Manufacturers Meet the Needs of Customers

December 10, 2007
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Manufacturers have many different customers. Some deal strictly with distributors while others deal with distributors, contractors, and even end users. The manufacturers’ customer load brings great trial and triumph to the daily choices made in the boardroom. Each choice, however, is aimed at one thing - customer satisfaction.

EFFICIENCY AND GOOD LOOKS

Johnson Controls-Unitary Products serves HVAC distributors who carry the York, Coleman, and Luxaire brands throughout the United States and Canada.

In supplying furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioning systems to distributors, Johnson Controls is finding that distributors are demanding innovative, state-of-the-art HVAC products and systems to meet the needs of their customers - dealers and contractors. In turn, dealers and contractors install Johnson Controls’ products and systems to meet the needs of their customers - homeowners.

“Today, consumers are more focused on comfort and energy efficiency than ever,” said Andy Armstrong, director of marketing, Johnson Controls - Unitary Products. “In addition, it has become evident, through purchase decisions, that homeowners want their air conditioner or heat pump to look good.”

To meet the comfort and energy-efficiency needs, Johnson Controls is offering more products like two-stage condensing units and modulating gas furnaces.

“Consumers are seeking home comfort systems that are Energy Star-rated and that qualify for federal and/or local tax credits,” he said. “We are manufacturing a wealth of furnaces, heat pumps, and air conditioning systems that qualify for both.”

To meet a consumer’s need for aesthetically pleasing equipment, Johnson Controls - Unitary Products is also providing access to an expanded designer and college logo panel line.

According to Armstrong, however, even though compressor technology contributes to better efficiency, the biggest way to achieve higher efficiencies is through better heat exchange technology. “At Johnson Controls, we are providing state-of-the-art technology with our Micro-Channel aluminum coil,” he said.

To meet a consumer’s need for aesthetically pleasing equipment, the manufacturer is also providing access to an expanded designer and college logo panel line and a concealment unit.

“We are seeing more homeowners ask for units featuring one of our seven designer color panels or one of our 72 college logo panels,” he noted. “Some are even buying our concealment unit to blend in with their landscape.”

With energy efficiency, refrigerants, and IAQ trends taking high priority on consumers’ shopping lists, these items are also taking high priority on Johnson Controls’ list.

“There’s no question that efficiency standards will continue to rise while consumers continue to look for better ways to reduce energy usage and costs,” confirmed Armstrong. “As the efficiency standards change, Johnson Controls will continue to be a leader.”

ELECTRONIC REVOLUTION

Goodman sells products directly to distributors as well, although it also defines the contractor as a primary customer.

“Our products and services are all designed to meet the needs of the end user,” said Rachel Cater, manager of extended services, Goodman. “Customers expect a value product, i.e., high quality at a reasonable price, and Goodman provides that.”

Beyond products, Goodman is concentrating on meeting the consumer’s desire for multiple services.

 “Customers expect prompt service and they expect their equipment to be fixed right the first time,” said Cater. “They also expect their contractor to have accurate information as to their warranty entitlement, whether it is standard warranty coverage or extended warranty coverage.”

According to Cater, extended service contracts are becoming highly important to the end user as concerns about protecting their HVAC investment over the life of the product rises. To assist contractors in better servicing end users, Goodman has implemented ServiceBench’s extended warranty solution. This is an automated, Web-based process for the sale of extended service agreements.

“A paper-intensive process often impacted a contractor’s willingness to offer extended service agreements on Goodman products,” noted Cater. “This system allows the contractor to provide the consumer with a fully executed contract in real time, and to serve the end user quickly and efficiently in the event of product failure.”

End users are also demanding speed and accuracy, and according to Goodman, it is better able to supply speed and accuracy with its automated warranty system. This is not the only system that Goodman intends to use. As the market and its customers evolve, so will the manufacturer.

“Goodman will continue to invest in systems to allow contractors the ability to transact business electronically,” assured Cater. “This will increase both transaction speed and accuracy, and will better facilitate product and extended warranty sales and service.”

Speed and accuracy aren’t only applicable to contractors and end users. Robert Goodfellow, director of sales and marketing from Dynamic Air Quality Solutions, said that this IAQ product manufacturer plans to introduce “more and more automation in all processes,” to enable its OEMs and distributors to minimize inventory. Goodfellow predicts that market leaders will continue to develop and promote systems such as vendor managed inventory (VMI), in-house enterprise systems, warehouse management systems, and just-in-time (JIT) systems.

“The market today demands that new products be brought to market faster,” noted Goodfellow.

Williams Furnace Co., a gas, hydronic, DX, and evaporative cooler manufacturer in Colton, Calif., is also working to meet the needs of its distributors and subsequently address the quicker turnaround time demands of the end user. Williams is currently using electronic transmission of data to track inventory levels, orders, invoices, shipments, and payments.

“With these systems in place, we can help meet the immediate shipping and warranty services that customers expect,” said Ruth Ann Davis, vice president, sales, Williams Furnace Co.

A NEW GENERATION

As manufacturers address a new generation of buyers, they are designing products and education programs to address consumers’ desires for innovative features. “People want convenient, computerized gadgets in their home that help make their lives simpler,” said Kevin Dudash, Bryant’s brand manager.

To answer this demand, Bryant has released products that allow remote access control and flat-screen thermostats complete with a USB port for programming. Home-owners are able to raise and lower the temperature from any computer, and contractors are able to quickly and easily program the thermostat via computer and then transfer the information to the thermostat. Each of these customers is benefiting from the technology-driven products that Bryant provides.

Cleaver-Brooks, a manufacturer of boiler room products and systems, is looking to address the rising trend of younger, less experienced consumers and the need for retrofit equipment.

“We are finding that younger, less experienced buyers need more support than the older generation,” said Earle Pfefferkorn, president of Cleaver-Brooks Package Boiler.

Through local and regional training and educational programs, the manufacturer is instructing its boiler operators and its owners on not only better boiler operation, but improved energy utilization and boiler safety as well.

“We want our customers to experience maximized performance, while continuing to operate and understand the entire boiler system,” said Pfefferkorn.

Even with the rise of new, more efficient equipment, there is still a need for retrofit equipment. “Retrofit equipment is added to the system not only to save money, but also to increase efficiency,” noted Pfefferkorn. “Energy conservation and emission reduction technology are in high demand and critical for the customers we serve. These technologies can be applied to new or used equipment.”

SERVICE WITH A SMILE

As manufacturers meet these challenges and new ones arise, customers - be they distributors, contractors or end users - will find that each manufacturer has something new and unique to offer.

“We stay on top of the latest trends in the industry so that we can meet the needs of distributors, dealers/contractors, and home-owners,” said Armstrong.

“That means we provide excellent service and the most innovative products on the market.”

Publication date: 12/10/2007

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