HC Heat-Exchangers manufacture an extensive range of quality products for both commercial refrigeration and air conditioning applications, right the way through to large custom built units suitable for all manner of industrial applications
Writers Matt Bone
Project Manager Tom Cullum
HC Heat-Exchangers (HCHE) is a design and manufacturing company, specialising in air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Heating Centre was founded in 1973 and rapidly built a reputation for superb engineering and manufacturing within the industry. From this solid foundation, HC Heat-Exchangers was born in 2001 as a manufacturer of finned tube heat-exchangers. Over a short period of time, HC Heat-Exchangers rose to become the largest manufacturer of these products in Southern Africa.
The company design and build everything from finned-tube heat exchangers and packaged air conditioning units, to compressorised simplex and multiplex systems for both the air-conditioning and refrigeration industry. a large portion of the business is also geared towards offering bespoke solutions which are designed and engineered to client specifications. HCHE service a wide range of clientele, varying from the military and petrochemical industry through to the commercial and industrial air-conditioning and refrigeration industry. HCHE have a large, highly qualified engineering division who are able to provide custom solutions to the market place, priding themselves on not only the quality of their products, but most importantly the quality of the engineering behind the product.
Robert Kruger, Managing Director of HC Heat-Exchangers, points to two reasons why HCHE have become the top company in their field in Southern Africa: “there are two points which make us unique. The first is our high level of engineering and ability to custom design to almost any application. The second is our excellent manufacturing capabilities which enable us to deliver high quality products in short lead times.”
Equipment that Performs
HC Heat-Exchangers produce a range of equipment, from commercial refrigeration products through to large custom-built units for industrial applications. The company also produces condensers, evaporators (both flooded and direct expansion), chilled water coils, hot water coils, steam coils and dry coolers. HCHE offer a variety of different construction materials to suit all operating environments including all stainless coils designed and manufactured to SANS 347 and ASME B31-5 specifications. HC Heat- Exchangers are continually innovating and developing new products to better serve their customers, to remain at the forefront of technology and to remain true to their mantra of quality engineering behind every product. “Every one of our products is made to the highest levels of both design and manufacture. Our name is synonymous with excellent quality products that will serve your company well,” cites Kruger.
Every industry faces challenges, whether it is in the form of stiff competition or as a result of global economic impacts. For the manufacturing market in South Africa, the latest issue plaguing the industry has been industrial labour strikes. HCHE have however been very lucky not to have been affected by this as Kruger explains: “We have been extremely fortunate in that we are not unionised and we continued to produce through a very difficult 4 weeks. Our staff are very loyal and they understand the need for the company to maintain daily production. Throughout the strike period we maintained a 97% attendance rate from our staff, which is excellent. Where our competitors and other manufacturing companies really felt the effect of the strike, we continued to function. I am extremely proud of our team as they did this in the face of dire intimidation and union pressure.”
Not all challenges a company faces are negative, some are in fact positive. HCHE have seen steady growth over the last few years, and consequently seen the need to keep pace in terms of both financial stability and high production standards. Coupled with this is the need to recruit and train top quality staff in order to meet the growing demand for their products and services. HCHE identify promising workers in engineering and other relevant disciplines, and offer them posts within the company. “We hire a number of staff on limited duration contracts and provide them with on the job training, monitoring them closely in the hopes of identifying a diamond in the rough. When a top performer is identified, a permanent contract is put into place and more intensive training begins,” explains Kruger.
Customer satisfaction is the biggest defining factor of a successful business. If your customers are unhappy with your products or service levels, they are usually quick to voice their displeasure. Dropping the ball here can quickly hurt a company’s reputation, taking many years to bounce back from. One of HC Heat-Exchangers core focuses is to ensure constant customer satisfaction across the board. “There is a very definite trend of poor customer service in our industry of late. Many customers come to us complaining about service levels from our competitors, hoping we can provide a solution. We strive to ensure that our customers are well treated and catered for to the highest level. “If a customer requires our help, we can quickly and efficiently handle their request to reach satisfaction,” remarks Kruger.
Suppliers play a vital role in customer service and the business model as a whole. Maintaining the relationships between suppliers and the business is paramount and HCHE take great care in nurturing strong professional relationships with both local and international suppliers. HCHE import around 40% of their raw materials due to a lack of local supply, however, they have a very strong policy to support local suppliers wherever possible.
With the current growth being shown by HCHE, the company is on target for a projected growth of 27%, with an expected growth of at least 25% year-on-year over the coming five years. “We are in a very exciting phase and have just bought a new 18,000m2 manufacturing facility with 2000m2 of office space. Preparations are currently underway to move our whole operation into the new factory during December this year. We expect to employ around 400 people by the end of 2015, which considering we now employee a little over 300, is a significant increase.”
HC Heat-Exchangers have an in-house Research and Development department which is an integral part of the business. Not only do they develop new products on site, but also thoroughly test and improve on existing products in order to ensure performance and quality levels are maintained at the highest level. By utilising the latest 3D CAD software, products can be digitally modelled, evaluated and thoroughly tested. This process allows a large number of concepts and designs to be evaluated quickly and efficiently prior to manufacturing working prototypes for further evaluation and testing. There are several new products being worked on in the R&D department, but Kruger is keeping them very close to his chest: “We have some very exciting products currently in development, but these will remain under wraps for the time being. These projects are in the prototype phase at the moment, and when ready for the consumer market will most certainly be game changers!”