Inprotec Ltd is an international provider of precious metal and other non-ferrous refineries with a dedicated engineering team. The Department for International Trade (DIT) talked to Chris Oldroyd, managing director, about using an Exporting for Growth grant to fund a trip to Nevada to secure a new contract and how the company has improvised to continue operations through COVID-19.
Tell us about your company.
We are specialists in the design and supply of pyro-metallurgical process plant for the lead and precious metals recovery, upgrade and refining industry and most famously known for our Top Blown Rotary Converter (TBRC), a furnace originating in the steel industry as the Kaldo and being used in the lead, copper and nickel industry. Over the last 20 years, the TBRC has been adopted as an effective technology in the precious metals industry, mainly in Platinum Group Metals (PGM) and silver upgrade.
When did the business begin to export?
Inprotec has traded across the globe since it first began as G.A. Oldroyd Ltd in 1977. We proudly manufacture our furnace technology on a global basis, and our biggest markets are the US, Canada, the Middle East, Indonesia and Europe, but we also work with global firms based in the UK, Oman, Australia, Taiwan, Germany and Spain.
We plan to continue to grow our global presence, with a particular focus on gaining a stronger foothold in Europe. We have been working hard to form some inroads in the EU and I will shortly be in Belgium to progress these talks.
How has exporting benefitted your business?
Metal refineries are found across the globe and, in many cases, the ownership of these refineries is international and cross-border in nature, which has opened the door to trading in other countries.
We operate within a niche market and there is not enough demand in any one country, so operating globally is integral to the success of the business. It has additional profile-raising benefits as Inprotec becomes established in every country it operates in.
How has the Department for International Trade supported your exporting growth?
DIT provided us with a grant to go to Nevada, contributing £3,000 towards the £11,000 cost of the trip which was being taken to discuss new business opportunities and strengthen existing client relationships in North America.
It was an essential trip but clearly expensive, particularly for a modest-sized business like Inprotec. Having access to the grant funding was hugely helpful and enabled the business to explore and pursue new, exciting trading opportunities and cement existing client relationships.
The company we visited have purchased an Inprotec-designed furnace for the recycling of waste electronic and electric equipment as well as lithium ion batteries as they have close ties to the Electric Vehicle sector.
We agreed on a contract for Inprotec to supply, design and provide consultancy for the furnace installation and commissioning.
For a business of the size of ours, such travel costs can be problematic and restrictive, so having access to grant funding is hugely helpful in enabling us to fully explore and take advantage of international trading opportunities.
How have you adapted your business in response to COVID-19?
We have, like most companies, adopted web conferencing as the means to conduct meetings and other business. Where we cancelled contracts for onsite supervision, we have signed new contracts for remote supervision using web conferencing.
Our clients have mounted huge monitors and assembled cameras around installation sites and we simply call in using web-conferencing, appear on a big screen and can see the plant through the cameras and provide supervision that way.
So far, we and our customers are satisfied with the adapted approach. It is not as effective as actually being there, but under the circumstances it is helping us to get the job done.
Key Markets: US, Canada, Middle East, Indonesia, Europe, Oman (plus Australia, Taiwan, Germany, Spain)
DIT Support: International Trade Adviser, Exporting for Growth funding, market contact introductions, export strategy
Achievements: Signed a six-figure deal in the US and created the world’s first ‘clean’ antimony and gold processing plant in Oman, the largest plant of its kind outside China and the first ‘clean plant’ designed and built to EU environmental standards
If you are interested in business funding to accelerate your exporting growth, find out more and apply for the DIT Internationalisation Fund online.