No matter where we live - whether it's a condominium downtown, a home in the suburbs or a rambling country estate - a few basic needs must be satisfied. Safety, comfort and efficiency are at the top of that list.
Recognizing that these needs are so essential to homeowners, Ingersoll Rand took its well-known consumer brands in the residential security and comfort solutions markets and formed a new Residential Solutions business. Announced in June 2009, Residential Solutions brought together Schlage, Trane and American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning to create new opportunities for HVACR distributors and contractors, while offering an innovative set of products and services for homeowners.
The formation of Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions was preceded two years earlier by Ingersoll Rand's acquisition of Trane Inc., formerly American Standard Companies Inc. With Trane and American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning, Ingersoll Rand was able to complete its portfolio of diversified businesses, forming a global enterprise focused on creating safe, comfortable and efficient environments for people at home and at work, says John Evans, Residential Solutions vice president of marketing and product management.
With a successful integration between the two companies, Ingersoll Rand took the next step in creating Residential Solutions. “It's been a natural, very positive and exciting blend of the businesses,” says Joyce Warrington, HVACR brand marketing director. “We've discovered a unique alignment in our distribution, in our values and in our philosophy. We are well on our way to building a great future together.”
Building the Future Home
Just 18-months-old, Residential Solutions has already proven itself to consumers, distributors and contractors. Evans notes that its success stems from the value proposition of providing safer, more comfortable and more energy-efficient homes. “Our new business was founded on the basis that we provide consumers more innovative products and services to help manage their homes, even remotely,” he says.
Indeed, Trane and American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning are well-regarded and popular brands among HVACR wholesaler distributors as well as consumers, while Schlage locks are known to virtually anyone who has ever turned a key to open a door. With such trusted brands providing tangible benefits to consumers, Ingersoll Rand's Residential Solutions business is moving forward to develop security and home comfort products that are capable of being integrated in ways that delight consumers and create new selling opportunities for distributors.
For example, Schlage LiNK™ is a security product that includes an electronic keypad lock and security camera, which allows homeowners to monitor and manage their homes via remote access devices such as web-enabled computers or mobile phones, for a modest monthly fee. With the Residential Solutions partnership, Schlage LiNK can now be used to manage and control a home's energy use remotely with the Trane Remote Energy Management Thermostat as an accessory. The company estimates that consumers can reduce energy consumption in a home by up to 15 percent by actively using the Trane remote system.
The Trane Remote Energy Management Thermostat is sold through retail environments and Trane Comfort Specialist dealers. “It's a terrific option for customers to consider,” Warrington says. “With it, a Trane dealer can offer consumers both HVACR and security solutions for their home. That's unique in the industry and it really shows the power of the two brands and businesses coming together for the distributors and the homeowners to deliver the ultimate in safety, comfort and efficiency.”
About three-quarters of Residential Solutions' sales go through independent dealers and distributors. Evans says the business is always looking for the best performers in each market and will open their own distribution offices if they can't find the type of distributors that provide the right mix of support and service to customers. Residential Solutions also works with retailers and builders. With the various distribution channels, Evans says they have many ways to reach consumers - indirectly and directly. “That's why we feel that our opportunities are so vast,” he says. “The more time we spend with consumers, the more we learn about them and the better able we are to meet their needs.”
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In addition to learning about their end customers through their distribution channels, Residential Solutions also conducts research. With Schlage LiNK, Residential Solutions has a base of subscribers, and representatives who talk to homeowners daily about how they use the product, what they like about it and what they dislike. “We want to understand not just where they bought the product, but what went into their decision and their affinity toward promotions and technology,” Evans says. “We're striving to understand what they face when they make a purchasing decision. We want to create a one-to-one marketing relationship with them that's more than just sending a flyer to their home.”
What do consumers want? They want to be able to manage their lives, including their home comfort needs, on their terms, Evans says. They are growing increasingly sophisticated about the technology that enables them to exercise more control over their heating and cooling systems. “They want to do it the way they want to and when they want to,” Evans says. “With the combined technical sophistication of Trane, American Standard Heating & Air Conditioning and Schlage, and our ongoing consumer research, this represents a huge opportunity for us.”
Knowing where and when consumers make purchases is one side of the coin. The other is developing and building the products that address unmet needs and that are available when they want them. By putting these two sides together, Residential Solutions can rapidly feed its “innovation pipeline.” To Evans, this means basing decisions on what consumers want rather than what engineers can dream up. “Instead of building it and hoping they will come, our product and service development efforts are based on our understanding of how consumers want to live their lives,” he says. “That drives our innovation process.”
It was precisely this innovation process and knowing its customers that led Residential Solutions to launch the Trane ComfortLink™ II Thermostat in the first quarter of 2011. Named a winner of the “2010 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Awards” and an “International Consumer Electronics Show Innovations 2011 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree,” the ComfortLink II Thermostat has a 7-inch touchscreen, gathers online weather forecasts, and connects the key components of a home's HVACR system and adjusts as weather conditions change. “Soon, it will have additional compatibility with our Schlage LiNK product, so consumers can more effectively manage their home energy needs from a personal digital assistant device,” Evans says.
