pme traveled to Lebanon, Tennessee to chat with Lochinvar executives, including Director of Marketing Michael Troka, Program Manager-Product Development Robert Wiseman, Product Program Manager Mike Juhnke and Product Coordinator Jonathan Baggett. During the interview, subjects such as remote connectivity, the company’s development in the pool-heating space and its focus now and in the future were discussed.
pme: What is Lochinvar focused on right now?
MT: The biggest area is we always want to set ourselves apart from the competition. There are 26 competitors out there and in a lot of the markets we deal in we have 30 to 40-some-percent market share. In North America, there is not a lot of room to grow and steal share from. So what do you need to do? We need to bring innovation into the products and categories we currently are in and look for other ways to provide solutions for our customers that nobody else is doing. Investment in research and development is No. 1 for us. I don’t know if there is a close No. 2. We have roughly 70-75 engineers on staff and that number continues to grow year in and year out. There is a race in many other areas to high-efficiency products. A lot of that area is getting figured out. The future will be how do we start to create solutions for customers that add value in different ways that they don’t know about today?
pme: How has the pool-heating side of things helped move the company forward?
JB: A big deal right now is our Aquas system. It’s the birth child from our packaged system concept. You can take any of our products and put them together with any other products, such as external heat exchangers, valves and motors, and put it on one skid so it’s easy to slide into one mechanical room and you go and hook it up. Out of that came our pool packaged systems where you separate pool water from our external heat exchanger. It’s an easy way to get that harsh pool water out of our direct-fire equipment because longevity always has been an industry issue. Anytime you run pool water through one of those units you can’t expect it to last 30 years. Aquas was born out of that job-shop concept. We’re proud of the offering we have. We now can go anywhere from 280,000 Btu/h all the up to 6 million Btu/h.
pme: What’s your relationship with plumbing and mechanical engineers and how important is that to the company?
JB: Lochinvar strives continuously to maintain meaningful relationships with plumbing and mechanical engineers. These professionals have an invaluable insight into the needs of the industry. Through their comments, suggestions and requests, Lochinvar is able to keep a close eye on the pulse of the industry and is able to react and decisively to the ever-changing world of hydronics. Partnerships like this are truly at the heart of everything we do.
pme: What else is new on the commercial products front?
RW: Our Crest flagship boiler is doing very well. We have new sizes and have increased the controls package. We constantly are updating technology, so we have our foot in the door there. The next step is utilizing this technology and the data we have from it to the best of our ability. We have the connectivity to do anything you want. As a result, we have more data on usage than we’ve ever had before. Learning how to digest it is the next step. All this information is out there in the cloud, it’s now a matter of how do we use all this information?”
pme: How critical are the company’s training facilities, including Lochinvar University, here in Lebanon?
MJ: Capital investment in this building is very important. Our training capabilities have all the latest tooling. We invest in and we train people. It’s the gold standard in the industry. We use it as a tool to teach from and learn from. It’s like having your own focus groups. We are teaching and we are gaining great feedback and insight. That’s how you innovate and always make yourself better. You have to be good problem-solvers.
pme: What’s up next for Lochinvar?
MT: Short-term it’s solving the day-to-day issues. Long-term it’s innovation and where we are going in the future. A lot of things in our laboratory we aren’t looking at in terms of the next six months to two years. We are looking at 10 years out. Our product planning is very dynamic and there is a lot of behind-the-green-curtain activity going on. You will see us moving in different directions. Working with parent company A. O. Smith, they are a global company that will present a lot of opportunity for us outside North America that will allow us to grow in many different ways.
This article was originally titled "Lochinvar continues to evolve" in the February 2019 print edition of PM Engineer.