UK: Mark Roberts has retired from his role as managing director at J & E Hall after 42 years with the company.
His successor is Andrew Bowden, director of human resources and general affairs, another long-server who has been with the company for 31 years.
Mark Roberts, who retired at the end of March after 18 years as MD, said “I left school at 16 and I knew I didn’t want to go to university. I wanted something hands on,” he explained. “My father was at J & E Hall and it seemed a natural thing to do. I knew I wanted to work in engineering.”
He initially served a four-year apprenticeship at J & E Hall beginning work at Botley, Southampton. His first refrigeration job was at Warners Holiday Camp, Hayling Island, where he was sent to repair a fridge in the kitchen. After serving his apprenticeship, he worked in various roles at the company including project sales, service management and managing operations for its freezer business, Jackstone.
A great believer in apprenticeships, Mark Roberts has continued J & E Hall’s reputation in apprenticeships and graduate training schemes. “It’s a great career for young people,” he said. “There’s so much diversity. At J & E Hall we work in many industrial sectors – brewing, food production, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and the marine side to name but a few. This industry has a huge issue with skill shortages and we need young blood in the industry.
“Never in a million years did I expect to reach the top,” he said. “But whenever an opportunity or a challenge came my way I took it on. I’ve moved around a lot with the company and if you want to progress your career you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out.” Working with the J & E Hall executive team, he has driven a strategy that has resulted in the company successfully transforming itself from the challenging times of the closure of the Dartford factory to stabilisation and the revival of business growing internationally.
J & E Hall has a proud history and has been based in Dartford since 1785. It is famous for its innovation and its worldwide reach, but it is an organisation that retains a paternalistic approach. “Those who enjoy working for J & E Hall stay for a very long time,” added Mark. “We have two employees who have completed 55 years’ service. It’s still a business with a family feel where employees are the key to success.”
Mark has travelled the world with J & E Hall and has seen many changes in the refrigeration industry. “The market has altered tremendously,” he explained. “When I started my career every town in the UK seemed to have a brewery, dairy or slaughterhouse but now it’s no longer the case.’’
“There’s been much consolidation in the market with the national players but there’s also been a proliferation of many smaller companies which is good for competition. Types of refrigerants have changed greatly and the technology is different but it is interesting to see that some of the older technology is returning. CO2 is back in fashion and so is ammonia. We’ve been working with both for a long time.”
Mark has been living away from his home in Lincolnshire for 24 years and feels it is now time for change and less travelling. “It’s time for some new ideas at the top of J & E Hall,” he concluded. Mark will not sever his ties with J & E Hall and parent company Daikin entirely and will continue to work as senior advisor.
Andrew Bowden thanked Mark for his service, dedication to customers and leadership for J & E Hall. “Employees at all levels of the organisational hierarchy have benefited from his valued leadership. He is a true leader who is well respected throughout our industry,” he said.