During a recent question-and-answer session discussing a variety of industry issues, Honeywell executives met with Editor-in-chief Mike Murphy. Representing Honeywell were: David Willett, vice president, Building Control Solutions; Jay Schrankler, vice president and general manager, Comfort, Energy & Health Solutions.
CB: Honeywell offers some products through retail stores. What’s the trend for new products that you’re developing?
Jay: Our model for future products is a complementary one. The professional market and do-it-yourself market really do feed off each other. We want to introduce products that get installed the first time by a professional contractor. If the consumer wants a simple upgrade, there would be a plug and play add-on that they could easily do themselves or they could call the contractor who would then send it to them just as with replacement filters. There is a real benefit for the professionally installed channel. As add-ons gain visibility in one channel, people will be enticed to have more work performed in the professional channel.
CB: What are going to be the most important trends for contractors in the coming years?
David: The increasing sophistication of technologies is putting demands on contractors to learn more, especially at the systems end of the commercial side. For large integrated projects more knowledge of networks and communications is required. For medium to large projects more knowledge of open system protocols such as Lon and BacNet is required. For small buildings, increasing requirements for energy efficiency will require service contractors to learn more about controls and how they can deliver energy savings for their customers. In summary, contractors focused in any segment will need to invest in training and development of their existing people and recruitment of new poeple with new skills and knowledge to meet these market needs.
Jay: I think contractors are going to have to become more technically savvy and possess a heightened sense of contemporary business practice. Today, if you want to have a high-end, audio-visual system put in your home a person will call on you who is tech-savvy, is with-it, cleanly-dressed, very knowledgeable, and has the ability to really sell. I think that the evolution of the HVAC contractor has to be in that direction.
CB: What is Honeywell doing to help the industry attract new talent?
Jay: We have been a long-time supporter of educational and publicity efforts of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. And now, with the emergence of NATE (North American Technician Excellence) certification, we are 100% behind that effort.
David: We bring technology tools to the contractors so they can do their job more efficiently. We’re trying to take the work out so that people can be more productive and focus on doing the job faster, sell more and continue to become more successful.
CB: How will residential and commercial system diagnostics affect product designs of the future?
Jay: Remote access and remote diagnostics in the home are the wave of the future and we’re on top of that trend. The evolution of our products have been toward communication as a core premise; products are becoming more web-enabled, easier to use, and easier to access remotely. In the last two years we’ve introduced telephone access modules; you can either call your HVAC unit or it can call out. Honeywell introduced Envirocom, a communicating protocol, that operates over existing wires in the home. We’ve also introduced a partnership with Enalyses, a diagnostic tool for residential contractors. The whole idea is to get remote diagnostics into the home or building.
Designing products that are easier to install is part of who we are. We introduced network zoning ¯ the first zoning system where the thermostat and the system communicate with each other ¯ to make the contractor’s job easier. Just in the last month we introduced a wireless zoning system.
David: We recently introduced a commercial system diagnostic tool, the HVAC Service Assistant. It’s a productivity tool for the technician, but it also makes information available to the building manager in a consistent format. An indoor air quality monitoring product, Aircuity, is left in the conditioned space, collects data and provides an intelligent analysis so the owner knows how to address any problems.
Jay: We’re providing contractors with labor saving devices, but contractors will probably have to be more tech-savvy, to understand the applications of these smart devices. Smart devices will turn contracting into more of a knowledge-based business and trim away some of the labor-intensive work. Contractors will continue to consult with the homeowner or building owner to provide solutions. The difference is, when they go to apply it, it takes less time and cost less because the devices are smart.
CB: What Honeywell marketing programs do you offer to commercial contractors?
David: We have three distinct commercial contractor programs tailored for contractors with different business focuses. The Commercial Comfort and Energy Specialist program is for the mechanical service company putting in relatively simple control systems. The Automation Control Specialist program is typically for companies that have controls divisions, and install HVAC control systems. Lastly, the Authorized Controls Integrators (ACI) program. These contractors represent a high degree of expertise in system integration. ACI contractors have access to a broad level of support from us, such as more sales reps working with them to create demand in the marketplace. The amount of information that we share with our ACI partners makes them very competitive in the marketplace. They place a very high value on the distinction: Authorized Contractor by Honeywell. This selective group can now represent themselves to compete with Johnson Controls, Siemens, and other major control manufacturers on jobs that, typically, contractors may not have been considered for.
CB: What are the residential marketing programs?
Jay: In 2001, we launched a consolidated contractor program called Power Contractors. It’s a membership program something like Sam’s Club. We charge a small entry fee to contractors and provide them with up to thousands of dollars of benefits. They receive a free thermostat, access to a separate 800 line which they can call anytime, with no waiting, they get first access to a lot of programs, training coupons, and some early product introductions. The Power Contractors is continuing to grow in popularity and it’s really our one, big residential program.
CB: What is the one key issue that thwarts your success strategy with contractors?
Jay: I think one of our biggest issues, and the HVAC industry in general, is how to grow. It starts with what the contractors can do ¯ how much they can sell. It’s their ability to sell that will help them grow which, in turn, helps us grow. This industry, although it has been very sluggish to grow, has tremendous growth potential. The problem is, the end-users ¯ whether homes or buildings, don’t even know what our industry has to offer. Often, when they do, they want it. For example, recent studies have shown that 85% of homeowners wanted residential zoning when it was offered to them. But, it’s not offered nearly enough. That makes it tough to grow the zoning business.
CB: What do you want contractors to know about Honeywell?
Jay: Honeywell is committed to increasingly becoming a better performing partner and we’re doing that through digitization, improving our deliveries, and constantly improving our quality ¯ we call it the pursuit of perfection. Also, we’re committed to distribution as a key strategy. And, perhaps most important, we’re a highly innovative, outstanding, technology-oriented company that’s going to provide product that’s going to work right the first time and every time.
David: We want people to know we have a tremendous passion for this business at all levels of our company. It’s what we were founded upon and it’s what we exist for.
Jay: Our goal is to have our product work right the first time, and every time, anywhere in the world. The pursuit of
perfection is what we’re about, and imbedded technology drives our success. n
Honeywell is a diversified technology and manufacturing company, serving customers worldwide with control technologies for buildings and homes. For more information, visit the company's website at www.honeywell.com.