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It’s the end for Qualitair


Above: A Qualitair trade advertisement from 1983. Interestingly, none of the distributors listed still exist or, at least, operate under those names. Top: The Eaton-Williams premises in Edenbridge

UK: Eaton-Williams is to cease production of its Qualitair and Colman products following a review by parent Nortek of its European operations.

The decision to end production of the Colman and Qualitair products will see Eaton-Williams concentrating on its air handling, humidification, data centre and service offerings.

In a statement, Eaton-Williams’ US-owned parent company Nortek says that the decision was taken after a strategic review of its European operations following the acquisition of heating company Reznor LLC in June last year. This review principally involved the Eaton-Williams Group. 

Once a leading UK unitary air conditioning manufacturer, the Qualitair brand is now best known for cellar coolers, low temperature cassettes and condensing units. Colman, formerly Senior Colman, offers a wide range of grilles and diffusers.

A number of redundancies are expected across the Eaton-Williams sites in Stoke on Trent, Edenbridge and Oxford. Management is to commence a consultation process with the respective works councils and union representatives. 

“There will be some restructuring across the Eaton Williams business but this will ensure a stronger more agile approach leveraging the combined strengths of the Nortek Global HVAC division within Europe,” the company said in its statement.

The loss of Qualitair will see the demise of one the UK’s best known air conditioning brands. Tracing its lineage back to the days of Rootes Tempair and Chrysler Airtemp, Qualitair (Air-Conditioning) Ltd was formed following its purchase by Unilever in the 1970s. Along with competitors like IMI Marstair and Temperature, it led the British packaged air conditioning boom in the 70s and early 80s from its dedicated factory in Sittingbourne.

Sadly, like others, it later struggled to compete with Far East competition and eventually ended up being acquired three times in the space of just five years. In 1988 production was moved to Milton Keynes when it was bought by Myson, only for it to move back south just three years later when it was sold to the APV Group, and restructured under what was then APV Vent Axia, trading as Vent Axia (Industrial Division). That lasted just two years before finally being acquired by Eaton-Williams in 1993.

The Colman business, along with air handling unit manufacturer Moducel, was acquired from the Senior group in 2001.

Changes in Nortek USA

Just last week, Nortek announced a realignment of its Nortek Air Solutions manufacturing operations and product offerings in the USA.

The changes announced affect its Mammoth and Venmar CES unitary product offerings. The Mammoth business includes water source heat pumps, vertical self-contained systems, custom packaged HVAC systems, chillers, chiller plants, and replacement multi-zone rooftop systems. Venmar offers a range of commercial heat recovery and hat exchange products.

The plan includes a $4m investment in its Portland, Oregon, facility and further expansion of its Aston, Quebec site. It also includes the closure of Nortek Air Solutions’ factory in Springfield, Missouri and completion of the closure of its Saskatoon, Canada, factory which was announced in 2013. The research and development team, however, will remain in Saskatoon to continue its work.

“We are approaching the culmination of plans set in motion several years ago to strengthen our company’s competitive position,” Nortek Air Solutions’ president Mark DeVincent said of the US changes. “By consolidating facilities, we will improve both the quality and consistency of our product offerings, as well as reduce lead times, enabling us to improve service levels to all our customers,”

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