Tag Archives: China

Our Trip To The AHR Show In Orlando, Florida

The full flight didn’t allow for an upgrade, but we’ll take an on-time take-off and a tailwind that helped us arrive 1/2 hour earlier than expected any day.  In fact, it seemed like our flight from LAX to ORL was the shortest 4 1/2 hour flight ever.

Unfortunately, getting to The Hard Rock Hotel seemed to take longer than the flight because of a gps system from Enterprise RAC that was working on about a 3 mile delay.  But we made it to the room and enjoyed a wonderful dinner at The Palm in the lobby of the hotel.

Getting to the convention center on Monday morning from the hotel was uneventful and quick. Walking into the main hall reminded us of the last few shows, but it seemed like there was a good turnout of attendees and the convention center floor (approximately 354,000 square feet) was full of vendors.  In fact, there were slated to be about 40,000 attendees and 1,800 exhibitors.  About 200 of the vendors had not displayed before.

AHR Schedule

Many of the majors were there, LG, Gree, GE, Amana.  And there were so many parts dealers, it was hard to decipher one from another.

I don’t know how so many vendors can sell copper piping, ducts, vents, covers, and other small parts.  But they seemed to be busy.  It also seemed like everyone and their mothers who manufacture air conditioners were also selling portables and ductless mini-splits. Again, reminding me of the last few AHR shows.

However, most were involved heavily in the R410A way of life than the older R22 of old.  And the transition to it had been a large undertaking.

Missing from the show were a few major manufacturers like Trane and Fedders and the most impressive booths were Gree’s and LG’s.

Gree BoothGree Booth 2Gree Booth 3
Although a pretty standard setup, they were definitely showing a large variety of products.  Gree seems to manufacture product for about 25% of the industry (including Soleus and Hitachi) and LG seems to change their acronym every year (from Lucky Goldstar, to Life’s Good, to their current Life’s Green) to keep with the times.LG Booth

GE had a small booth displaying a re-vamped ductless system, but their pricing is still too high for the economy we’ve been in for the past couple of years.  Amana had a small booth as well, but nothing on display to really write home about.

All in all, it didn’t seem like there where a whole lot of new products or innovations at this year’s AHR Expo.  Although solar has been talked about a lot as of late, I still feel that we’re at least 3-5 years away from truly solar-powered products that are small enough, powerful enough, and cheap enough to replace our standard energy-eating air conditioning and heating products.  In fact, one of the only solar products we saw, was a solar charging station pictured below.

Solar charging station

There was some talk about the 7 companies with new innovations(Delphi, AIC Wireless, Danfoss, Daikan AC, Samsung, Muller Industries, AEC Design Group, and DuraSystems Barriers), but mostly they improved upon something as opposed to reinventing the wheel.  It’s time our industry really had a breakthrough product that uses very little to no energy, or is so cheap to manufacture, it’d turn the ac business on it’s head.

Unfortunately, those innovations haven’t come to fruition yet.

One company that is slated to begin production on a DC solar-powered ductless mini-split unit later this year didn’t even take part in the show.  We expected to at least see their booth and get more information about their truly unique product, but unfortunately, there was none to be had.

We were invited to a private party hosted by Airwell Fedders on Monday night where they were showing their latest wares, but unfortunately, we were underwhelmed.  Yes, they had a builder model ac on display, another couple of wall units, an outdoor condenser and the usual portable unit, all complete with R410A.

Airwell Fedders 2010 "A" Chassis

But we weren’t blown away by anything we saw or Anything the reps discussed.  And for a company crawling out of the black cloud of bankruptcy and under new ownership, they definitely missed their mark for 2010.  At least, they should have shown their new CRAC System discussed here!

In the end, we realized we could have stayed home and just replayed the video of the past few years of AHR shows in our heads and wouldn’t have missed a thing.

Wish We Could Still Sell American

When my father went into business for himself more than forty years ago, the adage was “buy American”. As time passed and into the early 1990s, it changed to “better and cheaper overseas”.

In the beginning, he only sold American made products. Fedders air conditioners, Maytag appliances, GE everything, Carrier, Modern Maid, O’Keiff & Merritt, all were produced within the States. Within only the past 10 years or so, most of the American manufacturers started outsourcing, and importing from countries like China, Korea, India, etc. The dollar began to weaken, and over time, as Thomas L Friedman likes to say, the World Got Flat.

To make a long story short, consumer confidence fell to it’s lowest point EVER today (38 in October–the lowest prior point was 43.2 in December, 1974), good workers are being laid-off from major companies like Whirlpool (5,000 worldwide, 1,000 within the US), all of the manufacturers are claiming major losses, including Whirlpool (-17%Q3), Electrolux (-2.4%Q3), and LG (-93%Q3!). Retailers, the same (Home Depot, Lowes, Best Buy). The housing and mortgage crisis has instigated a $840 billion dollar (why they still call it $700, is beyond me) government “bailout” or “rescue”. GM is asking the government for $10 billion of free-money while they discuss a merger with Chrysler.

With all this bad news, you’d think that business would really put their customers first. At least, that’s my hope. When I joined my dad in this venture about 8 years ago, I was always interested in satisfying every single customer who put enough faith and confidence in our company to deliver something that would allow their tenants to enjoy a nice family meal like a new stove, or a refrigerator. We would always try to bend over backwards to accommodate the needs of a client. We built relationships, put out a hand to shake it with confidence that we were offering the best deal, not always monetarily, but also in service and expertise. Ease of doing business and showing up when we say we were going to show up.

Bureaucracy is now prevalent in Korea, China, and the others. The value of customer first, has been lost. I was disappointed in the fact I had to search for the right person to speak/deal with when I had to call a certain Korean company, even though we purchased several million dollars worth of inventory from them last year. How is it we met the boss once more than five years ago, dealt with the order desk by fax since, and never heard from the sales manager ever again? Forget it if we have a question for them nowadays, we’d be lucky if we EVER heard back. We were even purchasing from two out of three of their product divisions, but have never heard from the sales manager from the other division until a lowly sales rep was hired just over a year ago and called on us. Although we’ve been buying from that division for more than 6 years, they suddenly tried to change our pricing structure to a higher-cost classification and demanded that we show almost 40 of their products on our floor.

After complaining about this to our lowly sales rep, we were APPROVED at the best price-level and had our responsibility for the items on the floor removed. However, it took another month to push a PO through this approval process, until I finally decided that we’d be better off not doing one ounce of business with this division again, canceling the PO, and telling the lowly sales rep I wasn’t going to buy another product from them. He blew it off and said that he understands our frustration.

I wish we were still able to buy American. As Thomas L Friedman discusses in his book I mentioned, America is struggling to find enough engineers to create the next great appliance, or the next great gadget. It’s sad. Especially if this is the way business is going to be conducted in the future!