EDITOR INTERVIEW In conversation with...

Nigel R Bottom, Group Managing Director, the Witham Group, Royal Warrant holder since 1991

2021 marks The Witham Group’s Centenary. Where, how did it all begin? Albert Smith, former factory foreman of the ‘Star Oil & Grease’ company in the early 1900s, set the scene for today’s Witham Group; he founded his own company, blending the first Qualube Lubricants by the banks of the river Witham in the City of Lincoln and went on to employ his two sons, plus my grandfather, Les Bottom as his salesman. Decades later, my father, Geoff, and Albert’s grandson son, Alan, became partners, setting up Witham Oil & Grease Co. As a teenager, I would earn pocket money filling oil cans, painting floors, scooping grease from barrels, washing lorries, vans and cars.

By 14 years old I could drive and my favourite job was parking the vehicles in the yard. My studies followed (Agricultural College and a diploma in Business and Finance), and when a vacancy arose at Witham, that was it; I was given the chance and my career took off.

How has Witham diversified its offering through the decades?

Lincoln was always an industrial city, synonymous with agriculture and manufacturing; Witham supported many of these now global manufacturers.

As mechanisation developed (from farming with horses for power to steam engines and then tractors), Witham developed its lubricant ranges accordingly, working with global technology providers. We remain heavily involved in agriculture and in all other aspects of lubrication, from PCMO, HDDO to Marine and Horticulture.

You are the 3rd generation custodian – how relevant are your forefather’s original values? Very! The previous generations laid the best foundation stones; we are simply building on them. We may add an extra wing or small extension and are certainly doing all we can with our sustainability initiatives but essentially, Quality, Value and Service remain at the heart of all we do. Witham is currently


run by a fantastic Team of Directors including my wife, Ali who heads the company’s marketing activity and my brother, Richard who runs the Group transport fleet. We also have 4th generation of Smith; Dominic Smith in our Technical department at Lincoln HQ so the two families involvement successfully continues 100-years on. As MD, I have had to earn my place at the board table. It is right that I continue to prove I deserve to be here.

Richard who

100 years on, how important is Innovation to Witham?

Innovation is very important; it’s been our driver, how to improve not only our own environmental credentials but also to play our part in developing new ways to improve our industry. Around 10 years ago, we took a serious look at the way we did things, from packing to production and blending itself, as well as our product range and deliveries. We set our objective to put the environment at the heart of all we do and have not looked back.

You blend all your Qualube lubricants ‘carbon neutrally’ using ultrasound technology. How did this arise?

The sonic blending concept (Blendtek) was born from our desire to improve and evolve. Currently, lubricants are mostly batch blended using gas/water energy to heat base oil then add additives and wait 2 – 4 hours until it’s mixed. The use of sonics (sound), adding base oils and then additives at the same time through a tube (reactor), using only a 13-amp plug for energy / power (sourced from our roofs solar panels) has revolutionised the process - no heat, no agitation, no dedicated bending vessels, and all completed in less than 20 minutes. Once embraced, this will change the way we all look to blend Lubricants.


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