1970s – 1989: Getting started

ReAgent is proud to be a family-owned business, now in its third generation. The company was started by Derek and Norma Millard back in the 1970s. Derek was a physicist working for what was then the largest chemical manufacturer in the British Empire, Imperial Chemical Industries, more commonly known as ICI.

Derek had the bold idea to set up a small chemical manufacturing business that would supply ICI with a range of analytical chemical solutions, standard solutions, and chemical reagents more efficiently and more economically than ICI could produce from its own department.

Our original logo. RCS stands for ReAgent Chemical Services

Our original logo. RCS stands for ReAgent Chemical Services

After lengthy negotiations, a number of setbacks, countless sleepless nights and a host of meetings with banks, lawyers and accountants, it finally all came together for Derek and Norma when they got the blessing of the ICI top brass to set up their company. So in 1977, taking with them a number of Derek’s ICI colleagues, ReAgent Chemical Services Limited (known then as RCS) was born.

Following the struggle of working from home and then finding a factory to move into, RCS began trading in 1979. As the company was just starting out, the admin department at the time consisted of RCS’s founders, with Derek as Managing Director and Norma as Company Secretary.


RCS found a factory to move into and began trading in 1979

In October 1979, Steve Hudson came on board. Steve is Derek and Norma’s son-in-law and is married to their daughter, Barbara. Steve joined the company after being in the Royal Air Force, relieved Derek of some of his work and took over as van driver in charge of deliveries.

Related: Read more about our humble beginnings in The Birth of ReAgent, through the Eyes of its Founders.

Our factory floor circa 1979

Our factory floor circa 1979 – the large platform was demolished in 2013

During the early years, RCS gradually expanded its customer base and work force. As there was so much work to do, RCS employed a team to do the packing and hired a new driver so that Steve was able to work full-time in the factory.

Planting the seeds of growth

Reagent Chemical Services Limited developed and grew as a company, employing more staff and producing a wider range of products to satisfy demand from new customers in a diverse range of industry sectors. In 1984, Steve became a director at ReAgent and a year later, his wife Barbara Hudson joined RCS  as a bookkeeper. Barbara went on to be in charge of HR and introduced the company pension scheme.

1989 – 2009: The next generation

In 1989 Derek and Norma stepped down from their respective positions as Managing Director and Company Secretary, handing over the reins to their daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Steve Hudson, although Derek and Norma continued to be involved in the company until their retirement in 2000.

Significant changes

These years saw many significant changes within the organisation, with new premises and increased staffing levels to meet customer demand. Managing Director Steve grew the customer base and built close working relationships, many of which continue to this day. In 1989, RCS also employed a full-time salesperson for the first time.

The company was one of the first in the UK to gain accreditation to BS 5750, the pre-cursor to the ISO 9001 Quality Standard, and the photograph below shows the proud moment in 1992 when the Mayor of Halton presented the certificate to the company.

Receiving our BS 5750 certification in 1982

Receiving our BS 5750 certification in 1992

In 1992, RCS transitioned from renting premises to buying. We used to rent two factories and were able to buy them, which provided a lot of security even though it was a massive commitment at the time.

ReAgent's first two chemical factory units in Runcorn, Cheshire

ReAgent bought two factory units

In 1997, Steve and Barbara’s son, Rich, turned 14 and started working on the factory floor during his school holidays. Rich is now ReAgent’s CEO.

In 2005, Barbara led the company through a rebranding exercise and ReAgent Chemical Services Limited became ReAgent, with a new logo and branding. Barbara also developed ReAgent’s ongoing commitment to its staff as a fair and responsible employer and embarked on becoming an accredited Investor in People (IIP), a status it achieved in 2006.

ReAgent Receives IIP Award in 2006

Steve Hudson (centre) accepts our first Investors In People Award in 2006. Second from left is his son and future CEO, Richard Hudson, and to the far right is Barbara Hudson.

2009 – 2017: Continued growth and expansion

Steve and Barbara’s son, Richard Hudson, became Managing Director of ReAgent in 2009 and since then the company has experienced double-digit growth every year. Richard’s background as a Chartered Marketer has led to a radically efficient way of working with heavy investment in a new IT infrastructure within the organisation, and many new systems and processes.

The company purchased additional premises and continued to increase its staffing levels to become one of the leading and most highly respected chemical manufacturers and suppliers within the UK.

Managing Director of ReAgent, Richard Hudson, proudly displaying our business plan for 2014-2017

Managing Director of ReAgent, Richard Hudson, proudly displaying our business plan for 2014-2017

ReAgent is proud of its green credentials and became certified to ISO 14001 Environmental Standard in 2010.

2012 was another busy year at ReAgent. We purchased the domain chemicals.co.uk and were then able to separate the chemical services we offer in a much clearer way. We could sell chemicals off-the-shelf on chemicals.co.uk and keep the ReAgent website, which we had launched in 2008, for our bespoke chemical services. We also recorded our one-millionth website visitor in 2012.

With exciting plans for development and expansion into Europe and beyond, Richard has ensured ReAgent’s continued growth into the future for the benefit of its employees and customers alike.

2018 – present: Development & progression

In 2018, ReAgent expanded once again with the purchase of a new factory. A total of 60,000 square feet, our new facility includes larger mixing vessels, a secure bonded storage yard, an air-conditioned quality testing lab, and even an increased water ring main among many more built-to-spec features. We have also installed a Class 7 cleanroom and are continuing to invest in new equipment in order to meet the demand of our business growth and increasing number of overseas customers.

ReAgent expanded into a new factory in 2018

ReAgent’s new factory – April 2018

But it isn’t just our facility that has improved. We have also received ISO 13485 certification which means that we meet the stringent requirements of a quality management system specific to the medical devices industry. ReAgent has also received Halal Certification, demonstrating that we have controls in place and can manufacture chemical products in such a way that they conform with halal rules.

The beginning of 2019 saw changes to our management team structure, with Richard taking on the role of CEO and Simon Tasker moving into the role of managing director.

We are now looking forward to implementing our three-year business plan (2019-2021) and seeing where we can take ReAgent next!