Dimplex UK Limited – The Interview

phil-chilton.jpgWith a heritage of 60 years supplying high quality heating products, Dimplex is the market leader in electric space and other heating equipment. The Dimplex product range is the widest of its kind in the world and includes an extensive commercial heating portfolio, led by its highly acclaimed air curtains. Often taken for granted once installed, Dimplex’s commercial air curtains’ cost-effective, environmentally friendly and energy saving performance is enough to warm the heart of any retail finance director in the current chilly economic climate. Dimplex offers retailers a choice of high-performing heating solutions, as the company’s Commercial Product Manager Phil Chilton told Wholesale Manager.

Wholesale Manager – Where and when was Dimplex set up?
Dimplex was set up in 1949 in Southampton and started out making oil-filled electric radiators. The first product was the Mark 1 oil-filled radiator with dimples in the design, hence the name Dimplex. Even then, energy control was a key element. The product offering broadened over the years, including both commercial and domestic heaters.

office-with-dimplex-signage.jpgWM – Who owns Dimplex now?
In 1977 Dimplex joined forces with the Irish company Glen Electric to create the Glen Dimplex Group, of which Dimplex is now a subsidiary. Glen Dimplex is now one of the biggest electrical appliance manufacturers in the world and includes household names Belling, Morphy Richards and Roberts Radio.

WM – How big is Dimplex in the UK in turnover and staff? Where is the UK HQ?
The Glen Dimplex Group employs 8,000 people worldwide. For Dimplex, our UK HQ is in Hedge End, Southampton, in purpose-built offices that we’ve occupied since 2002.

WM – Which other countries do you trade in?
Our group head office is in Southern Ireland, and we have businesses in Europe, Asia, Australia and North America. Our local country operations are fairly autonomous: we run as a truly global group. We have manufacturing operations in Ireland, Europe and the Far East.

WM – When did you join the company?
I joined six years ago. I come from a marketing background and have worked in engineering companies all my life.

WM – What does your role involve?
I’m responsible for managing our commercial heating products across the spectrum throughout their lifecycle, from the concept stage and market assessment through to working with our engineers to develop them. I also provide support for our sales effort. I work closely with our sales team, and get involved with the larger customers.

WM – What proportion of your UK turnover is commercial heating? How much of that comes from commercial air curtains?
An increasing proportion of our UK heating business is commercial. We concentrate much of our effort on the retail sector, and have dedicated salespeople working on that area.

Air curtains are a high proportion of our commercial heating business, and form the current focus: our sales team see it as a major opportunity, and it is high priority on our commercial agenda.

WM – In non-technical terms, what is the difference between air curtains and over door heaters, and when would you use one or the other?
Traditional over-door heaters offer a level of heating around the door area, to give a boost of heat when doors are opening and closing and draughts would otherwise be felt as a result.

In contrast, air curtains provide a separation between indoor and outdoor areas using a fast moving stream of air where doors remain open in retail situations. It’s this stream of air that maintains comfort and can save energy, reducing whole facility running cost.

Over-door heaters have a definite role to play and are quite flexible. For instance, in many retail situations the space needed for wall heaters is valuable selling space, but these units can be installed at higher mounting heights or above tills to provide just the right levels of heat needed.

cab15wr.jpgWM – Which different commercial air curtains and other heaters do you supply? Which of your heaters are appropriate for particular retail operations?
We offer everything from over-door heaters to industrial air curtains. Dimplex AC over-door heaters are suitable for smaller environments, and can be installed up to 2.3 metres from the floor. They are ideal for small C-stores where the doors are normally closed.
Our CAB air curtains are designed for larger commercial environments with high traffic flows, such as supermarkets or large C-stores. Suitable for both surface and recessed mounting, they create a separation between areas, such as above entrances to retail premises, where they can be mounted up to 3 metres from the ground.

For larger door environments with heavy commercial usage, such as superstores, our DAB range is much the same product as CAB but with a higher spec, and can be mounted up to 4 metres high.

For more industrial environments such as distribution centres, our IAB range can be mounted up to 6 metres high and is a powerful option for use with warehouse doors and roller shutter doors.

Finally, our ARC range of architectural designer air curtains come in different finishes and can be mounted vertically beside the door as a style statement, or used as conventional air curtains above the door wherever aesthetics are important, like prestigious reception areas or flagship stores.

The Dimplex air curtains are modular: it doesn’t matter how wide the door is, you can always add more units. Similarly you can recess- or surface-mount them as required. A lot of medium to large retail environments have suspended ceilings, hence we provide the option for recess mounting.

A key focus for us is air curtains, but we can pull together a shopping basket of solutions for customers including fan-based air heaters, radiant heaters for small areas or commercial water heaters, as required.

WM – Where are your commercial air curtains and heaters developed and made? Where do you design complex solutions and installations?
We believe the closer you manufacture to the customers the less impact there is on the environment. A lot of our products sold here are developed and made in Ireland. We develop our specific solutions for individual clients in the UK: we have a small team in Southampton, focused on finding the right approach to meet the specific needs.

WM – What energy savings and running cost improvements are possible with properly specified and installed air curtains?
Although there are many variables involved, from the building size and the length of time the door remains open to the number of shoppers coming through the door, the key to energy savings is to understand the importance of having the right product properly installed for any given situation. For sure, an incorrect product or badly installed one will waste energy and have a detrimental effect on running costs too.

