TNB: Tell us about your business
Paneltex is a commercial vehicle body builder and conversion company, formed in 1991.
Today we employ 550 people across the UK, and manufacture around 3,000 units per year out of our main 25,000sq metre facility in Hull and our other factories in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Norfolk.
We specialise in the design and manufacture of refrigerated and specialist commercial vehicle bodies, ranging in size from the largest trailers to the smallest vans, for the UK, European and North American markets.
TNB: What do you think makes Paneltex special?
It’s all about the additional value we can provide beyond the refrigerated box. We have a particularly strong focus on design engineering and whole-life support for our products, to the extent that over the years we’ve helped customers design systems for loading/unloading that work alongside our vehicle products, as well as bespoke safety and operational features to support our customers’ individual operations. This approach has seen us build up a fantastic reputation and a loyal customer base over the years.
Our in-house manufacturing processes encompass everything from the chassis and panels to assembly, fit-out and final styling, so we are uniquely placed to offer a truly customised range of refrigerated vehicles.
In all, we have designed and built a vast array of temperature-controlled vehicles for many including Waitrose and Morrisons.
TNB: Can you tell us more about the Paneltex process and product range?
Our state-of-the-art factory houses some of the largest vacuum presses in Europe, allowing us to make insulated panels in single pieces up to 16 metres long.
This forms an integral part of our dedicated body assembly lines, which are set up to deliver high volume production of our range of 3.5 – 26 tonne rigids, trailers, portable coldstores and grocery home delivery vehicles.
From our Lincolnshire factory, we manufacture our range of Martrans Trailers. The core products here are moving-floor trailers for the construction industry, and trailer chassis which can be sent to another Paneltex facility for specialised or refrigerated bodywork to be fitted.
At our second Yorkshire production facility, our team focuses on second-life refurbishments and remounts, effectively extending the life of Paneltex bodywork by 100% or even 200%. This is a responsible, environmentally friendly solution that maximises the benefits of Paneltex vehicle bodies.
Finally, there’s our dedicated Norfolk facility, which produces a full range of refrigerated and multi-temperature Somers Panel Vans. The Paneltex Somers brand is known for its effective temperature-control and long-lasting holdover times, which makes it the ideal choice for food delivery businesses in particular
All our refrigerated bodywork is available with ATP class ‘C’ and National or European Whole Vehicle Type Approvals, with quality strictly controlled under an ISO 9001 quality assurance system.
TNB: How have things been during the pandemic?
It has been difficult for sure, but our challenges have been significantly different to those faced by most others. In March when the furlough scheme was announced, we were approached by a number of our key customers requesting that we stay open to continue to manufacture and look after vehicles on the road. As the majority of our major fleet customers are distributors and retailers of essential food and pharmaceuticals, they have been operating under increased pressure and at high capacity over this time. This has been true all the way down their supply chains, including at Paneltex.
We had a short shutdown (of only four days) to allow us to introduce a number of safety measures at work, so that we could continue to manufacture new vehicles and cold stores. Naturally our first concern was the ongoing health and safety of staff at all our sites, so our main focus was on introducing distancing, sanitiser stations, optional face coverings, an on-site temperature monitor and a dedicated COVID-19 health and safety policy and risk assessment. As we introduced a lot of these very early, we have been able to support the incredible work our customers have been putting in throughout the pandemic, to keep the country fed and healthy.
And what does the future hold?
We’ve been involved in internet shopping and grocery home delivery since its inception and this is now a major focus for us. I think the pandemic has shown those who wouldn’t normally buy groceries online that this is practical and easy, so we are anticipating further growth in this sector. Our design engineers continue to work on new designs and enhancing current designs for these products, so we’re in a good position to support this. Our export business in this sector has also expanded and we hope to continue to grow this side of the business.
We’re also seeing some significant growth in in bodies and conversions for electric vehicles and closer integration with vehicle chassis. We have been working on various solutions across the product range with all the major chassis manufacturers and we’ve enjoyed collaborating with the OEMs and dealers on how we integrate best with their systems.