Managing director Andrew Walton proudly claims that Moduflow is the “best kept secret in British industrial fan manufacturing”.

But how big a secret it really is may be up for debate, given that the Barrow company’s fans are in use all over the UK and beyond and it has its eye on expansion coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moduflow itself was founded in 2010, but was formed out of Furness Fans which was founded by chairman Ron Whitworth.

Ron did his apprenticeship at Barrow’s shipyard before setting up his own company, initially as a sheet metal worker before spotting a gap in the market locally for installing fans.

"There wasn't a fan company locally and we got more and more involved in that and we started to look at designing and manufacturing our own fans," says Andrew.

The company, which employs 10 people, makes extraction and ventilation fans for use in industry, with applications in commercial kitchen ventilation, food processing and manufacturing and the biomass and biofuel sectors, among others.

As well as being found in many kitchens across the UK, their fans are also in use in locations such as oil refineries in the Middle East and Africa.

Its expertise in air movement means that the company’s fans are an integral part of air conveyor equipment, which can be used to move items around on a bed of air.

"The air pressure hovers the product and moves it along, or the fans suck it to the conveyor, so it can move vertically or horizontally,” says Andrew.

It also produces hot gas fans, which blow heated exhaust gasses from burners to the atmosphere.

“We've done a lot of development work on that to meet the new emissions regulations and that goes into industrial and commercial heating companies, as a component for boilers," says Andrew.

“We’re always on the lookout for special projects as well and we still train our staff in the now quite specialist art of fan engineering, where unfortunately the greater marketplace has de-skilled.”

Andrew says this focus on engineering solutions means the company can help customers with the fundamentals of setting up fan systems, as well as designing, building and installing systems for special purposes.

Each fan begins life as sheet metal and various components - the majority of which come from the UK - before being assembled at Moduflow’s site on the Sowerby Woods Industrial Estate.

The company has patented a design process which means it is well positioned to compete with other similar firms, both in the UK and overseas.

"Where we're succeeding is that we have one of the fastest turnaround times of anybody in the industry for a centrifugal fan," says Andrew.

"We've reduced the welding to a minimum, which obviously speeds things up, and this design enables us to keep parts in component form rather than finished goods and then make them to order.”

Despite being forced to make one person redundant during the pandemic, Moduflow has been able to take on two new apprentice sheet metal engineers from Gen2, in Ulverston.

Andrew says while the knock-on effects of Covid-19 on the hospitality trade affected the commercial kitchen and ventilation sector over the last two years, other areas have grown to fill the gap, for example supplying fans for the Air Sentry portable ventilation systems used to combat the spread of viruses in hospitals.

"At the moment we're trying to expand, we're looking to employ a national sales manager and we're looking to continue our development of products,” he says.

“Despite Covid, over the last two years we've taken on a technical manager to help us with our design and development of product so we've been slowly looking to develop and grow the business.

"I am a fantastic believer that Britain needs to be able to manufacture and sell goods. Brexit, if nothing else, has been a shot in the arm for British manufacturing and there are a large amount of companies that have looked back into the internal market to manufacture for them. That has got to be a positive.”