ON Teesside Industrial Estate sits an exporting success story counting customers in more than 75 countries.

However, that list just got bigger.

GB Belting, the UK’s largest independent fabricator of conveyor and treadmill belts, has just added Chad to its worldwide client catalogue.

The business was founded by Gerry Byrne in January 1985 after an engineering career that started as an apprentice with ICI in South Wales. This was followed by work as a development engineer for ICI in the UK and three years working in Australia for ICI and Carlton United Breweries.

Upon his return from Down Under, Mr Byrne joined Goodyear as a sales engineer, with the firm at the time known as the world’s largest manufacturer of conveyor belting.

After a year’s training, his role at Goodyear was essentially as a trouble-shooter.

Working from home for both the European head office in Northern Ireland and the US headquarters, his position required extensive travelling in the UK, and some overseas visits on specific projects.

By 1985, the time seemed right to set up on his own in the North East, where he lived.

So, using his own initials, he started GB Belting, initially supplying businesses in the North-East.

He said: “I set up the company from scratch, but my knowledge built up over 13 years of working in the belting field proved invaluable.

"Historically, the majority of conveyor belts were made from rubber, but I could see the future was in thermoplastic belting as it is far more versatile and can be supplied to a more diverse range of industries."

Although he still goes into the office nearly every day, heading up the company now is Mr Byrne's son Jeremy, the managing director, who joined the business after three years in the banking sector, and two years at Teesside University.

He said: “Our strength is our diversity and speed of service.

"We know our clients need to have their belts running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and they can’t afford to have a production line stopped due to a belt failure.

"We supply belting for so many uses that it is impossible to list them all.

"Almost everything one eats or uses daily comes into contact with a conveyor belt at some time or other during its processing or manufacture. "The only industries we don’t supply belts for are the quarrying, mining and steel industries.

"In our factory, we generally stock around 70 different belt types that cover all customers’ requirements.

"One of the areas we are particularly proud of is our reputation with food producers.

"We have worked with national brand customers, including Cadbury, Warburtons and Tetley’s among others.

"With food production, it is fundamental we keep pace with the every-increasing demands for hygiene, cleanliness and cost effectiveness. "Customers require a consistent product that delivers total food safety and we have developed products that are quick and easy to clean specifically for this sector.

"One of the elements of the business, which makes us so unique, is our strong engineering background.

"This enables us to provide engineering solutions for most conveyor problems.

"Sometimes we are sent a simple film clip of a belt that isn't performing correctly, and even if we haven’t supplied it ourselves we can usually identify what needs to be done to cure the problem."

The company imports extensive stocks of raw materials from Europe and converts this into conveyor belts at its factory in Thornaby, near Stockton, and on site at customer’s premises.

“We have supplied belts to every major brand in the UK, wind tunnel belts for Formula One testing, a belt for the filming of Postman Pat and treadmill belts to over 70 different countries", said Jeremy Byrne.

Its customer list would be the envy of many rivals, but the business is not blind to the potential impact Brexit could have on its future performance.

However, Jeremy Byrne said its commitment to meeting customers' exact specifications, allied to a focus on mitigating the impact of Britain's impending EU divorce on the pound, will stand it in good stead.

He added: "As the majority of our raw materials are imported from the EU, the weak pound is a concern.

"But we are working hard to improve efficiencies to offset the effect on our bottom line

“We see a big opportunity in the original equipment manufacturing sector.

"Our service is designed to provide unique conveyor belts to whatever specification our customers require.

"That is a great benefit to manufacturers designing and building equipment from scratch."

Praising GB Belting's progress, Julie Digman, relationship manager at the North East England Chamber of Commerce, said the firm is a template for other to follow.

She added: “GB Belting is an outstanding business in what it achieves in terms of not just client service but also sheer ingenuity.

"It is an innovative company with a great track record with many of the North-East’s most prestigious businesses.”