We have quietly and diligently become one of the largest manufacturers of composite insulated panels in the UK. We are committed to playing a key role in improving outcomes in the industries we serve.
Everything we manufacture, either keeps cold air inside a structure, or firmly shuts it out. The world increasingly needs this capability, and we need everyone to know we’re here and ready to serve them, so please help us spread the word. Since 1928, when Cyril Hemmings founded the company to supply insulated cabinets to an enterprising ice-cream and refrigeration salesman named Bill Walker, to today, when we supply a variety of markets including SIPs for the construction industry, we have stayed true to our values. We’re proudly located in Merseyside which is, of course, world-famous for many things including its port, which spawned our superb transport and infrastructure, and its inventive and original spirit. We have remained family-owned, and are told that it is our family values that set us apart from most manufacturers in our markets.
Our aim is, and always has been, to create trusted partnerships with our customers, and to supply them with the best quality insulated panels in the world, keeping excellent delivery times. As a consequence of doing this, we remain responsible, and make a positive impact in the world.
We make products that are not only of requisite quality, but which exceed CE standards. We do this by testing them more thoroughly than even the most rigorous accreditation requires. Guarantees of up to 40 and 60 years on our products underpin our promise of quality.
As a third-generation family business, we take our responsibilities very seriously. Our team of employees rightly consider themselves as part of the family, we are a leading manufacturer and supplier to key industries requiring sustainable insulation, and a high-profile employer in our region. We are not going to let anyone down.
We keep customers for many years, and it’s because they have learned to trust that we always live up to our promises. We consistently deliver on lead-times, we work hard to improve our processes continually, and we make sure our products are the best in the world.
Many of our customers have ambitious goals, and they need more than just a panel manufacturer – they need a team of people who become part of their success. We make sure we understand what our customers are trying to achieve, and create long term partnerships with them. Together, we invest in achieving our mutual aims.
Back in 1928 things were changing
It all started – as many businesses do – with a proposition from one established entrepreneur to an aspiring new one. The established entrepreneur was named Bill Walker, the year was 1928, and he wanted someone to build insulated cabinets for his ice cream and refrigeration business. His proposition was for someone to set up a business to serve his need. The budding entrepreneur was our founder, Cyril Hemmings, who at that time was working for a company named Hall, Crabtree and Heap. Cyril was already anticipating a downturn in the work he was doing, which was repairing the insulation on ships at the port of Liverpool, his home city. So, he grabbed Bill Walker’s opportunity with both hands, and set up on his own. He clearly had a flair for business, because within 10 years, his company had expanded into new fields, including the manufacture of cold rooms and purpose-built refrigeration cabinets.
The entrepreneur bought his former employer
In 1939, Cyril’s earlier prediction of a downturn came to pass when Hall, Crabtree and Heap went into liquidation. Just like in the best stories, he bought it. 1947 saw the company building cold stores for the rapidly-expanding and famous J Lyons & Company which at this time had 250 teashops, outside catering assignments and a plethora of other food-related businesses requiring cold storage facilities. During these years, such facilities were traditionally built of brick with cork insulation, and we proudly display an early example at our premises.
Inventing new panel technology for food industry giant
Never one to rest on his laurels, Cyril, now joined by his son Keith, began to develop new ways of constructing cold stores using custom-made panels. They won a contract to build what was at the time, the most advanced cold-storage facility of its kind at Bridge Park, Greenford. As a result of this innovation, J Lyons & Company invited the pair to make test panels, using polystyrene bonded to metal, for a number of their facilities across the UK. The new initiative proved a major success, and the firm continued to build for J Lyons & Company through to 1978 when it was taken over.
The ‘Rolls Royce’ of cold rooms
By now, the Hemmings’ panel system was known as ‘the Rolls Royce’ of cold rooms and the firm was building cold stores for everything from blood banks to chicken factories. And, once again, the father and son’s characteristic drive for progress propelled the firm to develop a panel using synthetic insulation. Following a meeting with ICI*, they tested a polyurethane foam which offered advanced properties over polystyrene. These included the ability to self-bond with metal faces, increased panel strength, better insulation and greatly improved structural capability. By 1962, the company had enjoyed two decades of industry leadership and had continued to invest heavily into state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment to manufacture polyurethane insulated panels.
