We launched a portable negative air machine to help hospitals treating COVID patients: Carrier
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We launched a portable negative air machine to help hospitals treating COVID patients: Carrier

Built on Willis Carrier’s invention of modern air conditioning in 1902, Carrier is a world leader in heating, air-conditioning and refrigeration (HVAC) solutions. It is known for constantly having built upon its history of proven innovation with new products and services that improve global comfort and efficiency. What’s more, the firm – now an independent company having separated from UTC – to address the COVID-19 pandemic, launched a device that cleans contaminated air and prevents it from spreading.

In an exclusive video interview hosted by CONSTRUCTION WORLD Chirag Baijal, Managing Director, Carrier Corporation to Carrier Airconditioning & Refrigeration Limited., tells us more about the device, the impact of the pandemic, and more...

Excerpts:

Carrier is now once again an independent company having successfully completed its separation from United Technologies (UTC)...

Yes, Carrier completed its separation from UTC and became an independent, publicly traded company in April. Carrier is a leading global provider of HVAC, refrigeration, fire and security and building automation solutions. We create products and solutions that improve the lives of our customers and help protect our environment. As an independent company, we will have a greater focus and enhanced agility based on Carrier’s own distinct operating priorities and strategies for long-term growth and profitability. There is no change in how we serve our customers or work with our suppliers and we will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that their needs are met.

The AC industry is known to see a majority of sales in the period from March to June. How has the current pandemic crisis and the lockdown impacted your sales, supply and production?

Against the backdrop of global uncertainty, protecting the health, safety and well-being of our employees and customers remains our top priority. Throughout the pandemic, Carrier India has been taking actions aligned with the latest information and global guidance to protect our employees and customers, minimise the spread of the virus and ensure business continuity for our customers.

With a complete lockdown in India, businesses here have been impacted and Carrier India is no exception. During this time, we worked closely with state and local government to ensure our factory operations followed safety guidelines of the authorities as well as internal guidelines set by Carrier. By following these safety protocols, we restarted operations in early May, and are performing essential production of air-conditioning, particularly critical in the healthcare industry.

How have you been managing your labour and factory setup amid the pandemic, considering Carrier is a leading supplier of high-technology HVAC solutions in all parts of Asia?

Throughout the pandemic, the health, safety and well-being of our employees and customers has been of the utmost importance. With our local manufacturing unit and the factories across the globe now opening up, I don’t foresee inventory availability will be a challenge for us. Around the world, Carrier facilities have taken measures to ensure social distancing, proper personal protective equipment and implement new protocols to keep our employees safe.

We have remained agile and evolved as the pandemic has evolved.

I am confident that as Carrier India, we as a team have the ability and resilience to see through this crisis and come out stronger than ever.

Carrier also moved early to address the COVID-19 pandemic head-on – it launched an air machine that cleans and removes air potentially contaminated by the virus. Tell us more on how this device cleans contaminated air and prevents it from spreading to different sections of a hospital.

Public health is a collective responsibility and we are proud to do our part in these times of pandemic. This product was launched to help hospitals that were treating COVID-19 patients. OptiClean is a portable negative air machine, which cleans and removes air potentially contaminated by the virus. The machine creates negative pressure so that when the hospital room door is opened, air is pulled into the room from outside instead of letting potentially contaminated air out from the room.

Where the negative pressure is not required, the product is designed in a way that it can be used as an air “scrubber”, pulling air in, removing many contaminants and discharging cleaner air back into the room.

We are proud of the team for understanding the needs of the healthcare community and coming up with an innovative solution that will have immediate positive impact on hospitals.

You also have a comprehensive Environment, Health & Safety programme. How has this been of help in a pandemic time like this?

Carrier India holds social responsibility as a core value – both in protecting the health and safety of our employees, contractors and customers as well as protecting the environment.

We take stringent measures to ensure a safe working environment for our employees, technicians and customers.

Carrier India (HVAC) has reached 13 years (28 million man hours) without a lost-time incident, which means that no work hours were lost due to an employee injury in our factories or in our sales and distribution function.

In the wake of COVID-19, we have continued to employ a number of safety precautionary measures for our technicians that are performing services for our customers, including approval of pre-job risk assessments to ensure actions including personal protective equipment are in place and all protocols followed prior to performing the work.

Some research also shows that when properly maintained and operated, HVAC systems can reduce the spread of viruses... Your comments?

A generation of research and experience has proven that when properly maintained and operated, HVAC can reduce the spread of viruses . These critical building systems not only provide thermal comfort but, according to the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), may also improve resistance to infection.

HVAC systems work in a built environment to supply comfortable, clean, recaptured air, mix in healthy levels of fresh air, and contain or exhaust contaminants. Air delivery systems can reduce the transmission of viruses through inline filtration, something HVAC professionals are capable of assessing.

Do also refer to our recent report on ‘Air Conditioning and Covid-19: Slowing the Spread, which highlights how HVAC can reduce the spread of viruses, and along with providing thermal comfort also improve resistance to infection. The report also highlights HVAC best practices and air-conditioning facts.

