[Editor's Note: In the course of our travels,The Newsstaff often speaks with influential industry leaders. Today, we share with you some comments from Renee Chesler, general manager of HVAC/Industrial Insulation for CertainTeed Insulation Group, Valley Forge, Pa. CertainTeed is one of the world's largest insulation manufacturers.]

The News: Will the 13 SEER energy efficiency change have an impact upon your business?

Chesler: It will be more evident as a change in the business operations practices of the people we serve [distributors]. Logistics and inventory planning will change for all of the products they carry because of the affect on storage capacity brought on by larger unitary products. The new space considerations cause distribution locations to look at things like turn rates. They must make sure the right space is dedicated at the right time and right place.

The News: What insulation industry changes do you anticipate?

Chesler: The interaction of building code changes will be the most interesting to watch. For example, Title 24 in California is offering us the opportunity to increase thermal values for duct liner insulation products. It is a government mandate; if manufacturers want to play in California we have to agree to meet the requirement. Such code changes in one state tend to lead to greater acceptance in general market sectors. Trends are driven more by building type, and not so much by geography. In other words, hospitals in Florida might easily adopt a building code trend that originated in another state. We should expect to see more similarities in the way products are specified rather than differences because of the common specification practices of the engineering community that quickly cross geographical boundaries.

The News: You've been active in the Women in HVACR Association. Just as more women take on various roles in HVAC, are there opportunities to bring other minority groups of people into the industry?

Chesler: CertainTeed has been a sponsor of Women in HVAC and I've helped recruit women into nontraditional fields in our business for quite a few years. I don't see any difference between working in the field and working in a corporate environment. The same barriers for women and various minorities exist in all levels of HVAC. With regard to another labor source, we should encourage more bilingual training in our industry in order to take advantage of the growing Spanish-speaking workforce in our country. If we wait too long, other industries will simply beat us to the punch, and we will lose out on that talent pool.

The News: What will the industry look like in five years?

Chesler: A continuing industry consolidation of traditional distributors will bring with it best practices. This includes logistics improvements and a lot of opportunities to increase cash flow. Gone will be the days of payment terms that go on indefinitely. Inventory is a metric of working capital. As lean business practices continue, people will want to reduce floor inventory to 60 to 65 days, no longer carrying 90 to 120 days of inventory. I also believe that networking practices will increase as businesses look to emulate the best practices of their peers. A trend is developing that indicates commercial building owners won't view HVAC solutions as commodities. More and more are beginning to look beyond first cost because energy costs are having a considerable impact on their operations. This should result in more premium insulation packages for buildings as well as other top-end HVAC solutions.

Publication date: 10/10/2005