When a manufacturer comes out with a new product, it is often the result of efforts by the research and development department along with the folks in sales and marketing. Typically, the new product is intended as a better mousetrap - something that is a necessary component in a HVACR system that does a better job than a similar product that may have been introduced in years past. Often the creation of the product is done with input from wholesalers, contractors, and technicians.

Once a product reaches the marketplace, the evaluations and critiques don't end. In fact, now that the product is in the distribution pipeline and being used in the field, that development may be just the reason to revisit the product's value.

A few months ago, the folks at Danfoss sent me a video that highlighted several focus group meetings it conducted with wholesalers, contractors, and technicians concerning one of its product lines already in the market - the KP style of pressure and temperature controls.

Focus Groups

While I was not involved in the Danfoss focus groups, I have moderated focus groups for other manufacturers in the past. In such cases, I identified myself as refrigeration editor ofThe Newsinterested in feedback from contractors and technicians. In each case, the focus group discussed a number of related products from a variety of manufacturers, with representatives of the manufacturer sponsoring that particular focus group watching from be-hind a one-way glass.

Actually, over the years I have found wholesalers, contractors, and especially technicians more than willing to tell a manufacturer what they thought about a product - mirrors or not. They are very straightforward people.

This was the case in the Danfoss video. Participants expressed concern over readouts too small to read, adjustment screws difficult to adjust, not enough room to make wiring work comfortable, even the fact that the unit had "a foreign look."

Manufacturers take such feedback into consideration for the next generation of a certain product. For example, Danfoss incorporated its feedback into the development of its KPU valves that was introduced at the 2005 International Air Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition (AHR Expo) earlier this year.

Now, technicians will still fuss over certain aspects of most every product. And they have every right to do so, because they are folks who deal with the product every day and depend on them for their livelihood.

Manufacturers can continue to strive to make not only a better mousetrap, but the best mousetrap possible. And wholesalers, contractors, and technicians are more than welcome to continue to provide feedback, before and after the introduction of that product.

Peter Powell is refrigeration editor. He can be reached at 847-622-7260, 847-622-7266 (fax), or peterpowell@achrnews.com.

Publication date: 07/04/2005