In September 2003 Bierrum employees were facing not only redundancy and early retirement, but the potential loss of their pensions. With such a disastrous prognosis, engineers Gary Eastman and Bob Sutton decided to take matters into their own hands.
They put together a business plan that attracted financial backing from German refractory linings contractor, Feuerfestbau Beteiligungs GmbH. Eastman and the new streamlined team were then able to buy the Bierrum name, the intellectual rights and its patented jumpform equipment.
'It was important to us to keep the team together, to offer the same technical ability but with the stability of the larger German group, ' explains Bierrum international director, Bob Sutton.
Bierrum's strategy is to keep the business lean and mean, minimise overheads, and maximise the use of its in house skills. 'We're keen to keep our core as small as possible, ' says Sutton.
Feuerfestbaus's worldwide network of subsidiaries servicing mainly the power and chemical industries provides invaluable contacts and business leads.
Bierrum International has just begun work on a £1M contract to repair three chimneys for a steelworks in Sydney, Australia, and is bidding for a new chimney in Queensland that could be worth £4M.
As for the UK, Bierrum is looking at a potential £8M contract with Gallic power giant Electricite de France to modify the existing chimney at Cottam power station to accommodate a new flue gas desulphurisation plant.
Sutton confirms with satisfaction: 'We're on track to become financially independent next year.'