Ilford up to speed

After some four months of highly geared activity following the dramatic, and globally welcomed, announcements in February this year that the world's best-known, and best-loved, black-and-white photographic manufacturing company, ILFORD, had been saved from total annihilation, the newly emerged organisation is now able to draw breath and assess its current situation.

It was due to the swift and timely action of six of ILFORD Imaging's management team - at some considerable personal financial risk to themselves - that the UK-based company which headed the international group avoided being split up, asset stripped, or otherwise totally lost. Via a cleverly constructed operation, the liquidators were able to sell off the considerable areas of land at the company's plant in Mobberly, Cheshire, to an investment company on the basis that the plant would remain, thereby enabling the rest of the business to fall within the capabilities of the team.

What amounted to something of a coup in the face of determined interest expressed by 21 potential suitors which pursued the company through its most vulnerable stages saw the team able to provide a more attractive solution to the liquidator. This included not only satisfying the demands of the liquidation, but also ensuring the continuation of a business which, over its 125-year history, had established itself as the leading monochrome specialist.

Having had the deal and the buyout accepted to much acclaim, the team then had to get the company fully on track: manufacturing processes operating, stocks up to appropriate levels, sales, marketing and distribution fully functioning, staffing organised and relations with both the company's overseas distributors and its worldwide customers being re-established on a progressive basis. „It has been a pretty hectic four months,„ states chairman and managing director Phil Harris, „but we now have the company on a strong basis and ready to take on the world in our endeavours to revitalise the ILFORD name.‰

ILFORD Photo is the trading name of HARMAN technology Ltd, the company under which the new enterprise trades, and is the brand which will be used for all monochrome products - film, paper and photochemistry. The HARMAN brand (drawn from the name of ILFORD's founder in 1879, Alfred Harman) will be applied to other aspects of the company's business, such as thin-layer film and paper coating for the medical sector, as it becomes further organised.

The distributors in USA, France, Benelux, Switzerland and Australia are no longer subsidiaries of ILFORD UK, but since their former parent company's crash, they have re-organised themselves, mostly as independent companies, and will continue handling the supply of ILFORD Photo products to their respective markets, as do the many other companies which make up the global network of suppliers. The ILFORD digital products manufacturing base in Switzerland is still involved in discussions concerning its future.

HARMAN technology/ILFORD Photo now stands totally independent of any corporate ties to the erstwhile group, and is concentrating on what it knows best, and to which it is totally committed - black-and-white photography.

„Black-and-white analogue photography is the platform to which we are all dedicated,‰ explains Howard Hopwood, HARMAN/ILFORD Photo's marketing and business development director. „Quite frankly, the rebirth of ILFORD as a brand concentrating on this genre could not have been better timed.

„The world imaging market has been jumping through all kinds of hoops over the last few years as it has come to terms with digital processes, just as much as it has with the progress of colour photography. Having done that, and turned full circle back to its roots, those who really care about expressive photography, and about preserving images in all their beauty, still acknowledge that black-and-white is the one true medium.

„Whereas colour images provide a record of a scene, an event, a memory, black-and-white photography is an artistic expression with which no other form can compete. One only has to look at the tonal quality which can be achieved, the integration of light, shade and mood, to recognise that this is the metier of true artistry.‰

It is this dedication to black-and-white, shared by Harris and Hopwood with their fellow HARMAN technology directors: Andy Taylor (Finance Director), Steven Brierley (Sales Director UK, USA and Australia), Simon Galley (Sales Director European and Export Markets), and Peter Elton (Operations Director), which provides the catalyst for the company's determined and carefully formulated assault on the global market.

Nearly 400 people are now employed at Mobberly, with technology and production capability up to full capacity. Eighty-five per cent of output is being exported, and global distribution channels are all open. The management is in place and fully functioning, as are all sales departments and personnel.

In view of the uncertainty that has existed in the worldwide monochrome consumables field recently, especially regarding availability of black-and-white paper, ILFORD Photo's relaunch of its comprehensive range of top quality products, which includes a variety of black-and-white paper types, and the company's assurances of continued future manufacture, are especially timely for the many enthusiasts and professional photographers concerned about future supplies.

„In spite of being so busy over these months,‰ comments Harris, „the process has been cathartic, and great fun. Having structured the company into a fully operational organisation, we now look forward to facing the challenge in all our marketplaces. If the extremely positive reaction we have received so far is anything by which to judge, we can expect to be in a very solid position very quickly.‰

For full details of ILFORD Photo products now available, telephone 01565 650 000, email: .

Posted: Fri - June 17, 2005 at 01:56 PM