Competitive advantage through diversity
A Tarmac case study

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Page 1: Introduction

new-image-2In 1901 county surveyor Thomas Hooley noticed a fallen barrel of tar that had split open in the road. The mess had been covered by waste slag from a nearby ironworks. At once Hooley observed that an excellent patch of road surface had been formed. A year later he had taken out a patent for mixing slag with tar and in 1903 formed the company that became Tarmac.

Today Tarmac is still the UK market leader in road surfacing. It is also the country's largest quarrying company and key producer of aggregates (gravel), ready-mixed cement and mortar. Tarmac UK is sub-divided into two separate businesses:

  • Tarmac Ltd extracts key building aggregates and materials.
  • Tarmac Building Products Ltd focuses on turning raw materials into products useable by the building sector.

This case study focuses solely on Tarmac Ltd but will refer to it as Tarmac. Tarmac the company and Tarmac the brand are to be found on major construction projects all over the country. The new Wembley stadium, the M1 widening and London 2012 are high profile examples. It also has operations in the Middle East producing crushed rock, sand and gravel, asphalt and contracting activities.


With sales approaching £2 billion in 2010 Tarmac has just over 5,000 UK employees. As a firm in the heavy building materials industry, the company traditionally had a strong male bias in its workforce, but this is changing. Many posts are now open to men and women across a huge range of job roles.

For Tarmac to succeed in a competitive marketplace, people are a critical resource. This is because the diverse talents of staff make Tarmac distinctive in the marketplace. Technical knowledge, corporate experience and the understanding of customer needs all make a critical difference. Drawing staff from the widest possible pool of talent is key to building and sustaining competitive advantage. This case study demonstrates how Tarmac is benefiting from developing a diverse workforce.

Tarmac | Competitive advantage through diversity