Call it the Dream Team of the HVACR industry — the leading brands and divisions within Emerson, all focused on supporting today's residential, commercial and industrial application needs. Together, the products — such as Copeland Scroll® compressors and Emerson® thermostats — combined with engineering and design capabilities and an ability to stay close to its distribution network, make Emerson Climate Technologies the world's leading provider of HVACR solutions.

As a business platform of Emerson, a diversified global manufacturing and technology company, Emerson Climate Technologies benefits from the expertise of its various businesses and divisions. One of the stars of this dream team and an Emerson Climate Technologies flagship brand is Copeland®, which over the years has tapped into this rich vein of technology, yielding many product breakthroughs.

Take, for example, Copeland Scroll compressors, the industry's leading scroll technology. Emerson Climate Technologies announced in September that it had produced its 75 millionth Copeland Scroll compressor. These compressors have been leading the market with continued advances in energy efficiency, ease of installation and diagnostic capabilities.

Karl Zellmer, vice president of Sales for Emerson Climate Technologies Air Conditioning Division, points to the Copeland Scroll UltraTech™ compressor family of products. With its unique two-stage scroll compressors and advanced diagnostics, this compressor offers comfort solutions for homeowners by providing lower relative humidity, improved temperature and humidity control, and significant energy savings.

Its Copeland Scroll ZRK5 compressor is a high-efficiency product, with a design suited for both the residential and light commercial markets. It has recently been optimized for R-22 service and export, and the new ZRK5 consolidates 51 legacy models to just 12. “All of our distributors are happy about being able to reduce the number of SKUs,” Zellmer says.

In November, Emerson Climate Technologies introduced the Copeland Discus Digital™ compressor as the latest breakthrough in their semi-hermetic compressor line. The new compressor offers continuous digital modulation from 10 percent to 100 percent, providing the most precise method of capacity control, which makes it ideal for temperature-sensitive refrigeration applications. This compressor allows the system to match the capacity being generated to the required load, providing the opportunity to operate more efficiently, which results in optimum system performance and energy savings.

Another recent product breakthrough is Emerson's compressor electronics platform. This includes the Copeland PerformanceAlert™ and Comfort Alert® diagnostics modules for refrigeration and air-conditioning applications, respectively. These self-contained, stand-alone modules deliver a diagnostic capability that is unique to Emerson by using the compressor as a sensor to detect electrical problems and common system-related failures. “The industry has a need for equipment that can diagnose and, in some instances, protect itself from costly failure until a qualified contractor arrives for service. That helps homeowners and end-users lower maintenance costs and system downtime but also saves contractors valuable time by enabling faster, more accurate diagnosis and ultimately reducing callbacks,” says Bob Labbett, vice president of marketing for Emerson Climate Technologies Distribution Services business. Once the diagnostic module is installed on the compressor, it can provide an early warning for potential issues, using fault codes that help the service technician identify the root cause of the problem and then take action to solve the problem for his customer.

Backing up the Copeland brand products — and many other Emerson Climate Technologies products — is Distribution Services. For wholesalers, Distribution Services is a one-stop shop for a wide range of products and solutions. The people within Distribution Services provide education, training and product support for wholesalers and contractors.

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Formed in 2002, Distribution Services was an opportunity for Emerson Climate Technologies to help its wholesalers build their business and serve customers with Emerson products.

What started as the aftermarket arm for Copeland brand products evolved into an organization that is responsible for the sales, marketing and distribution of the full line of Copeland and Browning brand products and Emerson's lines of motors, valves, controls and system protectors. Distribution Services consists of a dedicated sales force working with wholesalers and contractors; it also works closely with White Rodgers to coordinate sales and distribution activities.

The best evidence of this consolidated approach is a visit to its distribution center outside of Indianapolis. This state-of-the-art facility, located in Mt. Comfort, IN, consolidates the Emerson Comfort Technologies products, and it serves as a single point of shipment. There are more than 25,000 different SKUs and more than 2,200 customers serviced by this distribution center. “We're pretty proud of it,” Labbett notes. “It's a world-class facility.” He says on-time delivery of products is close to 90 percent, and they have reduced lead times from 10 days to two during the last five years.

Emerson Climate Technologies' relationship with wholesaler distributors dates back 75 years when it began selling its Copeland brand products through this channel. “We've always recognized the importance of the distribution model,” Labbett says. “In everything that we do, we seek their input and we communicate with them.”

Labbett says the relationship is key. Distributors are the local link to the customers who will buy and install the Emerson Climate Technologies products, helping to provide feedback. “They understand their local markets and they're a resource for validating our new products when we launch them in the aftermarket,” Labbett says, all while providing inventory that is ready and available for customers.

Emerson Climate Technologies provides support for its 3,200 wholesaler branch locations to help them market and sell to customers. There are more than 50 salespeople in the field who call on wholesalers and contractors throughout the year. Its “sales blitzes” provide wholesalers with training and support for Emerson products and services that they may find particularly useful for their local markets. The wholesaler will typically bring in contractors to these events so they can learn firsthand about new and innovative products.

