Mark Roberts (left) and his successor, Andrew Bowden.
Succeeded by Andrew Bowden, formerly director of human resources and general affairs, Mr Roberts leaves behind a significant legacy.
He began his time at J & E Hall with a four-year apprenticeship, after which he worked in various roles including project sales, service management and managing operations for J & E Hall's freezer business, Jackstone. Mr Roberts was appointed managing director in 2000 and credits ‘flexibility’ as the key to his career progression.
A great believer in apprenticeships, Mr Roberts has ensured that J & E Hall has become one of the leading advocates of training for young people in the refrigeration industry, running flourishing apprentice and graduate training schemes. He said: “It’s a great career for young people; there is so much diversity. At J & E Hall we work in many industrial sectors – brewing, food production, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals and the marine side to name but a few. This industry has a huge issue with skill shortages and we need young blood in the industry.”
“Never in a million years did I expect to reach the top,” he said. “But whenever an opportunity or a challenge came my way I took it on. I’ve moved around a lot with the company and if you want to progress your career you’ve got to be willing to put yourself out there.”
Working with the J & E Hall executive team, Mr Roberts has driven a strategy that has resulted in the company successfully transitioning from the challenging times of the closure of its Dartford factory, to stabilisation and the revival of business while growing internationally.
Mr Roberts has travelled the world with J & E Hall and has seen many changes in the refrigeration industry. “The market has altered tremendously,” he explained. “When I started my career every town in the UK seemed to have a brewery, dairy or slaughterhouse but now it’s no longer the case.”
“There has been much consolidation in the market with the national players, but there has also been a proliferation of many smaller companies which is good for competition.
“Types of refrigerants have changed greatly and the technology is different but it is interesting to see that some of the older technology is returning. CO2 is back in fashion and so is ammonia. We’ve been working with both for a long time.”
As legislation and demands for energy efficiency drive the industry towards more efficient systems and low GWP refrigerants, J & E Hall has developed a low-charge ammonia chiller. Mr Roberts said: “There is also a big opportunity for refrigeration companies to make a difference in helping to feed populations through improved food production, storage and reduction in food waste in the developing world where refrigeration is still in its infancy.”
Mr Roberts will not sever his ties with J & E Hall and Daikin entirely, and will continue to contribute his expertise by working as a senior advisor.