Brothers in Arms – 40 Years and still going strong

16th September 2020

7th July 2020 marked a landmark for Grayson Thermal Systems and for the Hateley family that continue to own and run the business.

40 Years ago this month, Stuart Hateley aged 15 and Ian Hateley aged 17 joined the family business to work alongside Father Graham Hateley, Mother Joyce Hateley and Co-Director Norman Patrick. The additional two staff took the business from 3 to 5 people on premises consisting of 1,000 sq feet of workshop space.

Having learned to solder from the age of 12 whilst working at their Grandfathers radiator business (Established in 1921), they had also spent their first weeks rebuilding small product such as Ford Escort and Vauxhall Viva radiators, later progressing to larger bus and truck radiators. This stood them in good stead for what would be a long and successful future at GTS.

In 1980 the bus industry was still in a Nationalised state and at that time GTS was working on Leyland National radiators for Midland Red Central Works and Fleet-line radiators for WMPTE. They also regularly overhauled coach products like Leyland Leopard, AEC or Ford R Series or the new Leyland Tiger and Trucks including Bedford TK, Ford D Series and the Leyland range.

The business was growing fast and GTS found a specialism in the Truck, Bus and Forklift markets. An innovative drive-in change bay for car radiators, vans and trucks was established, but soon new premises were required for natural expansion. The need for new premises coincided with the A45 Coventry Road widening in Hay Mills and the premises was set to be bulldozed, so GTS relocated to a 3,000 sq feet building in Manor Farm Road, Greet, which later became 9,000 sq feet when the building next door was acquired due to the continued success and growth of the business.

By now, both Ian and Stuart had passed their driving tests allowing Stuart to be out on the road selling, and Ian to continue working inside the workshop, rebuilding and repairing radiators. Their experience in the industry lead them into redesigning faults in heating and cooling systems and in the late 1980’s saw the business expanding outside of the West Midlands at places like Perth Panther, heating old London Routemaster buses. This went on to become the start of the Stagecoach Group.

Expansion into London with re-designs of the original RM radiator for extra cooling and Metrobus Radiators, to patent the Fast fit concept which was carried over to Leyland Titan and Dennis Dominator, also saw the GTS business going from strength to strength.

GTS became official partner to ERF Trucks setting up a National distribution Network to their dealers and regularly supplied rail companies with replacement radiators for Class 117, 126 and 127 trains. This also led onto refurbishing the Class 150/153/156/158 radiators for the National rail supply centre, Railpart in Doncaster and onto loco sections for various locomotives and cooler panels on HST trains.

With a new supply contract for refurbished Series 3 Land Rover radiators, Scammell S26 radiators and Bedford truck radiators to the MOD, GTS required another step up in premises and in 1993 they purchased the Wharf Road site (45,000 sq feet) that is still owned and used today.

During the early 90’s Ian and Stuart developed a natural product split, Ian became the HVAC champion, leading to the growth of the service facility and Stuart developed the design capability for combustion engine cooling and OEM activity, but both would often drive buses up from London and back for cooling conversions on various projects and have many stories to tell for their troubles!

They went on to design the Metrobus single circuit cooling conversion and supplied over 600 to operators around the UK, shortly after which their youngest brother James joined the business in 1990 to become another expert in the specialist vehicle cooling sector.

In the late 1990s GTS converted 70 Dennis Lance vehicles to the fast fit concept and increased the cooling performance, reducing overheat problems in hot weather. They reheated around 500 minibuses, Mercedes, Iveco and Sherpa (LDV) and then around 3000 large buses, Metrobus, Titan, Fleetline and AN68.

The business was becoming a global outfit with regular product now supplied to Hong Kong and South Africa and with this success came bigger industry names asking for the expertise GTS were so eloquently providing. In 1997 GTS were approached by Optare to design a fast fit cassette concept for the Metrorider replacement named Solo. This would take GTS into new realms and mean they would be manufacturing radiator cores in-house and not just buying them.

After purchasing their first braze furnace for manufacturing Charge Air Coolers, the markets opened up and GTS became supplier to Dennis for the new Trident 2 and subsequently the Export option on Dart SLF. This, model by model became the standard fit on all Dennis buses around the world. At the same time the industry entered Euro 3 emissions regulations and GTS won OEM contracts with Dennis Eagle and Seddon Atkinson, bringing a focus on refuse collection vehicles as well as Bus & Coach

By this time automotive and truck technology has failed time and time again on clogging in the rear of buses and still continues to do so even today. Grayson saw the necessity for low clog cooling fins to ensure optimum performance in the rear of buses and can even now provide a successful solution to this issue when others are unable to do so.

