Merchant profile: Investing in the future

Published:  12 June, 2017

Linnell Bros, a timber merchant with a long history of providing high quality products and customer service, has been investing heavily in timber treatments. BMN reports.

Founded in 1880 by Arthur Linnell, the business is now in the hands of the family’s fourth generation and is being driven forward by the founder’s great grandchildren – Roger, James and John Linnell. The Northampton-based company continues to provide high-quality products, friendly and knowledgeable customer support and competitive prices, and has established itself as a go-to supplier for both domestic and commercial timber solutions in building, landscaping, agricultural, fencing, transport and engineering projects around the country.

Recent contracts include supplying treated timber for Woburn Safari Park, Heathrow Terminal Five, the Crown Estates in Windsor and the neighbouring Silverstone Racetrack.

Over the last 18 months, Linnell Bros has invested more than £1m in its timber-based business, including two new high-pressure timber treatment plants.

John Linnell said: “We needed greater preservative treatment capacity and the new plants have doubled the volume of timber we can treat. In addition to the large projects we regularly supply, we also service a strong fencing market. The new technologies from Lonza give us not just increased capacity, but support in the accurate specification for treatment. Our investment brings us up-to-date with the new Industrial Emissions Directive (IED) regulations. This reinforces our aim of best practice across the business and ensures we work to the highest standards.”

The two new timber treatment plants are housed under cover on-site.

“Derek Tweddle and the team at Tweddle Engineering have installed a superb system for us, with fully automated, tilting vessels and transfer systems. The treated timbers come out much drier, we recover more preservative solution and after each treatment we are ready to go again straight away,” said Mr Linnell.

The new building also features rainwater reclamation of around 100,000 litres/month into Linnell Bros 300,000-litre-capacity water storage, all but negating their need to use a mains supply water for the site.

The vacuum pressure treatment is offered with a green or brown finish, and uses Lonza Wood Protection’s TANALITH wood preservative.

For more than 80 years, Lonza Wood Protection has pioneered and developed customer- and market-focused protection technologies for timber. The company is a European supplier of products and processes for the effective preservative and fire-retardant protection of timber, and its products are extensively tested in accordance with national and international standards.

Andy Hodge, marketing director at Lonza Wood Protection, said: “The TANALITH brand has been around for over 80 years providing our customers with a tried, tested and real-world protection for construction and outdoor timbers.

“However, we are always looking to improve our products and provide extra confidence to secure and maintain our market sectors. In creating our TANALITH product, we have not changed the successful core ingredients, but have added our BARamine application technologies to boost its performance. The combination of TANALITH and BARamine work together to give enhanced, robust protection.”

Lonza’s design engineers are constantly developing new treatment plant features to meet the changing requirements of the market and industry regulations. These include superior performance pump systems to help ensure the shortest possible vacuum, fill and empty times.

Lonza plants are also designed to meet specific customer through-put requirements, particular space limitations and full compliance to the IED. Mr Linnell is proud the facility not only meets the standards required by IED now, but into the future: “With our IED and regulatory compliance including HSE, we believe our timber treatment plant is the model of what a modern facility should be.”

Linnell Bros’ timber treatment plants are controlled and managed by Lonza’s Auto-Treater software, which was designed, developed and supported by Lonza’s own engineering team. Mr Hodge said: “Auto-Treater provides reliable and accurate process control, together with an intuitive management reporting function. It was important to us to make it both easy to learn and easy to use. Incorporated into a new plant design, such as that at Linnell Bros, or retrofitted to existing operations, Auto-Treater can provide benefits and reassurance.”

Mr Linnell said: “Auto-Treater is brilliant and we have great ongoing support from Lonza’s technical manager Ed Webster in developing it to suit our exact needs. It saves time and money and overall provides our treatment operators with an easier to use, more efficient and safer control system.

“We get exactly the right specification for each treatment and from the system’s reports the figures are monitored precisely, in kg rather than an approximate percentage. The paper trail for timber treatment is important and Auto-Treater is a great system to manage and monitor the process,” he added.

Under the direction of the new generation, Linnell Bros machines and processes timber on-site in the company’s workshop, offering a complete range of timber products such as flooring, traditionally hand-crafted gates and decking, as well as undertaking bespoke design and manufacture. With its large volumes of stock of homegrown and imported timber on its 15-acre site, delivery can be within two working days on standard products.

A new 8,000ft2 trade and retail centre was built in 2013 while, on nearby land owned by the company, Linnell Bros has also obtained special planning permission for an 8,000ft2 timber Eco-House. This self-build project has been co-ordinated by land agent Howkins & Harrison and plans will go on the market in May. The design incorporates features such as cedar roofing shingles and glulam beams.

“It’s a rare place, and it will make a special home,” said Mr Linnell.

The company has also diversified into premium lifestyle country clothing and footwear with the launch of Linnell Countrywear, which has a spacious showroom also housed on the Linnell Bros Northampton site.

In July this year, the company will develop a further acre of ground space with a 30,000ft2 dry store, creating space for more machining workshops and timber products, and more expansion is on the way.

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