Face constant technician turnover? European contractors share same woe

ESSEN, Germany — If you are bemoaning a constant turnover in technicians — a tough time finding good ones and a less-than-robust business climate — and you wonder if anyone else has your woes, rest assured: Most of your compatriots in Europe feel your pain.

A report released at the International Trade Fair for Refrigerating and Air Conditioning (IKK) here reported that one-third of the 2,600 refrigeration and air conditioning contractors in Germany “reported a rise in turnover.”

The report, issued by the Verband Deutscher Kalte-Klima-Fachbetriebe (VDKF), estimated that the German industry needs approximately 2,000 new qualified technicians each year.

At the same time, “The business climate in the first half of 1999 was not satisfactory.”

The report added that “The expectations of the refrigeration and air conditioning firms for the whole of 1999 are characterized by a high degree of caution.”

Deterioration and growth

It noted that 63% of firms in the former East Germany and 41% in the area once considered West Germany “assume a deterioration of their business situation.”

The report put part of the blame on “employment law and tax legislation reforms [that have] led to more burdens on the companies.”

The report further said that an economic upturn was not expected soon. It quoted a high government official as seeing “just a small economic recovery” with “growth of a little under 2% if we are lucky.”

Possible growth could come with more air conditioning sales. But, “with regard to the number of air conditioning systems installed, Germany is still a ‘developing country’ when measured against other European states,” according to another VDKF report.

The second report noted that Italy and France lead in terms of annual per-person investment in a/c equipment, indicating the potential in Europe. On a worldwide basis, Japan and the United States “are far ahead of Europe,” it was noted.

Christian Scholz, president of VDKF, said, “Customers are asking for more comfort. It is growing. We want to increase that.”

Werner Rolles of Daiken, a member of the IKK Exhibitors Committee, said that in Germany, air and water a/c systems (such as central ventilation units and ceiling coolers) are preferred over direct evaporation systems (such as split systems). “Both systems naturally have a right to exist,” he said.

He noted that German air conditioning is about 7% of the European market, whereas the German Gross National Product is 24% of Europe.

“This is certainly due to the different investment behaviors of the Germans, in which air conditioning is probably at the bottom of the table.”

He said a change could come about “by the marketing efforts of the manufacturers, and by the increased activities of the installation contractors.”

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