© Photo | ebm-papst

Ice-Cold Savings

The specialist for refrig­er­a­tion and air-condi­tioning devices, Roller, is consis­tently converting from AC to EC tech­nology in its evap­o­ra­tors – the customers have also been convinced of this step now

If we picture the refrig­er­a­tion and air-condi­tioning industry as a large parking lot, Roller would prob­ably be a Mercedes or BMW. On the global market, this company based in Gerlingen is one of the top providers of evap­o­ra­tors, heat exchangers and air-condi­tioning devices for commer­cial use. This self-image is some­thing that devel­op­ment manager Ingo Raisch deals with very consciously. “We don’t even try to use price to break into the market. Instead we put every­thing into always being a step ahead tech­no­log­i­cally.” A symbol for this inno­va­tion-driven thinking is surely the consis­tent change to modern, energy effi­cient tech­nology. Since the begin­ning of this year, energy saving Green­Tech EC fans have been replacing their AC coun­ter­parts in three evap­o­rator series. This new variant is not an alter­na­tive as with other providers, but rather is manda­tory. If you want Roller, you also have to want EC. “Surely a bold step”, Raisch admits. “But it has paid off for us.”

The pilot project

Roller devel­op­ment manager Ingo Raisch (left) and Martin Schulz from ebm-papst while inspecting a fan with a Green­Tech EC motor

To under­stand how it came to this step, first we have to turn back the clock a little and jump to the year 2009. At that time the situ­a­tion at Roller still looked a little different. AC and shaded-pole motors still oper­ated in the appli­ances then. However, the energy effi­ciency trend was also becoming ever more impor­tant for the customers of the Gerlingen, Germany-based company. Large super­market chains, for example, often explic­itly demanded EC tech­nology in their tender docu­ments. There­fore Raisch risked the pilot project with an evap­o­rator series that to date had been driven by shad­ed­pole motors. The great require­ment of tech­nology partner ebmpapst was this: The changeover has to take place on a 1:1 scale. The motor replace­ment must be possible without any addi­tional changes to the end product. Besides the dimen­sions, accord­ingly, the air perfor­mance had to remain iden­tical – ideally, with a decreasing noise level.

“Natu­rally it was to our benefit that we have nurtured good contacts with Roller for many years,” explains Martin Schulz, Team leader project manage­ment in sales at ebm-papst Germany. The two compa­nies have worked together since the mid 1990s. “Our engi­neers knew precisely the appli­ca­tion and its spec­i­fi­ca­tions.” Accord­ingly, the mechan­ical changeover happened very quickly. The devel­opers also master­fully over­came the chal­lenge posed by low oper­ating temper­a­tures in the double-digit below-zero range, as Schulz reports: “We purposely selected mate­rials and parts which have no problem func­tioning, even at minus 40 degrees.”

Higher invest­ment with added value

The real chal­lenge was for Roller: the company’s Sales team also had to commu­ni­cate the para­digm shift to all those customers who had not insisted on it. “Of course, one or two were a bit upset upon seeing a price increase in the new price list,” says Raisch. “We contained that by taking the initia­tive in commu­ni­cating the added value.” Roller started an infor­ma­tion campaign with flyers, presen­ta­tions and every­thing else that goes along with this.

The produc­tion at Roller

This strategy bore fruit: The sales figures remained stable and even rose in some cases. “Natu­rally this was due not only to our Marketing depart­ment, but also to the facts, which simply speak for them­selves,” adds Raisch. The data is indeed impres­sive. With the energy-saving motor, the energy savings compared to the shaded-pole motor are as high as 70 percent. In other words, the extra cost for the suppos­edly more expen­sive tech­nology is recov­ered right away within two months. After two to three years, the savings even cover the entire purchase price of the end device. The high effi­ciency of the energy-saving motor even goes one better. For when less energy is required, the waste heat also decreases, and with it the required cooling capacity. All of that went over well with the customers. The feed­back was so unan­i­mously posi­tive that it was easy for Roller to decide to also risk the switch to EC tech­nology in series with AC motors. Even if the jump in effi­ciency is not as high as with shaded-pole motors, with the newest EC gener­a­tion it is never­the­less a respectable 30 percent.

Reducing four to two

In 2011 the starting gun for the next phase was fired. The new EC fans were inte­grated into three series at once. The project require­ments were similar: Dimen­sions as well as output and noise data remained the same, while savings as a result of state-of-the-art tech­nology stood in the fore­ground. “Of course another impor­tant point was added to this”, adds Martin Schulz of ebm-papst. “Roller was concerned with reducing the diver­sity of its compo­nents – instead of four different motors which drive the evap­o­rator fans there should be only two.”

Roller is now installing energy-saving motors in half of their evap­o­rator series – the rest are to follow suit shortly

The previous diver­sity can be explained rather simply: Vacuum or pres­sure evap­o­ra­tors commend them­selves depending on room geom­etry and range of appli­ca­tions. Since not all customers require the same output, Roller offered two motors with different speeds for each of the two vari­ants. “And that was precisely the starting point for reducing the diver­sity”, explains devel­oper Raisch. “An AC motor has a fixed speed, while in the EC motor two different speeds are as easy as child’s play to program.” For Roller, cutting the diver­sity of its compo­nents is a humon­gous advan­tage: “Needing to have fewer different compo­nents in the ware­house enables us to have a substan­tially more flex­ible ware­house and spare part logis­tics.” Not only that. The service bene­fits from the mechan­ical inter­change­ability of shaded-pole, AC and EC motors from ebmpapst. If an end device ever fails, the tech­ni­cian can get it running again with what­ever variant he or she happens to have in the boot. When the replace­ment EC arrives, they can be swapped without much effort.

Inspired by these many argu­ments and by customer feed­back, Roller is consis­tently carrying out the changeover to Green­Tech EC tech­nology. For Roller the plan stands firm: “In two to three years we want to be using EC motors exclu­sively.” The next large series changeover will follow in the Spring of 2013. Currently the work for this is already in full swing at Roller as well as ebm-papst.

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