Association/GSK Innovation Award
Outstanding performance
Our outstanding performance
in several other areas has been
recognised through a clutch of industry
awards in recent years. One of these
was the energy and low carbon award
in 2008. This reflected our major
investment in reducing emissions,
conserving energy and taking measures
to protect the environment. In 2011,
we received the Shell Responsible
Care Special Award for Process Safety
Leadership. This acknowledged our
excellent safety record on site where
Andy Taylor, Technical
Operator, manufacturing
fine chemicals at scale at
Robinson Brothers
With our
expertise in
chemistry and
chemicals, we
have gained a
reputation as
the company to
approach for
difficult and
Highlighting best practice
the health and safety of employees
and neighbours is of utmost
importance. In 2014, we were named
Company of the Year by the Chemical
We operate a cradle to grave
philosophy, with research and
development at scales of milligrams,
grams, kilograms and upward of
thousands of tonnes from our full-scale
production facility, all on the same
site. This allows us to support our
customers at all stages of any product
life cycle.
We are also committed to ensuring
every member of the workforce is
equipped with the right skills to
meet the challenge of advancing
technology. All production workers,
for example, hold an apprenticeship-
Our high site standards were
recognised by the Food and Drug
Administration in 2015 during an
inspection to ensure the site was
compliant with good manufacturing
practice, a key parameter for a
company seeking to supply the
pharmaceutical industry. The company
also holds ISO 9001:2015 and ISO
14001:2015 accreditation, and was
one of the first companies in the UK
Endeavour Speciality Chemicals
Endeavour Speciality Chemicals was
acquired in 2008. Its focus is flavour
and fragrance, supplying key molecules
to the F&F industry globally. Its ability
to develop and manufacture high-
impact aroma molecules at various
scales puts it at the forefront of this
industry. Under the new ownership of
Robinson Brothers Ltd, Endeavour’s
sales have quadrupled.
Robinson Brothers Ltd is also highly
active within the Chemical Industry
Association(UK), and the European
Fine Chemicals Group.
Family ownership
While the Robinson family no longer
takes an active role in the day-to-day
running of the business, it does play
an active role in the main board of
the company. The family has shaped
the company’s values, and these are
embraced by the current management
team. The family regard their shares
as an inheritance for which they act
as stewards on behalf of the next
generation. This ethos places a priority
on the independence of the company
and on the welfare of all those who
work for us. There is a tradition of
successive generations of the same
families working for the company,
coupled with a strong mix of new
and younger people taking up roles
in manufacturing, quality, research,
IT, engineering, health and safety,
administration and sales.
With a diverse product range and a
worldwide customer base, including
clients in China, India, Europe, North
America and the UK, we have carved
out a special niche within the industry.
Customers recognise our integrity,
longevity, track record, phenomenal
knowledge, drive for innovation and
agility. Our greatest strength is our
people, who have a tremendous work
ethic and commitment to excellence.
performance in
several other
areas has been
through a
clutch of
industry awards
in recent years
Instrument Technician
Jessica Webb and
Mechanical Fitter Amelia
Brown both joined
Robinson Brothers as
engineering apprentices

This article was sponsored by Robinson Brothers. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it.