Trox’s new marketing approach moves closer to its customers

Trox, chilled beams, AHUs, fans
Developing a new approach to market — Ian Sams.

With the opening of regional offices in London, Manchester and Glasgow, Trox now has a much closer presence to its customers and projects using Trox equipment. It is part of a plan to becoming a one-stop shop for air distribution.

Everyone who has made the journey to Trox’s factory and support facilities at Thetford in Norfolk, knows just how far up what managing director Ian Sams calls the A11 engineering corridor it is. The facilities for testing, mocking-up installations and training are impressive, but, as Ian Sams, explains, customers are increasingly not making the trip to Thetford.

Trox’s response is to get closer to customers by opening regional offices. The latest is the Manchester office at Salford Quays. It provides nearly 300 m2 of space as office accommodation for a Trox local team and facilities for meetings with customers, which are increasingly popular.

The Manchester office follows the opening of an office in the City of London about a year ago and the more recent setting up of a presence in Glasgow.

The London office has its own in-house team and is well equipped with meeting rooms, demo areas and training facilities.

This network of regional offices is one reflection of a change in approach to the UK market by Trox, which has been building since the appointment of Ian Sams as managing director of Trox UK at the beginning of October 2011. His 30-year career in the industry includes 16 with Trox in a number of senior roles.

He explains that the new approach to market is to move away from its history of project chasing and being all things to all clients — an approach that inevitably led to making and supplying a high proportion of special products.

The new model is based on customer management and defined targets. The company is also working on becoming a one-stop shop for everything from air-handling units, which are now being made in a new 15 000 m2 factory at Anholt in Germany, right through to diffusers — and everything in between. That process is expected to take about five years and will require much better customer support — hence the setting up of regional offices.

Ian Sams expects AHUs to become available in the UK next year, probably delivered as flat packs for assembly in the UK. These Xcube central AHUs can handle up to 86 000 m3/h and have a totally new frame system that is completely covered externally by thermally insulated panels.

At the other end of the air-movement spectrum are diffusers made of plastic, making possible contoured blades to give a higher throughput and lower noise levels.

Moving closer to customers — Trox’s office in London (left) and Manchester.

The Airnamic range of swirl diffusers, for example, is available in circular and square forms. Compared with an imported metal diffuser, it has two more blades and can deliver about 50% more air. Noise levels are also said to be 5 dB(A) lower.

The ability to deliver so much more air reduces the number of diffusers that are required and also has cost-saving implications for the ductwork.

Plastics are also used in a designer range of diffusers, Xarto, with a wide range of face designs to appeal to architects.

Innovation in air distribution continues with the Flextro flexible plenum box, which is delivered as a flat pack and then springs up to shape when unpacked.

Trox’s factory at Thetford has seen major investment in equipment and working practices. £2.1 million of investment to establish the factory as Trox’s global centre of excellence for manufacturing multi-service chilled beams included £600 000 in equipment for computer-aided manufacture. New equipment includes a Salvagnini panel-bending machine with three times greater output than a brake press and which can handle steel and aluminium.

Supporting flexible automation is a multi-skilled labour force that has recently signed up to a flexible working-hours agreement that took two years to negotiate. This agreement allows for the number of hours worked in a week to be varied widely and for staff to manage a bank of hours.

Manufacturing capability and flexibility to respond to market demands are jut as important as innovation in product development. As Iam Sams explains, time scales for delivering equipment are very demanding — weeks rather than months. Indeed, so important is time that he believes contractors are more concerned with wanting work on time, not just price.


 

A current major project for Trox multi-service chilled beams is the new £100 million head office in Manchester for the Co-operative Group being constructed by BAM. The Trox involvement is for almost 700 beams in various lengths, but typically 2.5 m wide and up to 15m long.

The beams for this project are entirely of folded steel, a departure from Trox's previous use of extruded aluminium - a development made possible by the £600 000 investment in a Salvagnini P4 folding machine that is three times faster than a traditional brake press. They are passive beams delivering cooling from chilled water at 15/18°C and are multi-serviced incorporating lighting and its intelligent controls, fire alarms, BMS controls components and sprinklers. Trox have been engaged by Rotary North West Ltd, the selected Building Services Contractor for the prestigious and highly efficient project.

It takes about six weeks to install the beams on each of the 14 floors, plus commissioning time. Trox's involvement on site is about six months, with 21 people involved at the peak.

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