Fifty jobs to be created at Leeds firm Airedale International as it eyes expansion

Yorkshire manufacturing giant Airedale International is set to take on 50 new members of staff and has received the biggest order in its near half-century history.

The Leeds-based producer of air conditioning units is benefiting from an increased demand to cool data centres which support telecommunications and streaming services.

It has forecast growth in these markets of circa 20 per cent and as such is increasing capacity to serve the demand.

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Its latest set of financial figures to the end of March this year saw it deliver 23 per cent growth in turnover to £56m and is forecasting strong growth for the year ahead.

Airedale International

Airedale recently secured an order for a data centre company in Frankfurt worth £10m and works in around 60 different countries.

Last year, it was a big winner at The Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards and is now focused on increasing its presence abroad.

Anthony Cole, managing director, said: “We have been very fortunate. We make air conditioning products which cool computer and server rooms. Since then it has just boomed.

“That’s the business we have been doing for a long time, so we are fortunate that particular market has been weathering the storm and is showing no signs of abating.”

Anthony Cole

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It briefly had to place some staff on furlough but quickly took steps to revise its shift patterns so as to allow social distancing.

It is now back at pre-Covid levels of production and is now on the hunt for additional staff to service demand.

Mr Cole said: “We needed to take people on and still have some space to put people in while maintain distancing.

“This will allow us to increase our capacity even more.

“Unfortunately some companies, competitors of ours, have had to let people go.

“But that meant we have been able to get some very good candidates.

“We can’t just take 50 in one week, we have a training requirement to make sure those people understand our products.”

The £10m Frankfurt order is something Mr Cole hopes will be the start of a long-term relationship.

He said that the firm had needed to target overseas markets owing to its high market share domestically.

It operates in all the main data centre hubs around Europe and works extensively in Hong Kong and the Middle East.

Mr Cole admits that the Covid crisis has actually helped his business.

With so many meetings taking place digitally via video calls on platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom, the need for extra data capacity has increased dramatically, in turn leading to these firms needing additional cooling requirements.

However, Airedale is also looking to capitalise on mega trend changes to the world of work and commerce.

Artificial Intelligence, machine learning, driverless cars and increasing automation will lead to the need for more data centres and, ultimately, more demand for air conditioning and cooling products.

“All that information is being held somewhere,” said Mr Cole.

“Amazon is investing a phenomenal amount of money at the moment.”

Airedale were winners of the Manufacturer of the Year category at the 2019 Excellence in Business Awards.

It was, for Mr Cole, the end of a journey that had seen the business recover from dark times.

In 2013, it suffered a serious fire at its Rawdon factory which inflicted serious damage.

However, it is now looking ahead to strong growth and has the plaudits to recognise its performance.

He said: “To be put forward, get to the shortlist and win it was phenomenal.

“For me, it was more for the people who work at Airedale.

“It was a nice reflection and great to be recognised in the area.”

Entries are now open for the 2020 Excellence in Business Awards.

Set to be held at Leeds’s Emerald Headingley Stadium on November 4, it will take the form of a hybrid event, allowing for both a physical awards ceremony and a digitally streamed event.

Main sponsorship comes from Addleshaw Goddard, Grant Thornton and Virgin Money, with associate backing from Ernest Wilson and Openreach.

For more information visit www.yorkshirebusiness