Few HVAC manufacturers can say they’ve been in business for more than 100 years. This year, Nortek Global HVAC (formerly Nordyne) entered that distinction as it celebrated another year in the heating and cooling industry.
Founded as the International Oil Heating Co. in 1919, the company rose to success manufacturing coal-to-oil conversion furnace burners, which significantly helped reduce the air pollution caused by coal burning in its hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. Later in 1933, the company designed, built and installed the first heater for mobile homes. That important milestone helped it become the leader in manufactured housing HVAC, and that innovation continues today.
Nortek Global HVAC recently introduced the first all-aluminum coil technology for use in residential HVAC applications and patented a methodology that eliminates hot gas reheat circuit instability and the risk of potential freezing experienced on dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS) when operating during cold and high-humidity ambient conditions.
Nortek president Philip Windham tells SNIPS what’s next.
What would you say have been some of the highlight changes at Nortek Global HVAC in recent years?
We have been fortunate to purposefully evolve across our 100-year history. In the last 15 years we have morphed from a manufactured housing first organization into a manufacturer of indoor comfort products for residential, manufactured housing, light commercial and heating markets across the globe. Our footprint, brands, markets served, and quality culture are the top four changes that positively contribute to our continued success.
How would you say the residential HVACR market has changed the most?
Being pointedly honest, regulatory burdens have changed the way we work in our Engineering and Product Management departments. Many of the same talented minds that have led our company with industry firsts and innovations — like our inverter-driven iQ Drive products, 95% AFUE manufactured housing furnaces, Reznor-branded unit heaters, DOAS products and our 95% gas pack units — are now bogged down in less creative projects as we march to the drumbeat of federally mandated minimums. That stated, we roll with the punches, adapt and deliver. That’s a testament to the type of people we have in our organization and their sense of maintaining a performance-driven culture.
Nortek offers a multitude of HVACR lines and brands, how does the company differentiate itself from other brands?
The Nortek difference is exemplified by our commitment to the relentless pursuit of excellence in delivering superior quality products coupled with our ability to out-maneuver competition through our manufacturing agility. The bedrock of our business is built upon our organizational embrace of continuous improvement. Most recently, we transitioned all of our manufacturing facilities globally to meet the ISO Quality Standard, and we are now ISO 9001:2015 compliant everywhere. These changes were completed to reinforce consistent high-quality manufacturing through our Demand Flow Technology certified manufacturing facilities. DFT allows us to manufacture based on what our customers need, significantly reducing lead times and helping our customers turn their inventories faster, freeing up cash flow for investments more strategic than the boxes in their warehouses. Also, each unit manufactured on the line receives three quality checks at every station. All furnaces are gas fired tested, and air conditioners run and leak tested at capacity for a 20 foot lineset. Our products do not leave the manufacturing floor until they pass over 100 specific quality checks.
A header is hand-brazed onto a chilled water coil by a Nortek factory brazing technician. All brazing techs are re-certified every 30 days to maintain high quality control and prevent leaks.
What would you say is the main demand of HVACR systems today?
Contractors demand reliable products that install easily and are backed by easily-accessible customer support. The contractor needs resources at his fingertips, so we’ve developed several mobile tools to back the contractor’s expertise with factory assistance. We developed chargecalulator.com, a free, intuitive online charging guide that helps contractors quickly calculate the correct refrigerant charge for our air conditioners and heat pumps. We also offer a mobile literature library and free call in technical support to help contractors troubleshoot issues in the field.
Founded as the International Oil Heating Co. in 1919, Nortek rose to success manufacturing coal-to-oil conversion furnace burners. The innovative oil burners helped reduce coal-burning air pollution challenges faced in native city of St. Louis, considered the dirtiest city in the Mississippi Valley at the time.
What role has partnering with independent contractors and distributors played in Nortek’s success?
Nortek Global HVAC is dedicated to independent distribution. These are the businesses that have allowed us to grow exponentially in various new markets and product categories. Their expertise in serving the independent contractor and their prevalent store locations make it easier for us to focus on designing and manufacturing great products while they focus on getting our products into the hands of the experts. Additionally, Nortek Global HVAC is a proud supporter of ACCA, NATE and HARDI. Last but not least, consumers are more sophisticated than ever before. They expect their independently-owned HVAC contractors to have a website, advertising and marketing programs like Fortune 500 companies do. Those are expensive investments for small contractors, so we assist them with marketing tools for building websites, brochures, price books, consumer emails and in-home selling tools. We handle the marketing, so contractors can focus on running the daily part of their businesses.
Which part of Nortek’s business has grown the most over the years?
NGH has grown 4X in the residential space since 1997. We also purchased Reznor in 2014 and have significantly grown our product portfolio and market position in planned products like gas unit heaters and gas radiant heat as well as more sophisticated, configurable products like our DOAS units and award winning, energy efficient gas electric rooftop units. Digitization and smart technology have absolutely transformed the way contractors troubleshoot, improving service call times through QR code scanning, factory-supported mobile apps, online FAQ’s and service/repair videos.
What are some goals and initiatives you are working on at Nortek to get the company to its next 100 years?
Nortek Global HVAC partners with our independent distributors and contractors to deliver quality products from our world-class manufacturing facilities. It is our priority to continue to evolve and be sure to deliver the products and services our customers need while providing dedicated factory support every step of the way. Our continued focus is to help our channel and partners grow profitably. This strategy helped nurture the first 100 years of our business and there’s no reason to change that formula. But don’t misunderstand that as standing still. We will continue our legacy of bold innovation in the industry and work to uncover alternative, disruptive products and partners that will set us apart for the next 100 years.