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Fit for purpose

Standardisation would mean more competitive prices and larger stockholdings of fewer combinations. And the industry could be the winner
Fit for purpose
During the past ten years, there has been a sustained attempt to rationalise the range of circular duct sizes to comply with European standards.

Traditionally in the UK the imperial duct dimensions increased in size by inches, and many of these sizes have been retained with a metric equivalent. System designs have ensured that these intermediate sizes stay and there is no major incentive, therefore, for the installer to change to a more standardised system.

This has been less than a complete success because so many of those people responsible for design still use the metric equivalent of the old and extensive range of the imperial sizes.

If only the designers and the manufacturers could agree, the entire industry would be the winner with more competitive prices and larger stockholdings of fewer combinations of fittings.

Reality of UK market

There have been many arguments and discussions about the advantages of circular ducts against alternative duct systems. In the UK we suffer from land being very expensive leaing to very high rents which translates into pressure on designers to maximise the lettable floor space in every building, thus creating cramped plant rooms and shallow voids above the ceilings.

Consequently, it is not possible to install circular ducting in every project because of space restrictions. Hotchkiss Air Supply hasrecognised this fact and has a manufacturing capability to supply not only a full range of spiral tube and circular fittings but also flat oval and rectangular ducting to support customer requirements. Hotchkiss Air Supply also has an extensive range of accessories to complement its manufactured products.

Many designs now use exposed ductwork as an aesthetic feature and, depending on design criteria, this could involve all three of the primary ductwork systems; flat oval, circular and rectangular.

All systems are readily available from HAS in the popular Colourduct range.

'Hotchkiss' role as a major supplier to the UK ductwork industry is to provide a total service from one source which includes all requirements whatever the mix - flat oval, circular, rectangular and all associated accessories,' says George Latimer, HAS managing director.

Saving costs and site safety can go hand-in-hand. Ductwork should not be delivered to sites as individual items. Consideration must be given to pre-jointing duct runs, factory fixing of duct fittings and accessories, together with shrink wrapping of pelletised ducting and stillages fitted with circular fittings for floor loadings. All this will increase safe working conditions and installation productivity and at the same time produce cost savings.

There are many PFI-type projects where there can be no drilling or cutting of materials on site. They therefore require fixings such as flanges for rectangular duct which are bolted together and the alternative circular flange - two flanges pre-fitted in the production unit and then joined on site with a circular jointing clip such as the Metu flange.

To provide this service, Hotchkiss has a major fabrication unit in Wolverhampton which also specialises in pre-fab facilities. The use of pre-fabricated or modular structures significantly reduces the on-site times spent by installers on locating components, jointing ducting and erecting.

Following recent changes in the UK market, the company believes it is the largest UK-owned manufacturer and distributor of a comprehensive range of products for the air-conditioning and ventilation industry. It always provides products which are high quality, technically advanced and competitively priced, and has recently introduced acoustic products and a range of diffusers which have proved popular.

Sourcing and stocking products which satisfy the ever-changing demands and requirements for customers is particularly important. Retaining relationships with contractors, consultants and clients is equally necessary to ensure that changes in design and market requirements are fully understood and met.

Training

To succeed a company must realise its employees are the greatest asset and their training needs are paramount. However, the ductwork industry fails badly in this important area.

For example, at Bexley College, the ductwork installers' course is under severe threat because of a lack of trainees - one company is providing 90% of the entrants.

Trainees can go through either the apprenticeship or APL (Accreditation of Prior Learning) route to NVQ Level 2 Installer Grade. But, there is no route for a Mate to qualify under NVQ Level 2 as an Installer unless he has had five years previous experience.

The high cost of NVQs and the difficulty obtaining funding for anyone over 19 years old acts as a disincentive to train.

'The ductwork industry should recognise its responsibilities and act in a co-ordinated manner with the trade associations and government bodies to find a meaningful, workable and cost effective solution,' says Michael Ohly, Hotchkiss group chairman and the inaugural president of ADCAS.

'Current suggestions of imposing a levy are doomed to failure, as they always have been, as a means of encouraging training,' he adds. 'Training must be seen as a benefit and a necessity which is included in annual budgets like any other business cost.'

The industry in the UK looks set to enjoy a period of full employment and full order books. It will be necessary to have properly trained personnel and to ensure that all customers are provided with top quality products at competitive prices, which are fit for purpose.

Hotchkiss Air Supply T: 01902 89516; www.hotchkissairsupply.co.uk
1 February 2008

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