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Profile - WR Refrigeration branches out

WR Refrigeration has opened its own manufacturing arm to build a range of plant including compressor packs, in a bid to offer a ‘cradle to grave refrigeration service’.

Contractor WR Refrigeration has launched its own manufacturing arm to build equipment from refrigeration packs to blast chillers to air handlers to meet the specific needs of commercial customers from convenience stores up to supermarkets.

The intention is that WR Products, based in Port Talbot, will be able to build equipment to customers’ own specs while, in collaboration with its contracting colleagues, offering a full project service to existing clients. Business development director Patrick Mullins says: “This gives one-stop shop accountability, which will simplify project management and improve response times to customers, while eradicating third party margins – resulting in significant cost savings for those customers.”

The firm is trading from a 24,000 sq ft facility in a location chosen to take advantage of the skill base in the region available following the demise of manufacturer PRP in nearby Pontardawe.

PRP’s former managing director Jon Godsall is heading up WR Products as general manager, with 15 staff initially working for the division, with eight design engineers available for pack design. By seeking local sourcing where possible, WR hopes to build up the UK supply base and reduce margins in the process.

A key advantage for the new operation is the expertise within the Huurre group, which owns it  - Huurre brands include Porkka– which will enable WR Products to build a broad range of plant to bespoke designs. The list of plant takes in compressor packs, condensers, portable cold rooms, blast freezers, air handlers and water chillers.

WR also has a development joint venture with Italian CO2 pack specialist Enex and a distribution agreement with high-spec case manufacturer Arneg, which it can add into the product offering.

Naturally, given its dealings with the major supermarkets like Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, and the success of its  Cooling Awards winning carbon dioxide training academy in the Midlands, CO2 refrigeration will be a major focus of the new operation.

Mr Mullins says: “Around 90 per cent of CO2 packs come from outside of the UK at the moment. We want to redress that and to challenge some of the stuff that is out there already.”

Engineering compliance director Paul Arrowsmith who has been designing the CO2 packs says: “We are working closer with our partners in Enex to develop state of the art carbon dioxide systems that can be produced in volume to meet the needs of the UK market.”

Mr Arrowsmith says WR is also working on a range of hydrocarbon models, together with conventional refrigerant solutions.

The company is also excited about the potential that the facility brings for creating bespoke equipment and systems for customers.

Mr Mullins says “We are already working with end-users on collaborative projects of this kind, and believe it has great potential for the future. WR is moving well beyond just ‘fixing refrigeration”

It is putting the plan into practice with its first refrigeration pack production, a 16- pack supermarket order, comprising 90kW eight-compressor units running on R407A. The first project uses Copeland compressors, but the advantage of the WR Products operation, Mr Mullins notes, is that it is not tied to a specific brand and can build systems with whatever is preferred. Among the distinctive features of the new packs are pull out protective canopies and LED lighting.

Having in-house manufacturing will enable WR to guarantee the quality of equipment it installs and to reduce the response time both before and after installation, Mr Mullins says. The firm has invested in new bespoke costing and manufacturing software for quality control.

The next step is to market the capabilities to regional customers, via WR’s 20 locations. “This product range is not just aimed at supermarkets,” says Mr Mullins, “we are aiming at the next rung of independent convenience stores and the like. Our sales team have been briefed and are ready. If we can build it in-house, we will.”

WR stresses that the Port Talbot operation is starting at a small scale but is able to ramp up quickly according to demand. “Utopia for us is to win a complete turnkey project, where we supply everything from manufacture to design to training to installation to service,” says Mr Mullins. “And we will be doing it without any subcontract labour.”

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