Incorporated in 2000 by Stephen Whittaker, ESL was the first commercial biodiesel producer in the UK. It built on its success with road fuel, innovating with new grades of heating and marine fuels including its Ultra 35 heating oil, which has gone on to sell two billion litres.
For many years, the company operated a simple operating model, supplying from a single location and selling via a single distributor. However, when sales plateaued and then began to decline, ESL recognised a need to adopt a different strategy and reposition itself in the market.
In 2018, ESL made significant changes to the business, exiting certain relationships and effectively reverted to being a startup. Its aim was to cement and promote its position as the leading expert and supplier of innovative liquid fuels.
A critical part of the approach was focused research and development. In 2019, ESL launched its innovative Molexis technology, which enables low energy fuel processing, at a purpose-built site at Ellesmere Port.
Richard said: “Prior to 2018 our order management system was simple but fit for purpose. With effectively one site, one product, one customer, we were transactionally light and could operate with a lean team.
“Following the decision to grow our product portfolio, expand our customer base and increase the number of supply locations, the complexity naturally demanded a more sophisticated system. The transactional burden meant skilled operatives were becoming tied up in inefficient and labour-intensive tasks. Having returned to start-up territory there was a need to tightly control costs, so initially we had to make-do and find work-arounds to get by, unable to work smartly.”
ESL was also aware of the challenging way it monitored output and quality in its Molexis manufacturing process. This involved the need to take physical samples at regular intervals which was labour intensive and at risk of human error.