A FLINTSHIRE family firm celebrating 35 years in business has been hailed as a ‘world leader’.
Alyn and Deeside Labour MP Mark Tami visited the Ewloe headquarters of TDC Services to see first-hand how the company has grown from an early side-line business into an international exporter of high-tech cleaning systems.
He was met by owner and founder David Catherall, a mechanical engineer, who invented a ground-breaking system for the cleaning out of huge reactor vessels in the pharmaceutical industry.
Known as the TDC Hydrodynamic Cleaning System, it has now been exported all over the globe, including China, the US, Ireland and Switzerland. Conservative estimates suggest it is saving pharmaceutical companies around £750,000 a year on their drug vessel cleaning bills.
Mark Tami MP said: “I’m really pleased to be here and to help David, Stephanie and their staff celebrate 35 years in business. It’s absolutely wonderful to see, once again, British products and British engineering leading the way.
“If there is one thing we are good at it’s looking at what the problem is and how we can solve it. What David has done with his incredible hydrodynamic cleaning system is nothing short of astounding and shows just what can be achieved with a bit of thought and a lot of talent.
“The company is a world leader in its field and it’s fantastic to see.”
David, 68, who is also a Deputy Lieutenant of Clwyd, and his wife, Stephanie who is the company secretary, explained to Mr Tami how the company was formed 35 years ago.
David, whose son Jonathan also plays a key part in the business, said: “I used to work with my father, Ted Catherall, who was a haulier. As a side-line I sold high pressure jet washers to haulage companies. It was so successful we set up as TDC Services and expanded from there.
“We chose the name TDC as it stands for Ted and Dave Catherall. It’s also an acronym, in engineering terms, for ‘Top Dead Centre’ and relates to the position of a piston when it is at its furthest point from the crankshaft.
“We have seen the company grow but I never wanted to grow too big. I was once told by a very successful businessman that if you are moving into business – get big, get niche or get out. I decided to get niche.
“The company was established in 1982 and we moved into our Ewloe HQ and showroom in 1988 after it was purpose built for us. We now supply anything from vacuum cleaners to our own hydrodynamic cleaning system.”
He added: “We employ nine people at Ewloe and I’m delighted at just how loyal and dedicated our team is. One of our engineers has just retired after 38 years of service with TDC Services and our haulage company before that.
“Our receptionist has been with us since the Ewloe HQ and showroom building opened in 1988 and other staff members have been with us for more than 25 years too. They have all worked incredibly hard and they have all shared in the company’s success.”
Much of the company’s fame has been gained via the innovative cleaning system, the TDC Hydrodynamic Cleaning System, which David developed.
He said: “The biggest growth and success we have seen is when we took the decision to get into drugs – or rather pharmaceuticals.
“Industry giants such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline, who produce all kinds of life-saving drugs, use huge reactor vessels in their manufacturing process.
“The issue is the vessels need to be thoroughly cleaned and the method they were using meant cleaning a vessel properly, and to the required level, could take days or even weeks. They basically used a solution which had to be boiled and then left to evaporate within the vessel.
“I came up with an invention, which to me was just basic common sense. It uses a robotic head which is lowered into a drug vessel and rotates in a predetermined pattern using high pressure, low volume water jets.
“This breaks down and removes built-up debris without the need for the expensive solvents previously used or the intensive manual labour involved to clean vessels to the required level of cleanliness.
“The important thing is that the energy generated from the water jets is strong enough to remove debris but isn’t powerful enough to damage the glass equipment inside the vessel which is crucial as the vessels can cost as much as £1 million to replace.”
He added: “We are now exporting the TDC Hydrodynamic Cleaning System all over the world including our most recent breakthrough into China.
Mark Tami said: “Flintshire has a mix of big and small employers and that is vital to our economy. We really do need that mix. We can’t put all our eggs in one basket and hope to be successful on the global stage.
“We need companies and entrepreneurs like David Catherall. We need to continue being market leaders and we need the world to see just what we have to offer and the innovative ideas we can bring to the table.
“It’s not an easy task exporting to countries like China. They are a huge market and very often we have to import from them. It’s a real feather in David’s cap and a big boost for Flintshire too.
“I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to visit TDC Services and see for myself just how good their products are and to see first-hand yet another Flintshire success story that is delivering for the local economy.”