Based in Knowsley Alfred H Knight dates back to the 19th century and the metals and mineral inspection and analysis firm now has a global footprint. Tony McDonough reports
Knowsley is not short on well-established family-run businesses, however, few boast the global reach of Alfred H Knight.
Founded by Alfred Henry Knight in 1881, the company began its life in Swansea providing independent inspection and analytical services to the metals and minerals industry. Since the mid-1980s its headquarters have been based in the North West.
Fast forward to 2023, spanning five generations, Alfred H Knight (AHK) has now established itself as an international organisation, with a network of offices and laboratories strategically positioned in over 45 countries around the world.
AHK moved from Eccleston Grange, St Helens to a larger premise in King’s Business Park in 2015, subsequently extending its footprint by investing in the new purpose-built John Knight Laboratory in 2017.
Having outgrown this laboratory, a new Copper laboratory was developed a short distance away in Knowsley Business Park.
Further local sites include sample preparation and laboratory facilities in Lea Green and sample storage in St Helens. AHK also has premises in Rotherham, England and Dundonald, Scotland.
Globally it employs more than 4,250 people. Approximately 600 employees are based in the North West sites.
The significant growth achieved by AHK over recent years has enabled the expansion of new and existing facilities in the Knowsley and St Helens boroughs. This has created nearly 80 new roles within the STEM sector over the last two years so far.
These range across a variety of roles including chemists, technicians, IT, digital marketers, data analysts, accountants, and facilities operatives.”
Having utilised experience with a range of commodities, AHK has extended its scope of services to support other sectors, such as solid fuels and agriculture, and has built a reputation for delivering trust and certainty to the global supply chain.
Head of marketing and communications, Helen Dunning, explains the company’s operations.
She said: “AHK plays an essential role in the global commodity supply chain that provides essential services for finished products such as medical devices, electronics and sensors, and industries such as energy, utilities, automotive and aerospace, which are vital to the economy.
“Our job is to inspect and test commodities on behalf of clients at various points in the logistics chain to determine the quantity and quality of the materials, helping to ensure integrity is maintained throughout.
“Our inspectors work to recognise ISO methods and follow standard operating procedures. This enables us to deliver high quality, specialist services all over the world from mine-sites, receiving works, recycling facilities to farms and fields.”
Acting as an independent verifier, Alfred H Knight supports global trade by giving clients peace of mind that their raw materials or commodities are as described.
It provides the confidence that the buyer is buying what the seller is selling and that there has been no tampering or contamination.
Historically serving the mining and metals industry AHK has diversified into the waste sector.
It helps organisations and local authorities to better understand their waste streams and make informed improvements to their waste-handling activities, and more recently providing services on a range of commodities in the agricultural sector.
“AHK has grown by continuing to re-invest in our facilities, technology and people. We are an ambitious company, our vision is to be the first choice in the inspection and testing industry globally by delivering on innovation, expertise and personal service,” added Helen.
Adapting to change
Similar to many businesses, AHK is fully on board with taking a more sustainable approach and aiming to become more carbon smart.
In its most recent annual accounts, it said: “The drive by governments worldwide to electrify their economies represents a significant opportunity for AHK in these emerging markets.
“In parallel, the energy services division continues to expand in the biomass and waste sectors, ensuring that all services remain relevant as energy generation diversifies away from traditional hydrocarbon fuels.”
Alfred H Knight is able to make these adaptations by continuing to invest in its people, equipment and facilities.
For instance, the business has appointed an ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) Lead to help support their operations to adapt as the organisation grows in infrastructure and technology.
Encouraged by the growth of the last few years, AHK is ambitious to maintain that momentum through both organic growth and acquisition.
“What stands AHK apart from its competitors is we are still very much a family business and we intend to keep that spirit and ethos as we move forward,” said Helen.
The success of AHK is owed to its people. From the leadership and management teams to the wider functions.
The people strategy of “Getting the Right People, with the Right Skills in the Right Jobs at the Right Time” is ingrained with the HR, learning & development and talent acquisition functions.
Since the beginning of 2021 AHK has had more 40 graduates participate in graduate programmes, three Year in Industry placements and has 11 active apprentices at various levels in different business functions.
The recent investment into a Global Learning & Development Platform to enhance colleague’s access to both off the shelf and bespoke training materials enables both a leadership and personal led skills and knowledge development at colleague’s fingertips.
It is AHK’s intention to significantly expand its apprenticeship programme and graduate programmes.
Helen explained: “Our graduates programmes enable the fast tracking of various career paths, with opportunities to mobilise to and be part of global operations around the world.”
But it’s not just the early careers AHK supports. A bespoke Management Development Programme is in progress to develop the management teams across the employee network.
“Our people have enabled the success of AHK, resilient and ambitious, we will continue to invest in their development and our facilities, as well as the local communities we operate in.”