Fresh perspective

Mansfield Pollard’s air handling units have grown into a symbol of British manufacturing excellence, with the company thriving on its nimble navigation of the market and the ability to evolve as new requirements emerge

Business acumen and good understanding of what customers want have been instrumental to the success Mansfield Pollard has had throughout its illustrious 153-year existence. Founded in 1866 as a sheet metal fabrication specialist to the woollen and cotton industries, the Bradford-based company has bravely taken on market changes and made the most of the various opportunities for diversification it has encountered.

“It was in the mid-1970s that we began manufacturing kitchen canopies, which, to this day, remain one of our core product groups. Three years later, we got into the air handling unit market segment and thence, we continued exploring areas we had never worked in before, which helped us to develop the company further,” Managing Director, Joanna Robinson, points out.

Towards the late 1980s, Mansfield Pollard entered the acoustic control field, which is the third main product group for the business. With the beginning of the new century and due to popular demand, it reached out further, growing its cooling and ventilation capabilities – a market, whose importance has increased significantly over the past few years for Mansfield Pollard.

“Rapid growth in technology and particularly the exponential use of cloud based computer storage creates incredible amounts of data that needs to be housed somewhere,” Sales Director, Louise Frankland, says. “Therefore, we have started creating unique solutions for data centres where every application is engineered for energy efficiency, reliability and value for money. As always, our products are tailor-made and we have already custom-built air handling equipment and condensing units working for some of the biggest data centre suppliers in the world.”

The provision of bespoke solutions requires the development of close relationship with customers, so that the latter’s requirements can be met accurately. “Customer service is right at the heart of our business,” Louise notes. “We are trying to build strategic and long-standing partnerships with clients where we act almost as a trusted advisor to them. We have the experience and capabilities to solve their problems and offer a real end-to-end service – from upfront consultancy, in-house design and manufacture, through to installation, commissioning, and after-sales maintenance.

“About two years ago, we underwent a bit of a strategic change, as we decided to drive back into the specification route of the market and begin forging relationships with key consultants that would enable us to get involved in a project right from the very start. It is key for us to be able to forestall any potential issues prior to a project going out to tender, hence the tweak in our approach,” she clarifies.

Joanna continues: “Every project we undertake is unique in its specifications, which means that we have to be flexible in designing the right solution. Our in-house engineers have both the technical ability and manufacturing experience to offer a full end-to-end solution, from unit footprint and energy optimisation through to build and installation methods tailored to suit site access, location and physical size of the unit. In addition, our customers rightly expect a longevity of product, and superior quality standards have always been a key driver for the Mansfield Pollard team. All product lines are manufactured to meet the most rigorous commercial and industrial standards and are built to last.

“Focusing on what our customers need is just one part of the deal, however,” she goes on. “It is also extremely important that we evolve our manufacturing process, in order to build as energy-efficient and cost-effective products as possible, without compromising on quality. We have adopted a culture of continuous improvement and learning from our previous projects to understand how we can do things better. Furthermore, we have introduced numerous lean manufacturing practices and invested heavily in automation to streamline the workflow in the factory.”

The wider use of IT has also become a priority for Mansfield Pollard in the last two years. Louise reports that the company has invested in excess of £100,000 in its new bespoke Air-Pro estimating system. “As we mentioned earlier, because we recognise that every building and environment is unique, each solution is individually optimised to a greater or lesser degree. Where Air-Pro has really delivered benefits is in streamlining the full process from AHU design through to the auto generation of all piece part cut and fold lists. Our clients can now benefit from industry leading turnaround times at all stages of the process and this gives us a significant level of competitive advantage in the marketplace.”

Joanna adds: “From an R&D perspective, we have made use of IT to initiate some developments around a demand-based control system for our commercial kitchen canopies. Temperature sensors are placed inside the canopy plenum to detect cooking activity beneath it. The rate of canopy airflow can be adjusted in real time, as the cookline temperatures increase the ventilation rates increase accordingly (and vice-versa). The typical energy efficiency saving when compared to a traditional kitchen extractor can be as much as 60 per cent. Often the system is linked to the BMS via an intelligent and responsive touch screen control panel, something that wouldn’t have been seen in commercial kitchens until a few years ago.”

After years of establishing itself as a recognisable brand that is synonymous with quality, flexibility, and strong customer service across the UK, Mansfield Pollard has now begun considering its opportunities to grow overseas. “The Middle East, in particular, has excellent potential. Take Dubai as an example. Our kitchen canopies find a wealth of applications in the restaurant and general hospitality industries, and we are now striving to take advantage of the fact that British manufacturing has such an excellent reputation in this part of the world, to push forward into this market. In the meantime, we will continue to have our UK market as the main focus area for the company,” Louise comments.

“As we approach the close of our financial year (end of July), we have just had our Offsite Strategy Day, which saw us sit down and discuss where we want to take the business in the next three to five years. To our immense gratification, there will be no major change in the direction we took a couple of years ago. This is a testament to the way we operate and shows that we are on the right path. Our goal now is to continue building upon our legacy. We want to push our core products further and invest in R&D, looking at best practices to make them smaller and more efficient, thus addressing our customers’ requirements. There are exciting opportunities for us in the UK and in international markets, and we feel the business is in a very strong position to capitalise on these,” Joanna concludes.

Mansfield Pollard
Products: Air handling units