RS Clare has been featured in The Telegraph business section. To view the article please click here.
RS Clare is the longest-established lubricants maker in the UK. Founded in Liverpool in 1748 by Richard S Clare, it has consistently innovated over the past 268 years to meet the demands of the marketplace.
RS Clare remains a family-owned business, and it’s that which has proven a significant advantage. “We can make decisions very quickly,” says chief executive Paul Vann.
In the early 20th century, it was renowned for its “Tarco” dust-laying compound, which was used by city councils for evening out road surfaces.
RS Clare’s export strategy is to target specific markets where it has a competitive advantage
Then in 1933, “Doc” Myles, an RS Clare chemist, invented the world’s first truly thermoplastic road marking, resistant to wear and tear, bright and reflective. Road coatings are now a big part of the business. Every day, UK motorists drive over white lines on the nation’s roads that are painted using the company’s products.
RS Clare has also carved a lucrative niche in supplying major oil companies all over the world with speciality greases and sealants. “We focus on markets where we believe we have or can develop a position of technical leadership,” says Mr Vann.
Some 10pc of RS Clare’s 175-strong workforce is dedicated to research and development. “Innovation is key and is not an accident; it has been a long-term objective that 25pc of our business returns each year should be derived from sales of recent product developments.”
Indeed, when customers in the rail and marine industries told RS Clare that they would prefer to minimise the impact of their industrial lubricants on the environment, the firm developed biodegradable greases. “We invest in close working relationships,” Mr Vann explains.
“We are continuously challenging ourselves to ensure innovation remains at the core of our business, despite the day-to-day pressures of commercial reality,” says Mr Vann. “But innovation does not come easily. It requires patient and continuous commitment even in the fallow periods when the returns are not evident.”
We focus on markets where we believe we have or can develop a position of technical leadership
RS Clare exports its wares to more than 60 countries. Excluding its domestic traffic safety business, the company generates more than half its turnover from overseas sales. “Our oil and gas products are used from Brazil to Brunei,” Mr Vann says. As a medium-sized business, RS Clare’s export strategy is to target specific markets where it has a competitive advantage. Companies with limited resources can’t afford to spread themselves too thinly, Mr Vann says.
Being based in Liverpool has also been a significant advantage for the manufacturing company, Mr Vann continues. “For exports, being based in a port has obvious advantages.”
The North West, with its history of engineering and chemicals businesses, also helps tap into a strong talent pool, while a brilliant pool of graduates has allowed the company to hire almost half of its staff from local universities. “Liverpool is a well-kept secret,” Mr Vann says. “The people share the vibrancy of the city, which has been transformed by investments in recent years. There is pride in the city and hunger for success.”