Anyone who wants to build or maintain a lead in a race sometimes needs a burst of intensity. Jennifer Russell and Dustin C. Wiggins have provided this in the last two years. They are program managers for the water heating technology expert Lochinvar. They were tasked with making three product lines of condensing boilers and water heaters even more efficient but they didn’t have a lot of time. The project got off the starting blocks at the beginning of 2018 and series production was to start in the spring of 2020.
It’s not for nothing that the company, which is based in Lebanon, Tennessee in the USA, has the motto: “No one brings it all together like Lochinvar.” Lochinvar knows that building a successful business is a marathon not a sprint. Over its hundred-year company history, the premium manufacturer of water heating technology solutions for commercial and residential applications has repeatedly succeeded in being one step ahead of the other market players with its innovations.
Increased power while maintaining the same size
Everything is a bit bigger in the USA compared with Europe. This applies equally to cars and buildings. This means that gas condensing boilers and water heaters have to provide more power. At the same time, environmental awareness among customers is increasing.
“Time was a very important factor. We really needed a partner that can keep up with us.”
Jennifer Russell, Program Manager at Lochinvar
They were in for a real challenge. The products (which are overseen by both program managers) are used in commercial applications such as hotels and restaurants. Wiggins says: “Everything depended on the blower. It was supposed to provide 20 percent more power, but without taking up more installation space than the predecessor .” The next difficulty was that Lochinvar wanted a blower that would be suitable for all three product lines and their models. This type of blower didn’t yet exist, though. Russell emphasizes: “Time was a very important factor. We really needed a partner that can keep up with us.”
Partner for blower development
Lochinvar has been working with ebm-papst for many years. “Our products start at an output of 16 kilowatts and can reach up to two megawatts. There’s a bit of ebm-papst in all of them,” says Russell. The partner had therefore been chosen, but the engineers in Landshut still had to develop the blower. Even though they were thousands of kilometers apart, it felt to the two program managers as though the developers were close by.
Wiggins explains: “The blower had to have such a flexible design that it can be used to equip multiple product families. This is not so easy when you consider that we use different mixing devices throughout them. However, from the very beginning, we were closely involved in development and received prototypes in a very early phase, meaning we could incorporate our wishes.”
One of these wishes was for no rare-earth magnets to be used. They are expensive and the supply is not always reliable. Lochinvar does not want to take this kind of risk. ebm-papst can help here, too. Thanks to EC technology and the corresponding electronics, it is possible to implement powerful blower motors without relying on this resource.
“Everything depended on the blower. It needed to provide 20 percent more power, without taking up
Dustin C. Wiggins, Program Manager at Lochinvar
Russell remembers this very intense time: “Dustin’s office is right next to mine. We worked on the projects at the same time and repeatedly bombarded ebm-papst with new requirements. We always had the feeling that they understood us and we always received responses very quickly. Our processes were a good fit with one another.”
Flexible blower for technical advantage
In the end, the two partners achieved what they wanted. The VG 145 blower designed for the US market was ready for operation in spring 2020. Production began in May in Tennessee. Russell and Wiggins now have the opportunity to catch their breath. The boilers and water heaters are now on the market and it looks as though the company will be able to maintain the lead for a while that the two product managers have provided. Wiggins: “We will consider the VG 145 for future projects, because of its flexibility.”