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By Brian Hardacre - 15th December 2013 6:00am
Many people will have read Fi Miles' recent article on Renby Ltd's involvement in Chester Zoo's Bugs Exhibition. Some will, like me, have wondered how a company that started by selling to the quarry industry has became involved in the entertainment industry! To find the answers I arranged to meet the current owner and managing director, Robin Travis.
The story begins in the 1960's during the motorway road building boom. Quarries were working flat out to deliver the stone needed for this programme and Robin's father started his company; B. Travis & Co. (Engineering) — who were distributors of quarry equipment spares — and took advantage of a great sales opportunity.
The company relocated from Chester to premises in Tarvin Mill in 1972. This involved the conversion of the mill to offices by Robin's father. From here, they continued to sell spares into the quarrying industry. Their customers ranged from quarries in mid Wales to as far north as Carlisle. At the same time, the company developed and took out several patents on drying equipment. Some of this work was done in their second company, Traffield Engineering Limited. The location in Tarvin was an ideal central point for these activities.
While these developments were going on, Robin was developing his own career in the electronics industry. In 1993, some years after the death of his father and to support his mother who had taken over the running of the company, he decided to commit his future to the family firm. Shortly afterwards, a new sales opportunity arose. Environmental concerns were growing and the quarrying industry was under pressure to deal with environmental dust contamination from its open air conveyors. The company developed, and launched, Traffield conveyor covers, a cost effective solution that involved the use of curved box section steel sheeting. This solved the dust containment problems while also being uniquely able to handle the twists and turns of existing conveyor systems. In addition to the conveyor covers, Traffield began to represent a German company; Schrage Rohrkettensystem GmbH, who are manufacturers of a totally dust tight conveyor. The "tube chain conveyor" was a totally new type of conveyor in the British market and the company has established itself as a leader in this field.
Traffield Engineering Ltd was on its way to becoming an environmental company and when the bio-waste industry started to develop, they were well placed to take advantage. The challenge to the new industry was how to handle the reception, temporary storage, and subsequent processing of large quantities of bulky materials such as wood chippings for low carbon energy generation or the environmental disposal of municipal waste. The elegant solution came in the form of a moving floor as the reception storage bunker or hopper. Taking advantage of the difference in friction between the floor itself and the load which it is carrying, the Spirofloor floor cycles forwards and backwards to produce a self-discharging bunker and automated feed into the processing plant. Installed together with the tube chain conveyor, the company has been able to offer material handling solutions to a very wide range of industries. The company is the only one in Europe to be able to offer this combination from one source.
Under this new name, the Company continued to develop its environmental credentials. The latest challenge was to suppress dust, not just around a specific item of equipment, but over a wide area either internally and externally. Renby's answer was to become a distributor for an American company that produced a water based fog by passing pressurized water through a nozzle containing an internal impeller. The resulting fog of water droplets collide and stick to the equally fine dust particles making them heavy enough to fall to the ground. The clever trick is to dramatically reduce air-born dust without wetting the floor!
The latest phase in Renby's development has been to become an independent supplier, sourcing components world-wide, to create and manufacture their own product under the MicronFogTM brand. This has meant that that they now have their own research and development facility in Tarvin and are employing a local apprentice as a result. It is this latest development that has made it possible to venture into the world of entertainment where MicronFogTM is used for visual effect rather than dust suppression!
Academics have produced theories about organisations, including one that considers companies to be like living organisms. In this model, companies have finite life spans and to survive must adapt to the external environment. Renby would appear to be an excellent example of such a company and TarvinOnline is delighted that they are a part of our local economy. We look forward to continuing to follow Renby's story which we expect in the future will include the entertainment world beyond Chester Zoo.