April 2, 2018
This year marks a very special double milestone for Peterlee-based Berger Closures.
It is 30 years since the company came to the region and with it Richard Swart, whose role was to establish the first operation outside of its German homeland.
The fact South African-born Richard was chosen as the executive to launch the UK business put the spotlight firmly on his young shoulders, especially as it was his first introduction to the business. Three decades later, he proudly leads a 20-strong team at Peterlee and the products manufactured are sold across the globe.
Moreover, Richard is now director responsible for global sales and quality for the entire Berger Group, employing some 500 employees and targeting 200 million Euro turnover by 2021.
The Berger Group, now stock-listed in Germany as Ringmetall AG, has 12 locations and exports to more than 50 countries.
Berger designs and manufactures metal closing rings. Directly or indirectly, it supplies chemical, pharmaceutical and nuclear waste companies across the world, manufacturing all types of metal clamping rings for metal, plastic and fibre drums and other applications.
Richard says: “I had been working in the USA for a short period of time when, from nowhere, this opportunity was presented to me via a contact. I had never worked in manufacturing and knew very little about the North East.
“I thought it was an interesting opportunity, and I was young enough to take the chance.
“30 years ago large scale manufacturing dominated the North East skyline. Many have come and gone but I am delighted that we have survived the test of time and thrived. We have continually invested in the very latest technology and processes to ensure we retain our leading position in the market.
“My Peterlee colleagues have a work ethic that is second to none and in every sense, they are a team. They understand the importance of product quality and providing the highest quality service to our customers. They know that change and progress is a constant and to that end they are highly robust and willing to go the extra mile to please the customer. I can’t pay them any higher compliment.”
The group has also been highly acquisitive in recent years and is on the lookout for UK acquisitions.
Richard, who in 2016 was listed in the Top 100 manufacturing leaders in the UK by Manufacturer magazine, says: “The company is in acquisitive mode following acquisitions in recent years in the USA, Italy, Germany and Turkey. We have a dominant share of the global market, so the acquisitions strategy is based on diversification into other elements of industrial packaging and handling.
“From a personal perspective, establishing Berger China was perhaps the most complex and challenging mission I have undertaken so far, but it is exciting to see how our business, in general, is thriving with a strategy based on organic growth and acquisition.”
Richard has never forgotten his South African roots and has pioneered many great initiatives aimed at developing trade and investment between the UK and his home country.
He is chairman of international trade with the North East England Chamber of Commerce and also non-executive director.
He is also currently a board director of International Relations, South African Chamber of Commerce UK, which promotes stronger trade and investment between the UK and South Africa.
Richard says: “A great future with great challenges lies ahead for South Africa, the North East and the Berger Group and I am very proud to play my small part in helping all three to grow and prosper.”