And no, we didn’t have the same van for 40 years…
When ReAgent first started trading in 1979, the only way to deliver the chemicals we manufactured was by van. It was our founder, Derek Millard, who bought ReAgent’s first van – a second-hand automatic in poor condition. Derek was also the van driver and delivery man!
The Beginning of ReAgent’s Story
Before founding ReAgent, Derek worked at Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). There, the Standards Laboratory would manufacture the standard solutions that other divisions of ICI, such as Research, Analytics, and Production, requested. However, this process was far from perfect and Derek realised he could do a better job.
Fast forward two years and Derek, along with his wife Norma, started trading as RCS – ReAgent Chemical Services. They employed the workers from ICI’s Standards Laboratory to manufacture standard solutions and started delivering chemicals directly to the other divisions of ICI.
The First ReAgent Van
As part of the contracted agreement with ICI, ReAgent had to deliver chemicals to the points of use which were the production sites in Runcorn, Widnes, and Northwich. And this meant buying a van. Of course, our fledgling company was just getting started so cash flow was tight…and the van we bought had seen better days!
As Derek was needed on the premises for his expertise in manufacturing chemicals, it was his son-in-law Steve – a future MD of ReAgent – who then came on board and started driving the van and making deliveries. Steve would even bring the used glass and plastic bottles back to the factory for everyone to pitch in and wash and recycle them.
Over time, Steve started working in the laboratory, and as ReAgent had started to grow, they employed a full-time van driver. But it wasn’t a conventional recruitment!
One day, a man wearing bicycle clips over his trousers walked into ReAgent’s office to ask for a job. He met Norma, who was then ReAgent’s secretary. She was so impressed with his dedication in cycling all the way from Warrington to Runcorn to go around the industrial estate enquiring about vacancies that he was hired as a van driver on the spot! (For those of you who remember, this was pre-Norman Tebbit’s infamous “get on a bike to look for a job” speech.)
This dedicated cyclist was with ReAgent for many years as our van driver before moving into our ever-expanding production line and a new driver was hired.
Improving Over Time
ReAgent’s original van eventually gave up and had to be replaced. As ReAgent grew, so our vans became bigger and better (albeit with numerous breakdowns in the early days!). Our first step up was to a van provided by our bank manager, who had recently repossessed a van from another company. We have had vans which have been broken into, and we’ve even had one stolen (although we got it back). Eventually, ReAgent was well-established enough to start buying brand new vans – a big and very luxurious leap!
Saying Goodbye to our Delivery Vans
ReAgent has continued to grow and has seen massive expansion over the last decade in particular, including a move into a new 38,000 square foot factory. We are no longer delivering chemicals in our vans, but use reliable ADR-certified couriers who are licensed under a United Nations Treaty in the transportation of hazardous substances by road. That way, our customers have peace of mind that their products will reach them safely and on time.
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