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The changing face of industrial heating

Climate change regulations and shifting customer needs means heating products have had to adapt. Powrmatic's Mick Etherington discusses the evolutionary developments the company has undergone
The changing face of industrial heating
The warm air market has been hit hard in the past few years with change being forced on all players, across the whole value and supply chain.

Increasingly sophisticated customer requirements on their own mean that just to keep up with the pace of change is a major challenge. Couple this with Parts L and F of the building regulations, rising energy costs and policies now in place to address climate change, and you have an industry facing interesting times.

But, with a focus on reducing carbon footprints almost taking centre stage, there has been much change in the industry and all players, however large or small, have certainly felt it.

In spite of this, our customers still have to heat their premises. A building is just a shell. It is lighting, heating and ventilation, which make an effective and productive working environment.

Temperature has a bearing on health and safety, a direct impact on productivity and the bottom line. Some premises have to be kept at a controlled temperature in order to preserve stock. Residential care homes need continual heating. Providing a comfortable environment retail space encourages customers to stay for longer, which has an impact on how much they spend and all of these factors mean one thing - increased costs across the board.

There are incentives to businesses to encourage them to invest in low-carbon technologies. The Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECA) scheme enables a business to claim 100% first-year capital allowances against spending on qualifying plant and machinery featuring low-carbon technologies.

Businesses can write off the whole of the capital cost of their investment in these technologies against taxable profits for the period during which they make the investment. This can deliver a helpful cash flow boost and a shortened payback period against the installation cost.

Tax incentives

Businesses can claim 100% capital allowance in the first year after installation of products included on the Energy Technology List. This can mean that on a £50,000 capital investment £15,000 can be written off against corporation tax (assuming tax at 30%).
Warm air and radiant heaters qualify for the ECA scheme, with the qualifying criteria for radiant heating being 86% combustion efficiency, 60% radiant efficiency and 91% combustion efficiency for warm air heating.

During the last 18 months, Powrmatic has undergone a dramatic change programme in order to keep at the front of the warm air market. It has restructured its heating range around two product groups, suspended and cabinet heaters, launched a new corporate brand identity and rationalised its three factories into one, reducing part numbers from 40,000 to 5,000.

Much of this has also involved reducing the company's own carbon footprint. Gone are the large lorry loads of part-assembled heaters being moved between sites to be painted or wired. In comes modern, high-efficiency, quick turnaround plant.
In the early days, Powrmatic had a variety of differently skilled employees working at various sites as the heater moved along a long production line. Now, from raw material to finished product, the product moves no more than 100m from start to finish. All
operatives have been retrained to enable the company to do this while remaining competitive in an industry being attacked by cheaper foreign imports.

Range of choices

The NV range of suspended gas unit heaters has been designed in conjunction with specifiers, installers and users to provide efficient and cost-effective heating and ventilation for industrial and commercial properties.

The resulting combustion efficiency of 92% easily meets the requirements of the government's ECA initiative, and has qualified for the Energy Technology List. Having ECA approval, the NV unit heater assists Powrmatic's customers in gaining 100% capital allowance in the first year to offset installation costs.

Being wall- or ceiling-mounted, the NV units free up valuable floor space and, as they are 100% manufactured in the UK, distribution involves fewer fuel miles than those imported from overseas.
Installers have the option of a conventional fan flue or room-sealed flue plus a range of single flue or twin (concentric) flue terminals. The exhaust fan can also be rotated to allow top or rear flue discharge. This allows the contractor to offer an instant solution without having to order special components with long lead times.

Although the nature of today's demanding applications means that products must excel, the climate change agenda has become part of our everyday life. This has meant many of Powrmatic's customers have changed the way they do business in order to remain competitive. This, in turn, has caused Powrmatic and others, to look at strategies to help it best serve the new demands its industry faces.
1 November 2007


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