It's suggested that in any walk of life people are assessed based on the company they keep, and this is the case in the refractories industry. A glance at any company's list of suppliers and customers will provide a clear idea of the way it does business. When this list does not change frequently, especially in extremely competitive product areas, there will certainly be a reason for it.
A 25-year partnership between two companies is noteworthy in any area of business. This milestone has been accomplished by Falkirk-based Central Refractories and Morgan Advanced Materials. The former is a specialist supplier catering to markets such as power generation, steel, and incineration.
In the field of Thermal Ceramics, the Morgan name is a famous pioneer, with favored brands including Tri-Mor® monolithic and Superwool® insulating fiber. Both are highly sought after among specifiers across the world, as they provide longevity and optimum performance in refractory applications.
Morgan has always relied upon a well-built network of distributors to market and supply its products, but the importance of the distributors does not end there. They are chosen for not just their awareness of customer applications, but also to add value with their ability to fulfill logistical supply needs. In 1990, Morgan turned to Central Refractories when it required a new distributor for the Tri-Mor castables range in Scotland.
I had been party to discussions with Morgan on behalf of another distributor for five years, so I was very familiar with their products and capabilities. An opportunity presented itself when I met with the then managing director of Morgan’s Thermal Ceramics business. As a result of that meeting we were given the distributorship for the Tri-Mor monolithics range.
There wasn’t an established business base to work with at first. There was some work with steel plants which we continued, but the sector suffered greatly at that time and many plants that didn’t close were operating at vastly reduced capacity. That meant we had to look elsewhere for growth opportunities - and over the years we have developed strong partnerships with customers in sectors ranging from glass, aluminum and biomass to petrochemical and aluminum.
Bill Neary, Founder, Central Refractories
In addition to Tri-Mor® monolithic products, Central Refractories also supplies insulation board products, high temperature insulating blanket, and insulating firebricks from Morgan. Noteworthy contracts gained using Morgan products include a large reformer furnace in the agri-chemical area.
“This one was unusual – we had been discussing the project for 400 tons of product, over several months with the customer, but were then given a very tight two-month window to develop a special low-rebound gun mix. This would not have been achievable without the support and collaboration of Morgan’s team of material scientists.
“At the other end of the scale, the specialization of Morgan products has helped us to significantly grow our business. We regularly supplied more than 100 tons of top-specification Low Cement (LC) gun mixes at the annual shutdown of a major cement plant, whilst the availability of specialist lining systems for steel plant rolling mill furnaces has helped us secure a reliable source of revenue over many years. We do some minor installation work ourselves but all larger jobs are sub-contracted to specialist installers.”
The activities of Central Refractories are not restricted to Scotland alone The company has also officially represented Morgan in North East England and Northern Ireland for the last 20 years. It has even supplied Morgan products outside the UK to the USA, China, and Russia.
General Manager Hugh Wright explained: “The Morgan name is well-known and respected worldwide and this has helped our pitch into overseas markets. However, the overseas customers are no less demanding than their UK counterparts. What really helps is the fact that Morgan manufactures all over the world, so there is usually a local source of material supply close by.
"In China and the US, we have married this to the sourcing and management of local tradesmen to complete installation package jobs and provide application advice.“The fact that Morgan has innovated over the years has been integral to our business growth. Morgan was one of the first companies to develop specialist refractories for aluminum contact products, developing low porosity products with in-built pore blocking systems to prevent the ingress of aluminum into the refractory matrix. This commitment to innovation continues to allow us to offer something different to customers.”
The downturn in heavy industry during that time – and before – has seen very few young people join the refractories sector. Many of the most experienced and knowledgeable people are now therefore coming up to retirement age, creating a huge gap in skills and expertise. That’s where companies such as ourselves, which have the backing and support of a major global manufacturer with dedicated technical teams, are best placed to thrive.
There has been some commoditization in the sector with people simply buying based on purchase cost rather than thinking about the whole life costs and the energy consumption implications of specifying an inferior product. Rising energy costs are forcing people to think again though and many customers are now returning to Morgan products as they last longer and so offer greater value in the long term.
What customers are now also seeking are products which heat up more quickly to reduce energy usage and that is an area where we expect to see further innovation from Morgan in the near future.
Bill Neary, Founder, Central Refractories
Dave Mosedale of Morgan summed up the relationship: “While we continue to commit substantial resources to research and development, our products are only ever as good as the people who supply them. A strong network, with loyalty on both sides and commitment to going the extra mile, is vital to the success of our business and Central Refractories is among that select group of companies which can be viewed as a true extension of the Morgan business. We look forward to that partnership going from strength to strength over the next 25 years!”
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Morgan Advanced Materials.
For more information on this source please visit Morgan Advanced Materials.