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History

Anticipating a downturn in work repairing the insulation on ships in his home city of Liverpool, Cyril Hemmings received a business proposition from a man named Bill Walker who wanted someone skilled, to build insulated cabinets for his ice cream and refrigeration business.

Within 10 years the business had expanded into new fields including the manufacture of cold rooms and purpose built refrigeration cabinets and in 1939, when Cyril's old employer, Hall, Crabtree and Heap, went into liquidation, he bought the company.

By 1947 the company was building cold stores for the expanding business of J Lyons & Company, which at this time had 250 teashops, outside catering, and a plethora of other food related businesses requiring food storage facilities.

The cold stores were traditionally built of brick with cork insulation however Cyril, now joined by his son Keith, designed some of the first cold stores to be built with new, custom made panels.

After building what was at the time the most advanced cold-storage facility of its kind at Bridge Park Greenford, Cyril and Keith were invited by J Lyons & Company to make test panels using polystyrene bonded to metal, for a number of cold stores across the UK.

They won the order and continued to build for J Lyons & Company through to 1978 when the company was taken over. By this time the panel system they designed had become known as the 'Rolls Royce' of cold rooms and they were building facilities for everything from blood banks to chicken factories.

However standing still wasn't in either man's nature and it wasn't long before they were developing a panel technology using synthetic insulation. Following a meeting with ICI, they tested a polyurethane foam which offered advanced properties over polystyrene including the ability to self-bond with the metal faces, the panels were stronger, provided better insulation and offered greatly improved structural properties.

The business was the industry leader for two decades and by 1962 had invested heavily into what was then state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to manufacture polyurethane insulated panels. The next step of the development was to create a new method of jointing the panels to improve insulation.

This method was to become the industry standard and included a neoprene gasket and locking mechanism (CamLock) for cold rooms which drew panels together to form a tighter joint, providing substantially improved insulation.

In 1967 Cyril Hemmings died and his son Keith took over the reins. By this time the company was exporting worldwide and had a substantial lead in the home market. Employing around 120 dedicated staff in a new purpose built 50,000-sqft factory, the company operated the most sophisticated manufacturing facility in the industry.

In due course the steady rise of the out-of-town supermarket had begun and crucial to their business was the construction of massive, regional food distribution depots.

Refrigeration was and still is a fundamental element of the distribution depot and by the 1980's there was hardly a household name that wasn't being supplied by the business. A typical Sainsbury or Morrison's contract then, was to provide 38,000 sq metres of fire resistant panels for individual distribution depots.

With the ever-increasing demand for regional distribution, the contracts continue to increase in size, but as technologies improve and the relentless drive for sustainability continues, Keith Hemmings was only too aware that panel technology must develop to meet emerging requirements.

Towards the end of 2001 Keith Hemmings invested heavily in a new high speed automated laminating plant to handle not only fire resistant PIR panels, but also other types of core insulation. The investment provided the company flexibility and also a commercial edge in terms of faster production volumes.

Further investment, in excess of £1.5m, was made in 2005 for an advanced continuous double band press and associated equipment, allowing Keith Hemmings to handle high volume panel manufacturing incorporating 'wet lay down/injected' chemical PIR.

PIR offers significant thermal, structural and fire resistant properties and is instrumental in the company's panel becoming one of the first panels to be LPCB Approved for up to 60-minutes.

With Keith Hemmings' continued involvement in the business and the introduction of Stephen Painter as the new Managing Director, the company, now rebadged as Hemsec Panel Technologies, will continue to innovate and develop new products to meet emerging market demands.

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