TUCSON, Ariz. - Having a distributor meeting at a luxurious resort could be considered torture. After all, the main focus of such a gathering is for the participants to learn all about a manufacturer's product offerings. That usually means staying inside, attending tons of meetings, and not being able to enjoy the pleasant surroundings, sun-kissed skies, enticing pools, and nearby golf courses.

At least the powers-that-be at Allied Air Enterprises got it right for its first-ever combined distributor meeting for all brands, held in late October at the stunning Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa. Business was soaked up in the mornings, but mid-afternoons were for soaking up rays by the pool or on the golf course.

"It's going to be hard going back home," admitted Real Chartrand, of Distribution Maxi Vent, Longueuil, Quebec, at the closing ceremony.

Ken Ely (left), heating product manager for Allied Air Enterprises, answers a question for a distributor. Ely provided information concerning the new heating products available under the Worldwide Heating & Cooling umbrella, which includes Armstrong Air/AirEase, Concord, and Ducane.

Run To Change, Not Away

At the opening session, Bob McDonough, president and COO of Worldwide Heating and Cooling, Lennox International Inc., asked the invited distributors to have a beneficial, enjoyable, rewarding, and memorable meeting. He noted the meeting would be in stark contrast to the 2003 gathering in Chicago.

"We had lost our way," said McDonough. "We had a leadership team whose heart was not in the right place."

After that meeting, organizational changes were made and the company announced its Allied Air Enterprises, a new name for the group of brand names the company markets. McDonough said there will be more changes.

"We can do better," he told his audience. "It's not essential to have phenomenal growth. It's all about focus and execution. We have to be the front-runners."

McDonough admitted 2006 and beyond might be rough. He pointed out that new home construction is expected to decline, there may be more of a need to repair than replace, it is not expected to be the same kind of summer next year as it was this summer, and the cost of materials for manufacturers has only increased.

Yet, with the new Armstrong Air, Ducane, Magic-Pak, AirEase, and Concord products soon to be on the market, McDonough encouraged the distributors to move forward confidently.

"Don't run from this change," he said. "Run to it. It is a money-making deal. Do not see this as a set of rules you have to overcome. Instead, see it as an opportunity."

Bob Schjerven, CEO of Lennox International Inc., echoed McDonough's words of advice. Schjerven, who oversaw Armstrong Air Conditioning Inc. from 1991 to 1995 before moving into his seat at Lennox, said he was pleased with the evolution of Armstrong. Lennox purchased then-MagicChef in 1988, later changing its name to Armstrong.

"I couldn't be more proud," said Schjerven. "Judging from the comments I've heard, this corporation is very well prepared, if not the best prepared, for 13 SEER."

Talking Products

At the all-brands commercial breakout session, Kirk Thorne, vice president of sales and marketing, announced that a new brand, Allied Commercial, would be in the commercial mix for 2006. Meanwhile, Charles Ponyik, P.E., product manager of commercial sales and marketing, went through the features of the gas/electric, heat pump, and electric/electric commercial rooftop units. He noted that the units would be easy to install and service.

"This is something your contractors will love," said Ponyik.

In regard to service perks, the units have color-coded and marked wiring, perimeter-mounted components, slide-out blower mount, and large access panels. Each has a rugged design, he pointed out, noting that each has a scroll compressor, refrigerant filter drier, and the cabinet is made of heavy gauge galvanized steel, along with two layers of enamel paint finish.

There will be new additions next year in small package rooftop units, from 3 to 6 tons. Discontinued will be the 16 Series (2 to 5 ton models) and the 20 Series (2 to 5 ton models). According to Ponyik, the newer models will meet or exceed new, single-phase 13 SEER requirements, plus all models will use R-22 refrigerant. The small units are expected to be available for shipment in April 2006, he said.

At the all-brands heating session, Ken Ely, heating product manager, noted that all brands will continue to offer a broad range of gas furnace offerings. In the Armstrong Air/AirEase line, for instance, it will offer an Enhanced Series (top-of-the-line features, with deluxe comfort), Advantage Series (premium features, with "worry-free convenience"), and the Tech Series ("reliable and durable performance"). Overall, he noted, gas furnace sales have been up in the second half of this year, beginning with the month of June.

Ely highlighted the features of the 2-pipe design. For instance, he said the Armstrong Air/AirEase 80-percent AFUE two-pipe gas furnace not only improves indoor air quality, but it has a greater efficiency record, quiet operation, increased installation flexibility, and an enhanced furnace life.

"We plan to tell the world about this two-pipe design," said Ely, who proceeded to show the audience some of the upcoming print advertisements. One ad had in large type: "Broadest. Largest. Most Extensive." Underneath was the following verbiage: "No matter how you phrase it, we offer more 2-pipe, 80% gas furnaces than any other manufacturer in the industry."

