HVAC pioneer set for bumper 2021

Gordon Sutton, Johnson Controls Hitachi Air Conditioning MD offers some insight into developments at the company, the challenges it faces and what’s in store for the future

Who you are to the UK HVAC market?

Hitachi has been an HVAC pioneer since it opened its first air conditioning factory in 1944 and has a history of innovation in the market. In 2015, Johnson Controls Hitachi Air Conditioning was established as a joint venture where two 100-year-old histories came together to create one company. With one of the most diverse product portfolios in the industry, we’re in a commercially-strong position to expand our sales across the UK and Europe. Hitachi has regional offices in Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Russia and here in the UK, all served by a 40,000m2 manufacturing and training facility in Spain. This ‘local’ facility means our European customers benefit from cutting-edge Japanese engineering technology; design and manufacturing processes to meet the specific needs of the European market; faster delivery times; higher availability of spare parts and a lower carbon footprint. Almost the entire Hitachi product range is manufactured in Europe for the European market.

Describe your products range?

Hitachi products meet the full spectrum of HVAC needs including mini split (RAC), large split (PAC),

VRF and chillers but our big push for this year will be our Yutaki range of air source heat pumps (ASHPs). Our product range is broader than many of our competitors so we can meet the cooling and heating needs of anything from a single apartment up to a large industrial application. Hitachi’s VRF and chiller are fantastic products which demonstrate our Japanese heritage and innovation. The Frost Wash patented self-cleaning technology washes away dust and allergens which can build inside wall units, making indoor air better for asthma and allergy sufferers while side flow VRF is designed for city applications where due to limited outside space, planning restrictions or building regulations, external air conditioning units are impractical. The market is largely unaware of these exciting and innovative products so that’s something we’ll be addressing in 2021

Which of your products/services are in demand?

We’re already seeing increased demand for ASHPs following the UK Government’s launch of its 10-point plan which included eliminating gas boilers from new homes by 2025. The Yutaki range is completely aligned to the Green

Homes Grant Scheme where eligible homeowners and landlords in England will receive up to £5,000 (£10,000 for low-income households) to cover the installation of a range of energy-saving measures, including ASHPs. Our Yutaki-M has been extremely popular in Ireland where a mix of government initiatives and off-grid rural communities relying on calor gas or oil for heating has seen renewable heat technology being installed in large-scale new builds and social housing for some time.

Facing similar challenges in terms of being off- grid, Scotland will be a key market for us this year. We’ve recently appointed Stuart Kennedy as our sales manager for Scotland and he’ll be actively connecting with consultants, contractors and distributors in the region over the coming months.

What are the current HVAC challenges you face?

A chronic skills shortage is still a major issue in the HVAC industry and we recognise the need for ongoing training to close the skills gap as new products and technologies hit the market. Our European training facility is available to UK customers as soon as international travel is back on the agenda and, in the meantime, our free UK product training is available online and covers all current products.

Has the pandemic affected your operations?

The safety of staff, customers and our supply chain is our top priority and we are working within all the latest guidelines for England, Wales, Scotland and ROI. The Maidenhead team moved to home working last March and stay in regular contact to ensure it remains ‘business as usual’ as far as possible. Customer meetings are primarily online with critical site meetings attended in line with the latest government advice and Hitachi company policy. We’re relocating to our new offices in the next few weeks and looking forward to a gradual transition of key staff back to the office, and welcoming customers back to in-person meetings as soon as we are able.

Do you have any other plans for the future?

Our new aircademy training suite featuring our latest products will be launched in the spring and, while virtual training has been available throughout 2020, we are looking forward to reopening our hands-on product training courses as government restrictions lift. We’re launching several new products in the spring, so 2021 looks to be an exciting time for Hitachi in the UK.

12 April 2021

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