Q&A with Gledhill

Q&A with Gledhill

Cylinder specialist Gledhill is a family-run firm with a rich history dating back to the 1920s. With a network of nine manufacturing depots across the UK, the Blackpool-headquartered manufacturer is a Hot Water Association (HWA) Charter Member. Of the 200-strong workforce, nine employees are members of the Gledhill family and work at various levels of the organisation.

From humble beginnings producing copper products under the stewardship of Norman Gledhill, the company has grown to be one of the largest privately-owned cylinder manufacturers in the UK, producing hundreds of products a day, including Duplex stainless steel, slimline and horizontal lines.

Product innovation is at the heart of everything Gledhill does. The company was the first cylinder manufacturer in the UK to introduce foam insulation and launch a vented stainless steel cylinder aimed at the volume UK replacement market.

PBM speaks to Sales Director Andy Hirst. 

Q How did you get into the industry and to your current position?

My first job was on a trade counter at Graham to supplement my income as a professional rugby league player. I soon fell in love with the industry and within 12 months I had been promoted to Assistant Manager. Since then I have held positions in external sales management and on the operational side of the business for both manufacturers and merchants. 

Q How do you feel the cylinder industry has changed in recent years?

There will always be a requirement for replacement cylinders, such as those that comply with the dimensional requirements of BS1566, 2010 Part L1A and Part L1B, but the industry has definitely moved at a pace in terms of product innovation and also new and emerging routes to market for these products.

Whilst the introduction of the RHI has had an impact on the renewables market, demand from end users has been a huge driver for our business, both for new build and retrofit projects. With the latter, as more people are investing in their current property instead of moving, the need for flexible products that meet space restrictions of an installation, such as slimline or horizontal models, has increased.

Q What are the current challenges facing your company?

I believe the biggest challenge is steering installers away from standard 30kw combi installations and making sure the right system is installed for the hot water demand of the property. Also, the breadth of products Gledhill has to offer is a challenge, albeit a nice one. We work hard to ensure that everyone, from merchants to specifiers, knows about our full product range and the unique selling points that other manufacturers can’t offer.

We’ve invested heavily in and also extended our stainless steel production facilities in Blackpool as part of a lean manufacturing process, to ensure we achieve maximum efficiencies. In addition, we’ve made improvements regarding the availability of products at our nationwide depot network and now offer a  same day collection service for standard core vented and unvented cylinders, as well as guaranteed next day delivery on custom-specified copper cylinders. 

Q Which individual has influenced you most in your career?

I think everyone I have worked with has influenced my career in some way, from Mick Colbeck, who was in charge of the sales counter at Graham Huddersfield, to Frank Kelly who gave me my first managerial job. Tom McKelkerney gave me great insight and great advice when he made me a Regional Director, so I guess the answer is quite a few people. 

Q What has been your biggest challenge so far?

Being a Yorkshireman and running a region in the North West means I’ve had to put up with War of the Roses digs on a daily basis! 

Q Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Still within the industry, developing Gledhill’s business strategy to become not only the UK’s number one cylinder manufacturer, but also recognised worldwide. 

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