As an air curtain industry, we’ve been working closely with the Carbon Trust to show how air curtains give real, tangible energy savings, and progress so far has indicated that savings of up to 33% in heating and air conditioning costs are possible.

The key is ensuring the air stream reaches the ground and covers the full width of the opening. You can make further energy savings by fitting inexpensive controls.

cab-diagram.jpgWM – How cost-effective, energy efficient and environmentally friendly are your heaters? How does this profile compare with competitor equipment?
Dimplex offer a very competitive range of products with short payback times suited to the retailers’ needs. By using electricity, they are 100% efficient at the point of use, they do not require a connection to a gas fired system, which can dramatically cut down on installation and maintenance costs, and a suite of products can easily be put together for any given retail situation, all installed by the electrical contractor. Many of our competitors cannot offer this breadth of ability and the convenience for the customer that comes from it.

WM – In a few words, why buy Dimplex commercial air curtains? How do you as a supplier stand apart from the rest?
We offer a broad range of competitive air curtains that can save wasted energy and running costs, and pay for themselves in a short time period. The Dimplex range can also be used with very inexpensive additional controls that will further enhance energy savings without impacting significantly on payback times. This all comes with the peace of mind that only comes with dealing with a large global organisation with considerable resources and a secure financial footing.

WM – How do you supply Dimplex commercial air curtains in the UK – direct or through distributors? Do you carry out your own installations and service?
We generally work through the UK electrical wholesaler network, which provides a very good service to contractor customers. At least 95% of electrical wholesalers have our products, and can offer 24-48 hour express delivery on our air curtains.
Quite often the contractors work on behalf of the retailers and carry out their installations. We are focused on the customer, and have a network of service agents fully versed in Dimplex products.

WM – How have recent economic developments affected demand for your products?
The economy affects us all, but as a business we’re acutely aware of the need for the retailers to reduce their cost base, and we want to help them benefit from the inexpensive energy saving options air curtains provide. Now is the time you need a competitive product that’s cheaper to run and does its job.

WM – Is there any tax relief or other incentive for retailers to install your air curtains?
There isn’t yet, but once the work with the Carbon Trust is complete, we hope there will be tax advantages to installing air curtains through the Enhanced Capital Allowance scheme for energy saving products.

WM – What are the steps in the process to specifying and installing commercial air curtains? How long does it take from enquiry to installation?
Often the retailer works with a contractor, who takes care of the process for them. The key factors are taking correct measurements of the door width and height, confirming the availability of electrical power and assessing the traffic flow through the door. If the electrical contractor goes through a wholesaler, they can have our products in a couple of days.

WM – How easy are your products to operate?
It’s very easy – our air curtain products have built-in electronic controls, but the controller interface is still very simple to operate.

WM – What is the return on investment with Dimplex air curtains – how long does it take to pay back the cost through savings?
Depending on the size of the retail establishment, it can be as soon as six months.

WM – Can you name your existing retail customers? Do you publish case studies?
We work with many different retailers, from small shoe shops to major supermarkets. We have a selection of case studies available (see page 8.)

WM – Can Dimplex air curtains be used in conjunction with clients’ existing HVAC systems?
Yes, Our air curtains can easily be linked into many HVAC systems and controllers, for an integrated solution.

WM – If a customer wants to further enhance their energy savings and minimise their running costs beyond the factory settings, what options do they have?
For protected entrances or those where full heating is not needed, heating capacity can be altered to reflect conditions. Also, by linking the air curtain to the air conditioning system or fitting a simple magnetic door sensor or PIR movement sensor, significant energy savings can be realised depending on the conditions and the door use. We work closely with customers to recommend these devices to enhance savings further.

WM – What servicing do your products require? How long do your products last for, with proper maintenance?
Depending on the level of use, they need cleaning every six months to remove dust. Our products have a three-year warranty, but give many years of trouble-free operation.

WM – We hear a lot about Legionnaires disease in purpose-built water systems, such as air conditioning systems. Are there any health risks involved from bacteria build up in commercial air curtains and heating equipment?
There aren’t the same problems as with products that cool air. If our products are kept clean, there is no risk of bacteria build up.

WM – What are your new products for 2009?
Watch this space! The increased emphasis on energy efficiency means new products will increasingly reflect this trend.

WM – Are you exhibiting at any trade shows in 2009?
We’re at the H&V Show at Birmingham NEC from 24-26 February, and Eco-Build at Earl’s Court from 3-5 March. We’ll be showing a lot of relevant products and will have people on site to advise customers.

WM – Have you won any awards for innovation, export or other achievements?
Dimplex as an organisation has won various awards for our overall creative approach to people’s HVAC needs.

WM – Finally, where do you see Dimplex Commercial Air Curtains going from here?
The ever growing demand for “green products” will force greater integration of air curtains with other heating and air conditioning systems, underpinned by the realisation that air curtains really can deliver energy savings as part of the HVAC system.

Personally, I look forward to doing my bit to get the message out there and work closely with customers. The overall challenge is to highlight that an air curtain investment is paid back quickly, with considerable energy savings realised through relatively inexpensive solutions.

Dimplex Ltd
Tel: 0845 600 5111
www.dimplex.co.uk