Creating the new industry standard
The next phase was the creation of CamLock, which became a new industry standard. CamLock included a neoprene gasket and locking mechanism and was a truly innovative method of drawing panels together to form a tighter joint, substantially improving insulation for cold rooms. By the time the world lost Cyril Hemmings in 1967, the company was exporting worldwide and had a substantial lead in the home market. It employed 120 dedicated staff in a new purpose-built 50,000 sq. ft. factory, which operated the most sophisticated manufacturing facility in the industry.
A road named after the founder
So important was Cyril’s contribution to the local economy that the road running alongside the factory is named Hemmings Way. Under Keith Hemmings’ leadership, the steady rise of the out-of-town supermarket led to the firm serving the refrigeration needs of new massive regional food distribution depots. Refrigeration remains a fundamental element of these depots, and by the 1980’s there was hardly a household name that wasn’t being supplied by the business. A typical contract then was from a Sainsbury’s or a Morrison’s and required 38,000 sq. metres of fire-resistant panels for individual distribution depots.
Faster production volumes and greater flexibility
Once again, the drive for progress led to emerging requirements and further technological advances, and in 2001, Keith invested in a new highspeed automated laminating plant to handle not only fire-resistant Polyisocyanurate (PIR) panels but also other types of core insulation. This gave the firm increased flexibility and the commercial edge in terms of faster production volumes.
Ever-improving thermal, structural and fire-resistant properties
In 2005 a further investment of more than £1.5m enabled the firm to buy an advanced continuous double-band press and associated equipment, increasing the volume capacity and incorporating ‘wet lay down/injected’ chemical PIR. This led to seriously significant improvements in thermal, structural and fire-resistant properties, and was instrumental in the Hemsec panel becoming one of the first to be LPCB** approved for up to 60 minutes. *ICI refers to the British chemical company, which was for much of its history, the largest manufacturer in Britain before its takeover by AkzoNobel in 2008. **LPCB approval refers to the Loss Prevention Certification Board mark by BRE Global, part of the Building Research Establishment group.
New SIPs product development for the construction industry
Also in 2005, Hemsec embarked upon a further innovation to enable the company to enter a whole new market. The UK construction industry started to demand Structured Insulated Panels, or SIPs. These are lightweight, timber-faced panels, foam-injected with polyurethane (PUR). SIPs have major benefits when used in commercial and residential construction. True to our values, Hemsec developed panels which have been tested to prove they are stronger than most available anywhere in the world. Early demand came from contractors working on single homes and small developments, and this sector has grown steadily. By developing partnerships with these customers, we learned that they are the best people to fabricate the standard product they receive from us. This way, they can control costs and the build quality more easily. Demand also began to come from Holland, and we have a growing partnership with a distributor over there, and plans to expand our operations. Today, thanks to various UK government policies and a pressing need for more residential and commercial property, Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) are being increasingly adopted and Hemsec SIPs form part of this movement.
New leadership promises further innovation and a new era of growth
Stephen Painter is now Managing Director of the Business, and benefits from the continued involvement of Keith Hemmings and his family, sharing their drive – always ambitious, always driving forward. After various re-names and visual identities over nearly a century, the company is represented by a new, simplified Hemsec badge, which personifies all that the company stands for. The Hemsec badge demonstrates the strength of trusted partnerships, the creativity of innovation and continuous improvement, and the solidity of responsibility rooted in nearly a century of excellence. The deep-seated brand values have been crystalized and the management team has been strengthened. New horizons beckon, with the current disruption of the construction industry and, as a result, the forecast global growth in the use of SIPs panels which Hemsec produces arguably better than anywhere in the world. Hemsec’s focus in construction is on the high volume and high-quality supply of SIPs, to serve a world which needs better building insulation than ever before as it battles to reduce fuel consumption by a growing population.