20 May, 2024

A bright future

29 April, 2015

Trevor Davison, chairman of TFG Group, Gardner Denver’s largest, independent distributor and the biggest distributor of compressed air products in the UK, explores what the future holds for today’s engineering product distributors and shares his thoughts on how investing in skills and training now, will pay dividends in the long term.

The continued success of UK manufacturing is key to modern economic growth and distributors have a major role to play in driving through new technologies that can help businesses to enhance their productivity and competitiveness. Yet, in the arena of compressed air sales and aftermarket activities, encouraging and retaining new talent into such a mature market can prove difficult.

To begin with we should examine the case for opening up the distribution market to enable new businesses to compete. In my view, this can only be a positive step. First, it encourages manufacturers to deliver more innovative technological advances in order to meet a growing market demand. Secondly, it helps to bring fresh ideas and practices to a well-established sector helping to encourage customers to invest in new plant and equipment.

TFG has applied this principle for a number of years by enabling young start-up businesses to succeed under their own management and ownership, but with the group’s support in soft skill areas such as accounting, insurance and regulations.

Organic growth

In this example, new talent is being encouraged into the industry and is given the opportunity to grow organically, but with the support of proven, established businesses with the necessary skills and expertise.

Helping the younger generation to grow their own business is a positive step forward, but not every school or university leaver is seeking self-employment and this is where the rise of the modern apprenticeship is paying dividends for smaller, independent distributors.

With the Government now funding the training of any 16- to 18-year-old apprentice and offering a range of cash incentives to employers, it is the ideal time for distributors to consider growing their skills’ base.


Some 59 per cent of companies report that training apprentices is more cost-effective than hiring skilled staff and a significant 83 per cent of employers rely on their apprenticeships' programme to provide the skilled workers that they need for the future.

Supported by training costs from Gardner Denver and delivered by specialists such as the British Compressed Air Society and The Leadership Academy, TFG has implemented a group-wide scheme that has already encouraged a number of young college and university leavers in to a career in the compressed air industry. Two of its group companies, Air Compressors and Blowers North, and Mid-Tech (Compressed Air) Ltd., are benefitting from the scheme, which is 50 per cent funded by Gardner Denver.

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