• From Metal to HVAC: Schebler’s Success Based on Diversification

    Nov. 9, 2012
    Schebler Heating & Air has completed projects as far afield as Alaska and Saudi Arabia. This in-demand, all-inclusive Design/Build firm has the expertise its clients seek.

    The portfolio of Schebler Heating and Air, Bettendorf, IA, includes installations at a fish cannery in Alaska, the McCormick Center and the Trump Tower buildings in Chicago, Yankee Stadium, and food equipment lines in Saudi Arabia.

    Schebler Heating and Air, based in Bettendorf, IA along the scenic banks of the upper Mississippi River, tracks its lineage to Joseph and Rudolph Schebler, two brothers selling potbelly stoves in 1895. Originally a metal manufacturing company, this do-it-all shop grew to also manufacture ductwork, washtubs, funnels and stove piping, and plenty of other things along the way.

    In 1950, the third generation of Schebler management moved the operation with its 20 employees to Davenport, IA. In 1979, a Minnesota-based investor group purchased the company from the Schebler family.

    Twenty years later, a group of regional investors purchased the business and invested heavily in the company’s people, facilities, and capital equipment. The business is now governed by a board of directors with no majority shareholder.

    Even in this tough economy, Jim Anderson, company president, estimates that the business this year will set an all-time record in revenue.

    The Schebler company employes 165 people full-time, in four divisions: an HVAC group that serves a 200-mile radius, a specialty fabrication shop, and a food equipment group and chimney division, that serve clients worldwide.

    HVAC a Specialty

    The HVAC group serves the residential and commercial service and commercial construction markets. They also do all of the company’s local residential equipment replacement.

    The group excels at commercial Design/Build projects, typically contracted through general contractors or building owners. They’re the premier HVAC contractor in the area for both residential and commercial applications. Kevin Lesthaeghe, Schebler’s director of the HVAC division admits, “We get a lot of help from the software that we use.”

    To ensure accurate estimations for new construction and equipment replacements, and quick, efficient heat load calculations that avail a bounty of information for quotes, Schebler uses Wrightsoft technology.

    “We began using Wrightsoft in July of 2011. We were looking for a way to be different from other companies; we wanted advanced technology that would have a short learning curve, with loads of capability,” Lesthaeghe says. “Of course, it had to be accurate, too. We now use their Right Mobile Consultant — a mobile, web-based tool with a presentation app for iPad.”

    “Our customers are always wowed by the fast, sophisticated approach,” adds Charlie Crabb, residential estimator. “With Wrightsoft, we don’t just give them a quote, we can show them how we came up with the numbers.”

    Schebler has won top honors for Carrier high-efficiency sales and a Carrier President’s Award. It was the first company to sell R410a air conditioning and heat pump systems in their region, and are currently selling it three-to one over its competitors.

    “Wrightsoft’s Carrier Mobile Consultant is the perfect tool for the HVAC business. Not only does it improve the homeowner’s confidence in your quote, but it’s impressive and makes the sales process much faster and simpler,” Lesthaeghe says.

    Their niche? Selling whole systems rather than single replacements. This is preferred because Schebler is then able to guarantee the entire system.

    “On the residential side, we do a fair amount of replacement jobs,” Anderson says. “But the commercial side is almost all new construction. Each division has its own sales and marketing strategy, with continued growth expected in all segments.”

    Even though Schebler’s divisions are supported by a common manufacturing group, separate processes are used when appropriate to keep proper focus and efficiency. Their operational capabilities play a strong role in delivering each of the division’s value propositions. Schebler maintains an ISO 9001 certification to support their quality system.

    Heroic ingenuity

    While members of the firm’s residential and commercial HVAC groups typically operate within a 100-mile radius of home base, the professionals in the chimney division, and in the food equipment and specialty fabrication groups build equipment to meet various needs, by design throughout North America.

    Schebler’s chimney division experts came to the rescue at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx when a last minute design flaw in the existing chimney (not a Schebler installation) was discovered during the final walk-through, shortly before the stadium’s grand opening. Schebler pros designed extension pieces to increase the height of the chimney. The retrofit was installed two days before the first fans arrived.

    The specialty fabrication group provides contract manufacturing and field maintenance services for a large variety of industries. They apply laser and plasma cutting, forming and welding processes to produce fabrications from stainless steel, aluminum and carbon steel. Their craftsmanship can be found in agricultural and construction equipment, food-grade fabrications, monorails and tanks, to name a few.

    While they’re well known for completing urgent, high-quality, limited-production projects, Schebler is also recognized for performing extended-term production as an extension of their customer’s business.

    Schebler’s food equipment division has solidified its reputation as a creative and quality provider of specialized machinery for food products in the confectionary market. Its Revol belt coater is used around the world to coat confectionary products with chocolate or yogurt.

    Rachel Wenger is a writer for Common Ground Uncommon Communications, LLC, Manheim, PA.