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Nortek shuts Eaton-Williams sites


UK: The UK has lost another of its famous air conditioning names following the closure of the Eaton-Williams sites in Edenbridge and Stoke.

Eaton-Williams’ owner Nortek is thought to have effectively shuttered the sites last Friday (September 30). One of the few remaining British air conditioning manufacturers, the company was to celebrate its 80th anniversary this year.

The closure will see the end of the long-established Eaton-Williams name and the loss of the Edenaire and Moducel brands. The remaining business is being transferred to the Nortek HVAC UK Ltd site in the West Midlands.

Nortek had reviously failed to respond to enquiries from the Cooling Post. However, after seeing sight of the Cooling Post’s information, Carol Baker, Nortek Global HVAC’s vice president of global marketing, denied a media blackout and insisted the company was planning to release a statement “shortly”. The total number of redundancies as a result of these latest closures is unknown. 

A letter sent to customers and suppliers in early August revealed the closure plans. In it, Nortek claimed that the Eaton-Williams Group business had been under scrutiny for many months and despite cost-cutting the business had continued to struggle. 

“Although the losses have improved under the control of Nortek Global HVAC Europe they still remain below expectations making it difficult to continue to trade as a Limited company,” Nortek said. “Therefore, subject to appropriate consultation, it is proposed that production will cease completely for most of the Eaton-Williams Group Limited product range closing both the Stoke and Edenbridge sites.”

The distribution of the VAPAC product range together with Process Cooling manufacture, they were told, would transfer to Nortek HVAC UK Ltd, the company’s Ambi-Rad heating business in Brierley Hill, West Midlands.

The company’s brand names, Edenaire (telecoms), Moducel (air handlers), ServerCool (data centre cooling), Vapac (humidifiers) and EWS (service and maintenance) are instantly recognisable.

Major restructuring

In a major restructuring last year Nortek announced it was to end production of the Qualitair and Colman products, allowing Eaton-Williams “to concentrate on its air handling, humidification, data centre and service offerings”. Vapac manufacturing was moved to Poland and the data centre cooling products were moved up to Stoke-on-Trent.

The move signalled the start of further changes, redundancies and the departure of Eaton-Williams md Ian Sams at the end of last year, followed shortly after by sales director Guy Hutchins.

In July this year, British investment group Melrose Industries agreed to acquire Nortek in a £2.15bn deal. This transaction was completed at the end of August.

Eaton-Williams was formed in 1936, becoming part of US manufacturer Nortek Inc in July 2000. Air handling unit manufacturer Moducel was established in 1964. As Colman Moducel, it became part of the Eaton-Williams Group in 2001 after being purchased from the Senior group.

Eaton-Williams made a major contribution to the development of air conditioning worldwide. During the 1950’s the company designed one of the first close control air conditioning systems and installed it at the Long Range Weapons Establishment in Australia. Other high profile projects included humidity control in London’s famous Tate gallery – thought to be the first electronically-controlled humidification system.

The company rapidly grew to be a major player in the HVAC industry. Its air conditioning, air handling, data centre cooling and humidification products played a critical role in creating the right environments in a wide range of applications across the world.

Vapac’s humidifiers can be found in many of the UK’s leading art galleries and museums including the British Museum, Serpentine Gallery, The Victoria & Albert Museum, Turner Gallery and the National Museum of Wales.

Moducel was well known for offering customers a standard range of AHU products, but also customised solutions. It designed AHUs for some of the most iconic installations such as the Eden Project, The British Library, a number of venues for the London Olympics as well as the i360 in Brighton which opened in August this year. 

Eaton-Williams Service (EWS) was established In the late 1960’s, providing comprehensive service and maintenance on Eaton-Williams’ products as well as other major manufacturers’ plant and equipment.

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