In 1998 GTS became the Thermoking Bus Air Conditioning dealer in the UK and was soon the supplier of choice for 90 buses being manufactured by Alexander and Dennis destined for USA for Thomas- Dennis.

The GTS Aftermarket division was born and the new millennium saw many regulations and adaptations to Euro emissions, retarders and low floor buses – changing bus cooling forever.

GTS saw the need to expand overseas with Den Ousten in Holland being one of the first European customers along with Iveco in Spain who had acquired Seddon Atkinson. Solaris had shown interest in our high performance cooling products for Greece and the Middle East placing an order for 225 systems for the most exacting climate found in Dubai, and this was followed by VDL on their new Citea platform.

With this growth, the premises grew too and in 2009 the Wharfdale House, Tyseley site was rented (and later purchased in 2012).

In the same year Stuart became the Managing Director of the business with Graham Hateley (Founder and CEO) stepping aside for him to take the helm. But the ethos continued for working as a collective team, and their success as a family business coming from the diverse skills that were developed, often as opposites.

In 2011 GTS pioneered their E fan cooling system that would be installed on buses ahead of the 2012 Olympics. This is now the standard on new buses in the UK and Europe and continues to be a sought after product line fully manufactured and installed by the GTS team targeting emission reduction.

GTS had been seeing increased interest from North America since the early 2000’s when – Bluebird and RTC in Las Vegas were 2 new customers that were attracted and Thomas Dennis became their first USA customer. With further opportunities opening up in the North American market, GTS felt it was time to have a facility to support the growing portfolio of customers in the USA and Canada and so in 2014 opened their first site based in Franklin Indiana.

In 2018 Grayson relocated its Service / Aftermarket division to the Kingpin site which is a custom built 8 bay workshop. This is currently running 13 bays and fitting E fan and SCRT for National Express and supports over 40 field technicians across the UK and Europe.

With more focus on environmental factors and the escalating production of electric vehicles, GTS saw an opportunity for specialist battery cooling and in 2015 designed and launched the BTMS Battery Thermal Management system. Over a thousand of these units have been produced and fitted around the world and in 2020 will be built in its own dedicated facility for the continued supply to markets including, bus, coach, off highway / mining vehicles, heavy rail, light rail and trams.

GTS Launched the eComfort C100 driver cab heat / cool unit in 2018 and will now be followed in 2020 by the C300 passenger heat pump model. The C300 is also complemented by the integrated version with BTMS that also can heat or cool batteries in a single unit.

Grayson now has a portfolio of products greater than ever before and employs 250 staff across 5 sites on 2 continents, with a total production floor space of around 130,000 square feet! And now in 2020, the next generation of the Hateley family are picking up the with five of Ians and Stuarts children working in the business based out of the UK and North America. Their experience and expertise in the thermal management field will continue the success and stability of this family run business on into the future and for years to come.

Stuart and Ian have travelled the world and met some of the most wonderful people who have recognised GTS ability and seen the benefits that can be brought to their business.

The business has always been about high levels of customer service, being able to react to customer needs and relatively short lead times for projects, even today the TFL project is a great example of the diverse skill set GTS has the way service / vehicle knowledge, system design and component manufacture are combined, is unrivalled. In 40 years the business has employed, and still does, some fantastic people, who are all part of the history and many continue to contribute to our future. GTS are proud that 8 members of staff that have been working for the company for over 30 years and nearly half the workforce has been employed by GTS for more than a decade.

Stuart Hateley (Managing Director) has said that ‘Working for the same company for 40 years is a little scary, but travelling I have seen some of the best businesses and processes in the world, and continue to try and reflect best in class in our business today. I would not have wanted a different career, or to work for a different business. There have been challenges along the way, yet today we operate successfully through the biggest one of all – Covid-19. This last 6 months has taught me what a resilient business we are – Our supply chain, our people and our customer base. To all the stakeholders, I thank them for this, and look forward to sharing many more years working with them’.

Ian and Stuart have seen some phenomenal changes in the last 40 years, but the important lessons their Father and late mother had instilled about the family business can be credited in the values still held to this day.

Congratulations on 40 years with the Business and may there be many, many more to come.

See article on Linkedin – https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/brothers-arms-40-years-still-going-strong-liza-lavender/