History of Evacor Resins Ltd. (1969 - 2001)

by Alf Stewart

Initially, interest was created by a meeting in 1968 between Mr V. Vohralik and Mr Henry Cooper (Terrell Corporation) at a shoe exhibition in the USA. This resulted in Terrell products being marketed through Vik Supplies Ltd. to the British shoe industry. A similar operation had already been established in France with the company Lambiotte Freres of Premery. The products were primarily thermoplastic polymers being used as hot melt adhesives in the manufacture of shoes. These resins replaced the traditional nails in the lasting process and also the fabric-backed adhesive products used as heel and toe stiffeners. Initially the product was imported from Terrell and sold to shoe manufacturers such as International Shoe Machine Co. Ltd. and British United Machine Co, Ltd. Both these were subsidiaries of American companies where the machine technology was developed. Early development of this market in the UK was carried out by Ken Robinson, Product Development manager for Vik Supplies.

During 1969 a strong relationship was formed between Mr Henry Cooper and Dr. Simon and agreement was reached to set up a Joint Venture between Evode and Terrell to manufacture the products at Stafford. The new company was given the name Evacor Resins Ltd. (a 50/50 venture between the two owners.) The name Evacor was derived from Evode and Coramid (a trademark for Cooper Polymers, a subsidiary of Terrell Corporation.) Dr Simon and Mr Cooper were appointed as Joint Chairmen of the company, Mr Vohralik and Mr J. Linnell also being on the Board of Directors.

Tony Parsons was appointed as Commercial Manager using his specialist knowledge in the packaging field to widen Evacor's market by selling side-seaming polyamides to the can industry (eg Metal Box, a major can supplier to Evode Ltd.) Alf Stewart was appointed as Chief Chemist to look after technical matters including development of new products and the production of existing products in the forthcoming plant.

A 1 tonne stainless steel reactor was installed in the modified Mellitol building along with specialised extrusion and pelletising equipment (ex Terrell design and manufacture.) Production commenced 4th September 1970 with the following personnel:

  1. Alf Stewart (Chief Chemist)
  2. Roy Ecclestone (Quality Control)
  3. John Hall (Production Supervisor)
  4. Alec Findlay (Operative)
  5. RonMcNeish (Operative)
  6. Eddie Knight (Operative)
  7. Dennis Bruce (Operative)

All the above employees were recruited from Evode except for Alec Findlay who was an external appointment.

Start-up went very smoothly with the assistance of Mr Reigh Nottebar (Terrell Corp.) and a 300 kg. batch of Evacor 230 was produced as a trial run. The first Evacor invoice was issued on 17th November 1970 for £16.10 to Avon Tin Pointers Ltd. Tony Parsons was now active in selling our products into shoe markets overseas. An agreement had been reached between TRL (the French associate company), Evacor and Terrell on marketing areas for our products. Unfortunately, Evacor, being the last to join, had the smallest shoe making areas i.e. Northern Europe and the Commonwealth countries. Nevertheless, much progress was made, the largest customer being International Shoe Machinery Co. (Germany).

In 1973 came the oil crisis with a quadrupling of oil prices. 'It's an ill wind', as they say and the worldwide shortage of petroleum based products played into Evacor's hands. Our polyamides were vegetable oil based (derived from soya bean, sunflower, tall oil etc.) and consequently demand soared. Prices likewise increased sharply and Evacor prospered: an increase in production facilities was required.

In 1974 a 2 tonne reactor was intalled alongside the existing reactor and the buildings expanded to increase storage capacity with integrated office space. Mrs Margaret Pease was appointed as secretary with responsibility for export documentation. Evacor was now a profitable company with production of around 500 tonnes and turnover of approximately £1 million.

During this year Tony Parsons was appointed as Managing Director, Alf Stewart as Technical Director and Paul Jones as Production Manager (John Hall having left the company a year earlier). The new reactor was working well and the production team had been expanded by the appointment of Keith Mottershead (ex Evode), Henry Johnson, Malcolm Jones and John Davison.

Evacor was a 'stand-alone' unit and prospered in spite of severe competition from major manufacturers such as Henkel and Schering (both of Germany). Bostik (UK) plus various US subsidiaries around the world. Keen prices, possibly due to low overheads, flexibility of manufacture and excellent customer service being the key factors in our success. Raw material suppliers were crucial with Unichema (a subsidiary of Unilever Ltd.) being the dominant suppliers of vegetable based dimer acids, both to ourselves and our competitors.

Unfortunately, during the mid-70s the UK shoe industry began to diminish with production moving to the low wage economies of the Far East. Evacor had to look for other markets. In 1976 we exhibited in Dusseldorf at a major plastics fair and were fortunate in obtaining an entrance into the German woodworking industry. Mass production of furniture, doors and kitchen worktops was a large user of adhesives in Germany where quality was paramount. Due to polyamide's properties of speed of assembly, good adhesion to wood and plastics allied to good heat resistance, Evacor products were highly suited to this market. Business was obtained with distributors such as Jowat in spite of stiff competition from local producers such as Schering.

In 1982 Mr Cooper felt it was time to realise some of his assets and sold his 50% share in Evacor to Evode Ltd. Even after this acquisition Evacor remained largely independent of Evode apart from shared services such as maintenance, accounts and personnel departments. The biggest change now was that we were in direct competition with our previous partner TRL (France). Fortunately the impact on the business was small since long established customer contacts were difficult to change on both sides.

During the 1980s Evacor achieved increased sales and profitability especially in the market areas of product assembly (e.g. automobile, filters, woodworking etc). This compensated for the major decline in the UK footwear market and much reduced profitability in footwear export markets (eg Taiwan, China, India etc.) At this time, Mrs Cynthia Bishop replaced Mrs Pease as office administrator.

In 1986 investment was increased yet again with a further 2 tonne reactor to replace the original 1 tonne vessel. A custom-built warehouse was also added to the building to allow raw materials to be stored under cover. Production was now running at approximately 1000 tonnes per annum with sales turnover of £2 million.

Unfortunately, in the late 1980s Tony Parsons had to take early retirement due to ill health. He had spent a good proportion of his time touring the world in search of new business and related many amusing stories of his exploits. When visiting the Bata shoe factory in Calcutta he asked the Production Manager how many employees they had on site. The reply was, 'I have no idea' and when asked what style of shoes they produced, he replied, 'Small, Medium and Large'. Such 'quality' of shoe is, of course, very good for adhesive suppliers. Tony was also responsible for directing the Evode pantomime with Roy Ecclestone starring as the dame. This was a great success and enjoyed about 10 years of continuous production until his retirement.

After Tony's retirement, Alf Stewart was appointed Operations Director. Sales were continued by Roger Spooncer and later by Melvyn Wroe. Sales were still increasing during this time, the highlight being the manufacture of TV yokes at Sony and Phillips, both in the UK. An award for excellence was achieved at Sony (Bridgend) for our unique adhesive for this application. In 1991 Evode Group PLC was acquired by Laporte Ltd. - a UK company based at Luton. Evacor still continued as a separate unit except for the sales function, which was gradually integrated into Evode Industrial Adhesives Division. Sales and production reached a peak at this time with 1200 tonnes of product being manufactured and a sales turnover of £2.5 million.

In 1996 Laporte sold Evode Group to Elf Acquitaine, a French oil company. In 1999 Elf merged with Total, also a French oil company, to form a major French oil combine called Total Fina. Total already owned TRL (France) and consequently in December 2001 the entire sales and production operations were transferred to the TRL factory situated in Privas, France. All remaining Evacor employees were reemployed on the Evode site. Alf Stewart had previously taken early retirement in May 1999.