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Scaling the hurdles of heating

Communicating the significant benefits of the lifetime cost as opposed to the initial acquisition outlay is one of the biggest challenges facing the award winning Poole-based boiler manufacturer Hamworthy Heating according to technical director Bob Walsh
HAMWORTHY is currently investing heavily through its sales forces in education and seminars for consultants, specifiers, end users or contractors with the aim to assist them in understanding the issue and minimising fuel costs by matching the plant load to the application.

'The cost of fuel is way in excess of the total lifetime outlay so if you can make small savings in fuel consumption over a lifetime that becomes significant but at the moment because of the professional purchasing mentality, the focus is on the cost of acquisition.'

Hamworthy, one of the few remaining UK based manufacturers of boilers, runs regular CPD courses to try to educate and give value to customers on the subject Walsh believes is a significant issue affecting boiler acquisition in the UK.

In 2012, the company took a bold step by becoming the first manufacturer to remove cast iron atmospheric boilers from its customer offer in readiness for the implementation of building regulations and the impending requirements of ErP - the EU directive with the goal of reducing energy usage along the supply chain.

This according to Walsh was a move that lost the company business initially, but ultimately gained it credibility. He says: 'It was a case of being bold to take that step - a step that acknowledged that cast iron atmospheric boilers aren't that efficient.'

Hamworthy history

Hamworthy Heating operates predominantly in the commercial market supplying heating and hot water equipment as well as accessories to contractors although it maintains relationships with end users and specifiers as well. But the company has come a long way from its initial beginnings in 1911.

Hamworthy initially took its name from its namesake, a small place a mile outside Poole centre. In the early days the company focused on marine and shipping equipment and evolved over the next 60 years into a diverse engineering group.

It became involved in boilers in the early 1900s when ships were being powered by coal and steam and later fuel oil fired. A combustion division was responsible for producing burners and this later evolved to include petro chemicals and process heating power generation. Hamworthy Heating first came to light as a subsidiary of Hamworthy Combustion.

In 1968, the discovery of North Sea gas had significant impact in the UK gas industry with natural gas being considered much cleaner than town gas. Hamworthy Heating emerged in that same year selling an American boiler under licence throughout the 70s.

Hamworthy later decided to develop its own product along the same lines and achieved a milestone in 1985 when it invested in its UR - a cast iron atmospheric boiler - which was manufactured and sold in substantial numbers. Because of that, in 1985 the business became a standalone P&L division of the Hamworthy Engineering Group and enjoyed success until Nikko Investments, an investment bank, bought it in 2001.

Nikko Investments immediately sold off the sections of the Hamworthy Engineering Group and Hamworthy Heating was acquired by NBGI private equity in 2002 until 2008 when the privately owned French heating specialist Groupe Atlantic bought it.

Groupe Atlantic specialises in electric heating and hot water to suit the French market that has electric as its predominant fuel source. Hamworthy was seen as a suitable addition to Group Atlantic's portfolio with a specialisation in modular boilers.

A year in review

While the UK's inclement weather makes the heating market a stable and mature market in which to operate, certain trends in the last 12 months have made things tough not just for Hamworthy, but for everyone according to Walsh.

He believes large contractors have taken advantage of the loss of consultant engineers in the design sector, which has suffered from a drop in work load, and absorbed these engineers into their fold so that contractors can control the design.

'What we have seen in last 12 months is some very aggressive prices in the market place and this is driven by this shift within the market. The contractors are becoming more professional and savvy demanding lower prices.'

But he says in that period Hamworthy has remained competitive and is still a major player investing in new products with a product plan through to 2015.

'The reality is everybody is having to work harder and smarter just to stand still. So Hamworthy continues to invest in plant and processes within the business to try and drive it forward as well as new products.'

In last 12 months Hamworthy Heating has opened a new R&D facility in June in a high-profile event. It also invested in its work environment and is reorganising the factory to improve its production processes and be more responsive to customers.

In the last six months Hamworthy has been running its hot water campaign - a roadshow van kitted out with all its water products which was taken directly to the customers. They were able to touch and feel and see the products while at the same time talk to engineers without having to leave their premises. Targeted at building owners and specifiers, the campaign has been very successful with an increase in hot water sales.

This will be followed up this year with a campaign on Hamworthy's Purewell VariHeat - a condensing cast iron boiler which is ErP compliant so the customer can still enjoy the benefits of cast iron boilers as well as the benefits of lower fuel consumption.

'The reality of today is time pressures. It's difficult to take a day or two out to an exhibition so it's much easier for us to take the message to the customer and they don't have to travel.'

The last major project launch for Hamworthy was in 2011 - a product called Fleet - a range of 47 condensing floor standing and wall hung boilers for which it won an award in 2012. Last year was considered to be a consolidation year in preparation for forthcoming legislative changes that will impact the industry.

What has been launched is a complete solar thermal package with collectors and storage tanks but is also supplemented by the Dorchester DRTC which is the combined solar and gas fired water heater range.

In the community Hamworthy has recently started to take an active role in the community with the aim to raise its profile in the local area and encourage young engineers and potential employees of the future. Its Corporate Social Responsibility Project started in April with the Enterprise in Schools project which is aimed at students aged 14 to 18 who are looking for career steps. For the Enterprise Challenge students have to form a mini business and take a real product to market. This will culminate in an awards ceremony in February.

The company also gives all its employees one day a year off to go out into the community to support good causes.

Hamworthy has nominated Forest Home Hospice, as its chosen charity and in eight months working with the hospice a sum of £10,000 has been raised for the hospice.

'We want to make the business profile relevant to the community so students, schools universities are aware of us and know there is a possibility of employment as they will be the ones to take us forward.'
21 January 2014

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