ActronAir started as a family business in 1984. Aside from conducting installations in its formative years, the company has focused solely on designing and building world-class air conditioning technology that thrives in the diverse Australian climate.
For ActronAir, paying particular attention to the efficiency, performance and reliability of its products and processes has led to frequent awards for its design innovation. According to its Chair, Robert Mundy and Chief Executive Officer, Brendan Simpson, technology is core to success and effectively scaling the business in pursuit of growth.
Technology drives product innovation
What ActronAir has developed in Australia is a unique business that relies on being fast and nimble to keep up with technology movements that drive product development. Globally, that relates to advancements in refrigerant gas and critical components in air conditioning units such as compressors, coils, and fans.
According to Brendan, ActronAir is constantly updating, evolving, and innovating its products. To ensure that it stays ahead of the curve, the company must develop new technology and incorporate it into its product design and manufacturing processes.
"There are probably four manufacturers left in Australia making refrigerated air conditioners that heat and cool based on refrigeration principles, so our competition comes largely from offshore," he says. "You've also got a couple of other local companies that make evaporative cooling and gas heaters."
The ActronAir product development team works out of its Innovation Hub at its Marsden Park headquarters. The state-of-the-art lab is one of the largest dedicated HVAC R&D facilities in the Southern Hemisphere.
The facility has rooms where the ActronAir team can perform precise tests on its products, including split ducted, non-ducted, and multi-head systems. This gives the company high confidence in the accuracy of product performance claims.
Digital connectivity across the business
With efficiency and effective collaboration at the forefront, ActronAir has moved to digitise processes across its business. It is investing in its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform to support teams and the business’s goals.
"It lays that foundation of communication across all departments because we're doing several things. We're designing, we're producing, we're distributing, we're marketing, we're performing all functions that require cross-functional collaboration and centralised management.”
According to Brendan, having digital solutions that bring the business together is vital to the customer experience and the ability to scale up its operations. It also has a considerable impact on ActronAir’s cost base.
"Optimising communication with our suppliers and manufacturing at a reasonable cost is essential to remain competitive. Technology is the basis of everything we do and keeps the company continually moving.”
Brendan says several packages sit alongside its ERP, and the next step will be to consolidate some of those into one platform.
"We believe that the platform will assist us in consolidating our data and streamlining its extraction from our system, as opposed to having it spread across multiple sources," he says.
"The intention is to effectively incorporate new technology into our production process through improved communication and planning. As we continue moving away from manual processes, the platform becomes a crucial tool to increase production efficiency."
Looking further afield for digital skills
Brendan and Robert agree that ActronAir's development team plays one of the more crucial roles in ensuring the manufacturer is agile and innovative.
"We have a product development team that's very fast and agile. They design the products and get them out onto the floor quickly," says Robert. "It’s a challenge trying to recruit those talented people because the air conditioning industry doesn’t have the same footprint in Australia that it once did.”
According to Brendan, ActronAir has hired many engineers from overseas due to the difficulty of securing the necessary expertise locally. This presents a challenge as the company must expand its search beyond domestic borders to obtain essential skills. Additionally, training someone up to the required level takes time.
Brendan emphasises that ActronAir, as an employer, must possess an open-mindedness and a growth mindset that is adaptable to change. That includes remaining open to new approaches and building problem-solving skills. He suggests that the company must be bold in maintaining its long-standing practices.
"That's often a challenge for us, but an even bigger opportunity if we get it right," Brendan says. "It starts with getting like-minded people in the business and having the collective drive to continually innovate and move our products, and the business, forward together."