About Colman Air Distribution
The Barber-Colman Company in the UK were originally located in Trafford Park, Manchester before moving during 1965 to a site in Sale, Cheshire. This site consisted of a number of buildings totalling in excess of 104,000 square feet.
Each of the buildings housed a separate Barber-Colman manufacturing division, these being as follows:
Engineered Air Distribution
Fastenings & Fixings
Textile Machinery & Machine Tools
By mid-1969, the Air Distribution division was producing monthly sales of £6k, consisting mainly of air terminal devices, such as sidewall & cill grilles, ceiling diffusers, and plenum boxes, all these being manufactured from mild steel in accordance with the parent company's (Barber-Colman USA) product lines. However, there followed an expansion in the product range to include Constant Air Volume Terminal Boxes and a change within the grille & diffuser product lines in changing to the use of aluminium as opposed to mild steel, this enabled more efficient manufacturing methods to be introduced as specific features could be included within the design of the extruded aluminium sections.
In addition, an automated electrophoretic paint plant was purchased and installed towards the end of 1973, this together with the increase in capacity and improved efficiency generated by the switch to aluminium provided an immediate increase in sales with the then landmark figure of £100,000 per month being achieved in early 1974 and consistently maintained.
In 1975 further expansion took place, with the introduction of external louvres to the product range, initially these being limited to a maximum size of 1200mm x 1200mm.
Further changes occurred, where a change in policy resulted in a change from solely standard catalogue item products to additional custom designed bespoke products, indeed it was often said within the UK Air Distribution industry "We can do the standard products — but it you require anything special, then go to Barber-Colman", the design and development resources within the company being second to none.
As the 1970s' progressed, Barber-Colman's ability to engineer products to suit a particular requirement grew, this together with the Test Laboratory facilities maintained the company's reputation as the leader in the Air Distribution sector.
With the coming of 1979, Variable Air Volume Terminal Boxes were added to the company's product portfolio together with controls packages to suit specific requirements. Improved designs within the Louvre Face Diffuser product range led to further gains in productivity and sales, further product additions included Acoustic Louvres and with an eye to the emerging Middle East market a range of Sand Trap Louvres were designed and tested before becoming one of the best selling products during the early to mid-1980s.
By 1981, the External Louvre division had moved to its own 30,000 square foot building on the site with external louvres accounting for sales of £1.4 million, second only behind Louvre Face Diffusers. By this time the shop floor workforce had increase steadily from some 20 employees in 1969 to 96 employees, ranging from manufacturing personnel, fully skilled toolmakers responsible for manufacturing and maintaining all machinery and tooling, inspection and quality control staff, despatch and transport staff, with the company operating its own transport fleet.
By January 1986 monthly sales for the Air Distribution division had reached £600k, this continued and on 4th July 1986, the Barber-Colman Company UK was sold to the Senior Engineering Group and became Senior Colman, with the US operations being sold to various companies.
Expansion continued during the late 1980s with the building of a state of the art Test Laboratory which was instrumental in demonstrating various air distribution and performance scenarios, as well as conducting sound and noise level tests to clients ranging from Consultants, Architects through to Blue Chip end users with this often resulting in the winning of large orders, indeed it was the ability of the Test Laboratory to produce full size railway carriage 'mock ups' that led to the company being successful in the supply of air distribution products to railway rolling stock in use today on Central, Jubilee and Northern London Underground lines, together with Channel Tunnel rolling stock.
During the 1990s further improvements were made, with a Product Manager being appointed to oversee and develop the External Louvre products, and in 1997 the company's name was changed to Senior Air Systems, the Colman name having been dropped.
In 1999 Senior Engineering announced that the factory at Trafford Park would close and that as of 1st January 2000, the factory contents together with a large number of the staff would relocate to new premises in Stoke-On-Trent, becoming part of the Eaton-Williams (Nortek) group of companies with grilles and louvres being manufactured under the name Colman Moducel.
Production of Colman products continued throughout the 2000s onwards at Stoke-on-Trent with the development of further products such as computer floor grilles and swirl diffusers. The design and development carried out on the floor grille has resulted in a first class, heavy duty product capable of meeting stringent floor loading requirements.
In 2015, Nortek announced its intention to concentrate on the Servercool and AHU market, therefore dropping the Colman grille and louvre range from its product portfolio.
This is where the new chapter begins in the Colman story – Mohammed Shafiq, who spent 16 years in various production and manufacturing roles at Colman Moducel, got together with business partner John Harris to purchase the Colman brand, together with all the manufacturing equipment. Two facilities in North Staffordshire, covering 18,000 square feet are now the home to the new Colman Air Distribution.
All employees at the new business worked at the former Colman Moducel and have many years of experience with the brand, looking to develop and enhance a name that is synonymous with quality in the Air Distribution sector.