Being part of a company that is the subject of an acquisition is always a turbulent time. Apprehension over job security contrasts against the excitement of new opportunities, both on a personal and corporate level. This was very much the case when Vokes Air joined the MANN+HUMMEL family in February of this year.
Fortunately, any fears were quickly allayed. ‘We sell filters, not filter companies’ were welcome words at the employee briefing following the acquisition. Especially as for many of my colleagues and I this was the second change of ownership in less than six years.
There is now a real feeling that Vokes Air has found ‘home’. Private equity ownership has left a company that is lean, profitable and better positioned, but it was always only ever going to be a transitional period in the company’s long history.
But what about that history?
How did we arrive at the new MANN+HUMMEL VOKES AIR?
Mr C.G. Vokes founded the company bearing his name in 1921, coincidentally to manufacture accessories for motor vehicles.
In 1927, Mr Vokes visited America and discovered a company making air filters for engines. Filtration technology was virtually unknown at the time, but Mr Vokes saw the potential of filtration for the engineering industry and secured the rights to manufacture filters for Britain and the Empire.
Vokes’ success in filtration was typified during the Second World War when, after a bomb had destroyed their London factory, the British Government ordered the company to find a new home outside the capital. As producers of over 3000 different filters for a broad variety of applications, Vokes was too important to lose.
Mr Vokes retired in the 1970’s, having spent fifty years at the helm of a company that had grown to become a household name in the UK
A pan-European filter network
As with the industry as a whole, the next 30 years witnessed several phases of consolidation; none more so than at the turn of the millennium when McLeod Russel acquired Vokes. During this period, McLeod Russel brought together leading filtration companies from across the continent to form a pan-European filter network.
Companies such as Scandfilter, Industri-Filter, Luwa, Interfilta and Atex Filter each brought their own expertise and product ranges to create a true specialist in many areas of air filtration. Scandfilter, for example, were renowned for their expertise in both HVAC filters and industrial filtration. Luwa and Atex Filter were recognised for their application know-how in the fields of clean rooms and power generation.
The individual subsidiaries were allowed to continue operating largely independently at this time, but the foundations for a multinational filtration company were now firmly in place.
The legacy of these companies is still evident in the product names in use today. ScandVane; Intertex; Synsafe; and FP, for example, are all hallmarks of a previous era.
SPX Corp saw potential in this business and bought McLeod Russel in 2004. The liquid filtration business unit was separated, and the air division renamed to SPX Air Filtration. When this part of the business was acquired by Riverside Inc. in 2008, the Vokes Air name was re-established and has been in place ever since.
Vokes Air has found home
So there we have it; a family business that found success producing engine filters, went through several changes of ownership, joined an international network of similar companies, to eventually become part of the world’s leading filtration company – which just happens to be a family business that found success producing engine filters. See what I mean by Vokes Air finding ‘home’?!