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Metal coatings firm Barley Chalu making Wymondham a hub for specialist technique

The management team at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. From left, John Chalu, joint managing director; Doug Carman, administration director; Elizabeth Chalu, health and safety director; Richard Chalu, finance director; and Mo Panam, chairman and joint managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The management team at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. From left, John Chalu, joint managing director; Doug Carman, administration director; Elizabeth Chalu, health and safety director; Richard Chalu, finance director; and Mo Panam, chairman and joint managing director. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2017

A Wymondham metal coatings firm claims it is “leading the comeback” of an electrical treatment technique with the completion of a £2m processing facility.

The tanks in the new anodising plant at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY The tanks in the new anodising plant at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Barley Chalu, which treats aluminium for metal firms around the world, is marking the start of production on its new anodising line – which sees aluminium submersed in acid and electrocuted to create a thin protective oxygenated layer over the metal – following a two-year building project.

Managing director Mo Panam, who has led the team since a management buy-out from its founders in 2007, said the investment in its anodising facilities – including extending the plant and buying new machinery – was more than £2m, a substantial outlay for the £6.3m-turnover firm.

“We are leading the comeback in anodising,” he said.

The company, which turns 50 this year, has also invested £1m in new paint coating lines. A warehouse on its Ayton Road site is being developed as a new coating facility and is due to open by June 2018, with the potential to double its capacity.

Aluminium is prepared for powder coating at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Aluminium is prepared for powder coating at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

To ensure it has the energy capacity to maintain both systems, Barley Chalu has had to bring an extra 2MW of power to the site.

Mr Panam said the company’s diversity – in offering both types of aluminium treatment – made the firm “unique” among its competitors.

“Since the management 
buy-out we have invested continuously,” he said.

“With the financial crisis we could not have taken the company over at a worse time. We had a plan but we had to put it on ice.

James Medlar, spray booth supervisor, checks the aluminium being powder coated at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY James Medlar, spray booth supervisor, checks the aluminium being powder coated at the Barley Chalu factory at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“But that has made us stronger. We have reinvented certain disciplines and the way we do things, which is making us one of the best performers in our sector.”

He added: “The coating facility is in an old warehouse, which means we now have less warehousing and more processing room. Hopefully our customers will benefit greatly as their wait times will be reduced.”

Processing between 150 and 200 tonnes of aluminium a week, Barley Chalu is an industry leader in the finishing market. Its customers include Dutch company Hydro, the world’s biggest aluminium producer.

It employs around 100 people across its anodising and coating facilities.

A photograph from the EDP in 1969 of workers at the Barley Chalu factory in Wymondham. Picture: Archant Library A photograph from the EDP in 1969 of workers at the Barley Chalu factory in Wymondham. Picture: Archant Library

Barley Chalu – a history

Barley Chalu was founded by Terry Barley and Terry Chalu in 1967, in premises off Magdalen Street in Norwich.

The pair had worked with Norfolk car maker Lotus in its parts department before deciding to go into business together, enamelling wheels and other parts for their former employer.

In 1969 they were joined by business partner Max Gissing, who had just retired from Norwich Union.

In the early 1970s after considerable expansion Mr Barley and Mr Chalu left the city for rented premises in Wymondham, moving to a 1.7-acre plot on Ayton Road soon after, where the company has been ever since.

Barley Chalu quickly established itself as a major player in the aluminium coating market. In the early 1980s it installed one of the UK’s first powder coating lines, building a new factory to house the new plant.

Mo Panam said the firm was “a strong family firm, but still a very professional firm”.

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