Ely said there would be 2,072,925 gas furnaces replaced this year, with a projected 2,092,165 next year. He also noted that with the new national energy bill, customers who purchase the Enhanced 95V, Enhanced 80V, or Enhanced 80V Oil can receive a tax credit of $50. Each of these units incorporate a circulating fan that uses no more than 2 percent of the total annual energy usage.

Meanwhile, customers who purchase four specific models can earn a $150 tax credit, as each has an AFUE of 95 percent or higher.

In the oil furnace category, Ely said the Enhanced 80V Oil line will offer nine new models next year. According to Ely, each will have a constant cfm blower, slow quiet blower ramping, offer enhanced humidity control, improved system efficiency, improved cooling efficiencies, ultra-low continuous fan, plus system indicators.

"Each will offer exceptional heating benefits," he said.

Bill McCullough (left) points out a few features of a new condensing unit to an interested distributor.

... And More Products

Joe Leonard, technical services manager, focused in on the new 13-SEER, R-22 air conditioners and heat pumps to be offered by Ducane and Concord. The 13-SEER units come in 1.5 to 5 ton, single- or three-phase, two footprints, five-year warranty on both parts and compressor, and have louvered panel and wire-guarded coil protection options. "We've done our homework with these," said Leonard.

He also disclosed information regarding the new coils that are available. Leonard said the company is creating value "through quality products at competitive prices." Features in most units include a Copeland compressor, louvered panels, accumulators are standard, and liquid line filter dryers are factory-installed.

"At the same time, we did not forget the contractor," said Leonard, before pointing out the serviceability features. These include hinged access panels, 45-degree service valves, molded compressor plugs, and an integrated LED diagnostic control board.

Among other topics, Brian Holdrich, product manager, residential package units, informed the distributors of the new production line procedures, all designed to provide quality and precision. According to Holdrich, $4 million was invested to bring about these quality-issue changes. For instance, the line now has a total of six automated testing systems, which includes three leak-testing stations for indoor coils, outdoor coils, and heat exchangers.

"If a unit does not pass one of the automated tests, the system will not create a quality label," he said. "The unit can't ship."

Shawn Marcy, split systems product manager, pointed out the common changes over the Armstrong Air/AirEase brands. He said multiple focus groups were used to help in each brand's creation, over 18 months of design changes occurred, and over $40 million was invested "resulting in elegant simplicity, consumer benefits, and dealer benefits."

Among the service features for contractors, each brand has removable louvered panels, a bigger control access, fan wires routed through the U-channel "for easy top removal," ground lugs are standard, and valves are mounted off base, designed to make brazing easier. And, for the higher-end, LT models, units contain the Comfort Alert II diagnostics system from Emerson Climate Technologies.

According to Marcy, by December the 2SCU13LE/LB and the 2SHP13LE/LB models (1.5 ton to 5 ton; single-phase) will be available. By April of next year, the 2SCU13LB and 2SHP13LB models (3, 4, and 5 tons; three-phase) will be ready to ship. The R-410A models (4SCU13LE and 4SHP13LE), from 1.5 to 5 tons, will be available in February of 2006, while the 2- to 5-ton, 16-SEER versions (4SHP16LT and 4SCU16LT) will be ready in April-May of next year.

By the second quarter of 2006, the 2- and 3-ton 18-SEER units (4SCU18LT) will be ready to roll, while the 4- and 5-ton versions (4SCU18LT) will be ready to ship before the end of the third quarter. By the end of 2006, expect the 2- to 5-ton 18-SEER heat pumps (4SHP18LT) to be ready.

Marketing In The Mix

Tom Cizmar, business development manager, updated the invited guests concerning the new marketing and advertising programs ahead. He encouraged each distributor to get acquainted with Velocit-e (www.velocit-e.com), the e-business tool for Armstrong Air, AirEase, and Concord distributors. The site serves as a warranty center, order center, product center, marketing center, and sales training center, plus provides links to industry Web sites.

"You can serve customers better by logging on to Velocit-e," said Cizmar. "You can process warranties quicker plus locate needed technical information quicker."

With regard to advertising, NeighborMailsm, an online tool designed to help dealers create low-volume direct mail pieces at a very low cost, is being offered. The software is designed to provide a dealer with targeted and selected addresses around a current installation, plus it can send out as few as 20 direct mail items per mailing.

On the sales training side, two new sales leaders workshops will be offered. A Marketing Programs 1 class ("Marketing for Success") will be taught Dec. 13-14 in Bellevue, Ohio. Meanwhile, the Product Sales 1 class ("Presenting the Armstrong Air and AirEase Difference") will be taught Feb. 1-2, 2006, in Orangeburg, S.C.

Online training classes will also be offered. The four new online classes will focus on sales, management, customer service, and employees. In all, there will be 21 online learning courses available.

Publication date: 12/05/2005