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Fulfilling solutions through knowledge

Products need to be more than innovative and they need to work in the real world, says Martin Lowe, joint managing director of Marflow Hydronics.
In our technological age, 'innovative' products aren't hard to come by. Everyone seems to want to develop the next great thing. But no matter how fancy or impressive the product may be, if it doesn't actually solve a real life problem then it's not that useful. The team at Marflow Hydronics has gained a great deal of knowledge from spending time on site and communicating with customers and they believe that's the way to lead product development.

Marflow Hydronics may only be a small company, but the ambition is great. With a large range of products, including three different types of pressure independent control valve (PICV) - one of which is electronic balancing - pre-fabricated valve assemblies, filterball valves and a new range of solutions to help with energy management, the company is setting its sights high to ensure it can help its customers.

'It's about bringing it all together,' Martin Lowe, joint managing director of Marflow Hydronics explains. 'Sometimes products are brought to market that appear isolated and don't always make sense to the customer. We've spent years developing new products, always trying to be at the forefront to bring our customers what they want.'

Marflow Hydronics believes in providing a 'complete solution'. 'Every time we look to bring a new product on board we want to ensure it works with the full portfolio and enhances the range not contradicts it. Water distribution systems are hard to get right and we want to help our customers with their real life problems by making our systems simpler.'

Customer service has always been of paramount importance to Marflow Hydronics. Throughout Mr Lowe's time at the company he's been on site numerous times, working with customers from the design stage all the way to final commissioning, and he sees what really goes on. 'I find that the only way you can offer real support is to actually be there for your customers and see for yourself what their issues are. I then bring that back to the office. It may be that we realise training is needed, or a product may need modifying, or some ideas go right into product development. Whatever we do we want to help resolve the real life issues our customers have, along with ensuring they get the best solutions possible.'

One of the ways that the team at Marflow Hydronics has developed what they call 'the complete solution' is through the introduction of remote commissioning. This was actually done in isolation to BSRIA's development of the Soft Landings Framework, yet it fits the trend the industry is moving towards perfectly. 'We realised we needed to go a step further, more than just offering valves that function really well, we needed to ensure our customers could manage them in real life situations.'

From spending any time with Mr Lowe it's clear to see he has a real passion for valves and really wants the best from them. 'I can't stand it when I hear that a room is being heated with no one in it, it seems such a waste, but without the right set up it can be so hard for customers and end-users to manage their systems properly.' It's problems like this that really drive Marflow Hydronics forward. 'It's all about having the right tools for the job,' Mr Lowe continues. 'But if you aren't even aware that the tools exist then how are you supposed to know that you can use them, or even how to use them?'

Education and knowledge is high on the company's agenda. The whole team really stands behind the strapline of 'Fulfilling solutions through knowledge'. They are all keen to impart knowledge wherever possible so that customers can get the most out of their products and they really are offered a complete solution. To ensure their customers get the right tools for the job they have identified gaps that they can fill.

'We speak to so many people and they always have so many questions about PICVs,' says Mr Lowe. 'We started with an FAQ section on our website, then developed a text book called The Definitive Guide to PICVs and now we've developed that into a CPD course'.

The company is currently running free CPD courses on PICVs across the country to help people gain a better understanding of how the product may help them.

Product development
The products are where it all began. When Mr Lowe joined the company in 2002, with his self-confessed 'passion for manifolds, balancing valves, strainers and Venturi design' he quickly moved the innovation forward introducing products like manifolds with differential pressure control valves and the interchangeable Venturi system. In the past ten years this innovation has continued, always reacting to feedback that customers give and responding to real life situations, not just development behind a desk.

The biggest recent addition to the product range has been the Xterminator Valve Assembly. This is a modular approach to meeting the flushing, flow balancing, isolation and temperature control requirements of individual terminal units. The product was standardised and then it was developed over the drip tray to offer even greater benefits to users.

Based in Birmingham, the Marflow Group has enjoyed 45 years of serving customers. Originally Marflow Engineering, specialising in yellow brassware, the company developed a strong supplier partnership with Italian company Pettinaroli, and this is still the case today. Within a few years the company diversified into kitchens and bathrooms and then in the late 1990s it launched a new product line of pre-fabricated manifold systems being sold to building services engineers. This saw the birth of Marflow Hydronics, with it becoming a completely separate company in the Marflow Group in 2007.

Whether it dates back to the 1960s or right in present day, efficiency is at the heart of Marflow. That just isn't in terms of wanting to provide an efficient service to customers, but to help customers maintain efficiency themselves. One of the biggest problems facing any building is to manage the ever changing environmental needs of users. This becomes even more vital with budgets being threatened and the need for greater energy savings. Going back to one of Mr Lowe's pet peeves, it's far simpler to have a system that just heats or doesn't heat, but the wastage of that can be great and it's very unnecessary.

With the right management, the right understanding and the right products, then a 'complete solution' can be found that allows a properly heated or cooled building to exist that can easily and consistently be monitored and adjusted throughout the year.

'We may not be a massive company,' Mr Lowe explains, 'but we have great ambitions and we are constantly trying to come up with new ideas to help improve the lives of our customers. The world is changing at a rapid rate and we need to work hard and smart to keep up with it, and we settle for nothing less here.'
13 August 2013


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