£10m Lenzing investment boosts capacity and credentials

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 17 Aug 2017

NEARLY £10 million is being invested into the South Bank facility of wonder textile producer Lenzing Fibers as it builds on demand and factors in industry-leading sustainability credentials.

The Austrian-owned site, producer of high-end Tencel – the brand of plant-based lyocell that is predominantly used in the garment sector – is part way through the huge spend, on two distinct projects.

Now complete, the first element was described as a “debottling exercise,” improving the manufacturing process off Energy Park Way, where Lenzing has reaped a 10 per cent capacity boost, while the forthcoming project will revolutionise waste-water handling.

Phil Munson, operations director in Grimsby, said: “Our job here is to support the speciality side of the business rather than the commodity side. We are making really specialised products for customers that deliver additional value, and we are cutting to length and dying it, to meet their needs.

“Uniformity, strength and comfort, factors you don’t get with cheaper products, are found in Tencel and it can be blended with premium cotton and get a designer end product. 

“The fibre market is growing, Lenzing is a growing business, and we have just had our second best year ever in terms of revenue (followed by a best ever quarter). We announced expansion plans globally. Lenzing is the market leader by a long way in manufacturing of lyocell, under our Tencel brand. The aim of the company is to maintain that leadership of the market.”

Money was spent on additional spinning lines. “We could only run at a certain throughput because we were limited,” Mr Munson said. “We needed to install more on each stream. It gave us just short of 10 per cent, and means we can run the line at a constant rate and make that extra quantity.

“With that we have had to look at other things like chilling capacity, evaporation capacity and a number of similar upgrades across the plant. What goes in, goes out, the amount of raw material –  wood pulp – the amount of loads we can send out in a week. It has all been reviewed to make sure we have the ability.”

An aerial view of the plant, off Moody Lane

The past year has seen 10 additional employs join, taking the number to 158. The company is also investing in apprenticeships, not just in process operations, but across all aspects of the business. 

And then there is the next phase of anticipated investment, which is edging towards board approval. 

“At the moment we are running a project to design a waste water treatment plan for the site. Lenzing is very focused in on a sustainable, long term future and this is a key part of it. 

“We have been investing across all plants to make sure we are ahead of the game and ahead of the competition and ahead of legislation. 

“One of the things we looked at here, now the plant is 20 years old, is we looked at what has changed. Waste water treatment has moved in a number of stages, and we believe we can install additional treatment capacity, and move us on to the best technology in the world. We have a project team working on that right now. It has budget approval, it now needs a final decision to be signed up. We hope to start construction on that later this year, and it will be a year to 18 month project.

“At the moment we have a number of different checks. This will add a number of different steps that will take it down to the lowest level that anyone can do at present in the UK and worldwide, creating demineralised water that goes out as effluent. 

“This will step us forward again. It is a particular investment by the group, the business model works for Lenzing and we are moving ahead for us and our customers, and we can confidently sell into a market that requires the highest standards.”

The biggest market is specialty textiles, at about 70 per cent, with a lot of customers in Asia, Medical, pharmaceutical and food industries, with the likes of wet wipes and wound dressings, make up the remainder.

One growth market is the electric vehicle industry, with separators for batteries an integral part of the designs.

Mr Munson, previously production manager, has headed up the site since 2014. From Grimsby, he worked for Courtaulds in chemical engineering, moving up in the organisation. 

He joined the Tencell plant when it was being built, and helped recruit the teams, before it was eventually sold off to rival Lenzing.

Two employees were actually involved in the initial laboratory trials in the West Midlands, and continued all the way through the scale up to manufacturing. 

“There is a lot of technical experience in manufacturing support here,” Mr Munson added proudly.  

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