Emerson's customer portal has become a major communications channel to connect the business with its wholesalers. Begun in 2001 as a transactional site for its wholesalers, the portal has become the first place for them to turn for updated information, marketing and sales literature and training.

The portal is increasingly becoming the place for customers to place orders for Emerson products. More than 4,500 wholesaler employees have already registered on the site. Labbett points to its recent launch of training videos that have become popular with distributors. “Over 70 percent of our wholesaler branches now have high-speed internet connections, and the employees who work at these branches are also younger. Online videos are becoming a more convenient and effective way to communicate, and they can address different learning styles, so we thought this approach made a lot of sense. We can convey a message in two-and-a-half minutes and deliver it in an engaging format that's been proven to increase recall and retention,” he says.

Over the years, Emerson saw opportunities to help wholesalers by working with their contractor customers. Not only was it an opportunity to demonstrate to them the value of Emerson Climate Technologies products, but it provided a forum for contractors who install the products to offer their insights and feedback.

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Today, there is a dedicated sales force calling directly on contractors. “That's been invaluable for new product development,” Labbett says. “We do focus groups and we've expanded our relationships with them, and it's helped us to understand their needs.”

In the interactions that its salespeople have with contractors and end-users, they always stress the value of the local wholesaler. Labbett notes that there also is a dedicated group of salespeople calling on major retail and food service customers, promoting Emerson products and services. “We have these relationships across the channels to help us understand what's going on in the marketplace and the value we provide,” Labbett says.

Most recently, a large national retail chain began installing Copeland Scroll Digital™ compressors for its commercial refrigeration needs. “It started with showing the customer how Emerson can help them save money and make their systems more dependable. Once they were convinced that this was the right technology for them and the compressors were installed in stores, we worked with our wholesalers to make sure that they had backup compressors in stock in the cities where the customer's stores are located. Our Educational Services group then trained all of their contractors nationwide. Today, these contractors not only understand the technology and have the information and tools to support it, they also have access to digital scroll replacement compressors when and where they need them,” Labbett says.

Because of the breadth and depth of the organization, Emerson Climate Technologies is able to provide wholesalers with trends within the industry and understand their impact on the channel. Most recently, Emerson has stayed close to its customers on such issues as the R-22 refrigerant transition, the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009), Energy Independence and Security Act (2007) and other future regulatory changes affecting our industry. “You can't overcommunicate on these topics,” Zellmer says. “And we hire bright people who quickly become integrated with the industry and help our customers be more successful in a challenging environment.”


Michael Maynard is a business writer based in Providence, RI. He writes frequently on HVACR, construction and architecture issues. Contact him at michael.maynard@lycos.com.

Best Practice

Voice of the Customer

Definition and Example: Voice of the Customer is a formal process within Emerson Climate Technologies that involves customer feedback on the development of new products. As an example, the company recently conducted a focus group for the new compressor controls with 12 contractors in six states.

Significance: This best practice helps to alleviate contractor pain points by ensuring that products are designed and manufactured for easy installation and service.

Benefits: The major benefit is validation that a new product will be accepted by contractors and the marketplace at large and easy for wholesalers to promote and sell.

Procedure:

  1. Identify what decisions or actions will be taken with the research output.

  2. Define the research learning objectives. This is to provide a focus on what aspect of the customer's point of view you are interested in … and why.

  3. Identify which customer segments and/or customers will be the “best” participants, based on what you can learn from them.

  4. Develop a recruitment list and recruit people to participate in the research, sharing with each person the purpose of the research and why their opinions are valued. It is customary to offer an incentive for participating — something of value to the customers in recognition of their professional cooperation and time.

  5. Develop a discussion guide to serve as an outline of what you want to cover during the focus group.

  6. Develop stimulus materials or tools that can help participants understand what you are seeking their opinions about as well as express their reactions in a thoughtful and consistent way. Examples might include concept statements, visuals of the product features and worksheets.

  7. Use an independent or “third party” person to moderate the focus groups and ensure objectivity.

  8. Record the focus groups to correctly capture all participant comments and reactions.

  9. Have a follow-up meeting to review and discuss the findings and take action on incorporating the Voice of the Customer input into the product development process.

People involved: Emerson sales, marketing and engineering representatives; wholesalers, contractors and end users (customer mix varies).

Timing: During the past five years, Emerson's dedication to Voice of the Customer has yielded successful new product launches, including the Copeland Scroll® Outdoor Condensing Unit, Comfort Alert®, Copeland Performance Alert™, Copeland Discus Digital™ and the development of its Online Product Information Tool. This best practice reduces time to market and improves the probability of success for the product launch.

Contact: Bob Labbett, vice president of Marketing, Distribution Services, Emerson Climate Technologies, 937/498.3919, Bob.Labbett@emerson.com

Emerson Climate Technologies at a Glance

Top Executive: Edgar M. Purvis Jr., Executive Vice President and Business Leader
Headquarters: Sidney, OH
Operations: More than 40 locations worldwide
Annual Sales: $3.8B (2008 Fiscal)
Major Brands: Browning, Copeland, CPC, Dixell, Emerson, Fusite, Intelligent Store Architecture, Therm-O-Disc, UltraTech Communicating System, Vilter, White-Rodgers
Website: www.EmersonClimate.com