Residential Solutions is committed to developing a close relationship with HVACR distributors and dealers in a number of different ways, both formal and informal. “The voice of distributors and dealers is important because they are closest to the end customers and bring an important point of view to Residential Solutions,” Warrington says.
Residential Solutions' new Hyperion™/ForeFront™ air handler system, which was recently launched, is an example of a new product that includes the design input of distributors and dealers. “It was built from the ground up, combining our understanding of both consumer and dealer needs,” Warrington says. “There was a tremendous amount of research conducted with dealers before the product was built, so we could better understand from their perspective what features needed to be included.”
Residential Solutions asked about the problems that contractors faced with the installation of air-handling systems and the issues they faced related to callbacks once the air handlers were installed.
For distributors' contractor customers, the excitement for the air handler is found in the modular construction and smaller size. In fact, Residential Solutions bills the installation of the air handler as a one-person job from start to finish - and no component weighs more than 48 pounds. The cabinet disassembles in less than two minutes, and its unique design allows four-way installation to fit into any number of challenging spaces. “Once dealers see it and disassemble it, the excitement grows immediately,” Warrington says.
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Evans says leaders from various parts of Residential Solutions are spending more time in the field to hear from distributors. They also talk regularly to distributors through phone calls to augment the more formal and regular communications. A weekly electronic communication, The Connection, keeps distributors and dealers informed of product updates, marketing and sales promotions and best practices from around the company. Daily electronic updates also are available to distributors and dealers.
Residential Solutions also sponsors a number of forums and councils with its HVACR distributors to gauge new trends that may be emerging, and to gather feedback on various products and programs. Annual distributor conferences, quarterly council meetings as well as regional conferences provide distributors with an opportunity to be part of the conversation with the company. “We build the meetings around their agendas,” Warrington says. “They are extremely engaged and are really interested in having these two-way conversations.”
With Residential Solutions' insights into consumers' habits and its marketing expertise, distributors are eager to learn from them. In fact, marketing and sales issues are the topics that distributors want to hear more about: how can they retain customers; what can they do to attract new customers; how can they sell and promote their businesses?
Residential Solutions also works closely with distributors on maintaining an efficient distribution channel. This ensures there is enough product to meet customer needs, but not so much that products are backing up in warehouses. “We're constantly evaluating the right operating model,” Evans says. Through sales inventory and operations planning, Residential Solutions is better able to forecast business and, in turn, work with its supply chain to build the right products at the right time. “It allows us to operate efficiently but, at the same time, make sure we're not missing a sale,” he says.
Such a process, Evans notes, is not the province of one area. “Everybody has ownership, from sales to product management to finance,” he says. “This is truly a business process that we're continually developing. We know that if we do it right, we'll satisfy more customers, operate more efficiently and develop strategic supply chain partnerships.”
Evans says Residential Solutions will continue to build partnerships in all facets of its business, from learning about what consumers need to be safe, comfortable and efficient, to talking to distributors and dealers about making sure they have the right products and the sales support to sell them. As technology and consumer needs evolve, Ingersoll Rand's Residential Solutions business has its pulse on the market and will be there at the right time with the right solutions.
Tom Pericˊ is the editor of HVACR Distribution Business magazine. Contact him at 856/874-0049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trane Hyperion Air Handler
Significance: Trane sought the input of distributors and dealers around the country when designing the Hyperion air handler platform. As a result, it offers the best of everything, including ease of installation, ease of service and superior performance. With brilliant technological innovations throughout, Hyperion is the safest, most reliable, most efficient air handler line you've ever seen.
Benefits: With its exclusive modular cabinet and integrated rail system, the Hyperion is easily disassembled in less than two minutes into four major components, each weighing less than 48 pounds.
- Each component easily fits through attic openings, scuttleholes and crawlspace openings.
- Installation can be a one-person job from start to finish.
- 2-series models up to 3-ton easily fit over water heaters, and feature front returns for installation between studs.
- 2-series models from 1.5 to 5 ton are 3-way convertible right out of the box.
- All other series models are 4-way convertible right out of the box.
Flexible, reliable, efficient and safe, the Trane Hyperion incorporates numerous new innovations that will revolutionize the industry.
- No “sweating” or external condensation typically found on other air handlers eliminates mold growth or water damage, offering homeowners unmatched peace of mind.
- Air-Tite II™ insulated double-wall cabinet greatly reduces energy loss, which allows the entire system to work more efficiently.
- Slide-out, all-aluminum coil for greater durability and corrosion-resistance at every level.
- Slide-out Vortica blower maximizes airflow while reducing noise.
- 50 percent fewer parts than previous models for greater long-term reliability.
- Optional hydronic or electric heating can be added with a simple slide-in module containing all necessary connections.
Contact: Joyce Warrington, HVACR brand marketing director, Ingersoll Rand Residential Solutions, 903/581-3467, Joyce.Warrington@irco.com.