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Interview with Peter Agneborn – Vice President Global Business Unit Director HVAC & Commercial

What are the key drivers for the commercial building services sector across Europe?
“Everybody is talking about energy efficiency, asking how can we take cost out of running a building? Architects, specifiers, consulting engineers are all under pressure to take cost out for the end-user.

“Secondly, space. Plant rooms are getting smaller because space is being taken up by plant and equipment which cannot be sold or rented out. Manufacturers have had to respond by making their equipment much smaller. A good example is our new End Suction and In-line centrifugal pumps, which have optimised space due to the compact configuration with the motor.

“Finally, price. Cost-down pressures across the construction sector are still in place and we need to respond to that with competitive pricing with no compromise on quality.”

How is Xylem supporting the supply chain?

“Our customers are not pump experts, but they need base level knowledge of how the pump works, what applications it can be installed into and how it operates within a system. Our job is to give them that knowledge.

“Secondly, we need to make their life easier. We should be under no illusion that our customers are thinking about pumps every day. Every two weeks or so perhaps, but not every day. Our job is to make things easier for them, in order that they can spend less time sourcing and picking products.”

What specific initiatives has Xylem put in place to support the commercial building services sector?

“We have a number of initiatives under way. The first point is that when a customer buys a Xylem pump they can be sure they are getting state-of-the art technology, which is in line with all the latest regulations and Ecodesign requirements.

“We are also giving customers options, with a wide range of material configurations for the pump casing, impeller and mechanical seals, which means customers can specify the right pump for the application with no compromise.

“Finally, Xylem is supporting the customer pre-sale with technical knowledge and selection software for easy and quick configuration, and also post-sale with easy maintenance, spare parts and outstanding reliability.”

What is most important, quality or price?

“Both, the market is demanding a quality product at a competitive price point. We are increasingly talking about whole-life cost beyond just the first two years of a warranty, not because we want to sell customers an expensive pump, but because pump specification is about much more than the initial cost. Increasingly it’s about running costs, maintenance, the cost of spare parts, all of which have a price associated with them.”

Xylem talks a lot about system efficiency – do you think the market is really embracing this concept?

“I think there is a huge education job to be done. Architects, specifiers, plumbers are all under pressure to deliver better and more efficient systems, but projects still tend to be specified on the basis of individual components.
“We hear all the time, “I need a dozen circulator pumps or booster sets” without reference to overall system design. Yes, the singular components need to work well, but they also need to fit within an entire system to generate the real efficiencies which are on offer.

“We, the manufacturers, are to blame for this. We are the technical experts and we need to get much better at giving the market the information it needs to make informed decisions.”

What is Xylem CBS doing to help with this education process?

“We are giving architects, consultants, specifiers and plumbers the tools to make informed decisions with dedicated resources, such as the pump selection software and access to the technical knowledge they need. We are also offering specific project support and training across EMEA to help customers build and maintain their own knowledge base.”
How much of an issue is low quality product coming in from the low cost economies?

“It’s not huge, but I think it is accelerating. The major pump manufacturers have worked very hard to keep copycats out of the market and deliver high quality products which can deliver over their entire operational life. But, we have to remain diligent and spread the word about quality, about how legislation is driving ever-improving products and about the whole life cost.

“Our goal is for a customer to buy a pump and then be able to forget about it, because it is ultra-reliable and has a long operational life.”

How much of an obligation do you feel to support products once they have been installed?

“I like the word obligation. We are not just throwing product out into the marketplace. We have an obligation to make sure it’s a good product that is suited for the application. Architects, specifiers and contractors are increasingly concerned about what they are leaving behind once a project is finished and has been handed over. Easy maintenance, reliability, robust pump construction and reduced whole life costs are increasingly important.”

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