A lot is being spoken about indoor air quality now in the midst of the pandemic. And Carrier also has products that help improve indoor air quality and remote services that manage ventilation in buildings, besides touchless solutions in public spaces...

Carrier continues to work on advanced digital solutions, alongside our sister company EcoEnergy Insights in India. We are dedicated to further remote service offerings with combined knowledge of data analytics and HVAC.

Having said that, Carrier has been at the forefront in solving critical challenges amid the global uncertainty – from improving indoor air quality, protecting the world’s food and pharmaceutical supply and keeping people safe and secure...

As people around the world adjust to a new normal, the health of our buildings – and how they influence personal health – is critically important. Carrier recently introduced its Healthy Buildings Programme, an expanded suite of advanced solutions to help deliver healthy, safe, efficient and productive indoor environments across key verticals including commercial buildings, healthcare, hospitality, education, retail and marine.

Also read: What Makes an Office Building “Healthy.

The Indian HVAC industry is known to be highly competitive, in terms of energy-efficiency, reputation, quality, and technical know-how. What is it that keeps you ahead of your competitors?

We are in a good space in India. Specifically:
  • Carrier has a customer-focused approach to business. We listen to our customers and come up with value-added products and services in line with those requirements. When customers had issues on lead time and cost of imported products, we started our localisation programmes for chiller and VRF equipment. When customers wanted agility, we reorganised our business teams to give them single point of contact for sales and service and created product neutral key accounts and strategic accounts groups to offer best solutions.
  • Our customer reach through our dealer partners is a big advantage. We have more than 600 dealer partners spread across the length and breadth of the country. We have patiently invested in nurturing this over years and is a big testimony to our firm belief in the India story (Carrier was one of the first companies in the air-conditioning space to start selling equipment through channel partners).
  • Carrier remains focused on investing in cutting-edge R&D, systems and people. We take pride in our Carrier operating system which helps us in navigating through the myriad dynamics of business conditions seamlessly. We continue to invest in R&D not just globally, but even in our R&D centre in Gurugram, where we solve complex engineering issues that have a direct bearing on customer satisfaction. Our centres have some of the most modern facilities in India.
  • Most importantly, we regularly listen to our employees. Through our robust feedback mechanisms, as an organization, we are able to address issues in time – which leads to employee trust and loyalty, which I believe is important for any organisation to thrive.
  • All these in conjunction help us to be one of the leaders in the industry.

    India’s HVAC market is predicted to reach $5.9 billion by 2024. Do you see the pandemic disrupting this growth? How long do you think it will take for the economy and your sector to pick up again?

    We are focused on solutions to help buildings around the world safely reopen. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of indoor air quality and we look forward to being part of the solution as we all work together to move toward our new normal.

    Your sectors of focus include commercial offices, healthcare, hospitality, education, retail, factory, residential and others. Any specific sectors Carrier will you focus on post COVID, knowing that currently a large part of your business caters to the commercial building segment?

    We have product and service offerings in all segments that you mentioned and we will continue to focus as before. Segments such as healthcare and pharma are expected to provide opportunity. Also with increased awareness around IAQ, there will be more opportunities for our solutions across the board. All existing installations would need to make them safe for their customers, so there are retrofit opportunities across all segments.

    Tell us more about the company’s focus on innovation and sustainability. You are personally a thought leader in the field of sustainability and are actively involved with CII-IGBC in promoting the green building movement in India...

    Whether it is reducing our greenhouse gas impact, leading the phase-out of ozone-depleting refrigerants, or introducing many of the world's most energy-efficient building solutions, at Carrier, we incorporate sustainability into all that we do. In 2019, our India factory has been able to achieve success by reducing hazardous waste by 38 per cent, 25 per cent absolute reduction in water consumption, close to 13 per cent reduction in green house gas since 2015. Carrier was one of the founding members of IGBC in 2001 and we have worked with them for more than a decade to promote the green building movement in India. Even our Carrier India factory, along with a few other offices, are IGBC Gold-rated.

    Also read:

  • Building Safety and Efficiency Post COVID-19.
  • Health Co-Benefits of Green Buildings
  • The Impact of Green Buildings on Cognitive Function 
  • Further, Carrier is the only company in the world to be a founding member of Green Building Councils on four continents.

    Considering that India is among the top five emerging markets for Carrier globally, what are your plans going forward – in terms of strategic growth priorities, including growing your base, increasing product extensions and geographic coverage and focusing on services and digital?

    We believe that India has a great story with immense potential, and we have seen some good results in the past years. Having said that, still the AC penetration in India is among the lowest in the world (overall 5 per cent and urban ~ 10 per cent), which presents a huge opportunity.

    We are working with our sales teams, marketing and R&D to develop India specific solutions (for example, inverter ducted, screw chillers from India factory and others).

    Concurrently, work is being done to improve our supplier base so that we can achieve self-sufficiency and reduce import dependence.

    From a geographical standpoint, we continue to improve our dealer network within India.

    We have renewed our commitment to investments in services and enhancing our digital capabilities. All this is being done to make us more agile and nimble in our operations and make lives of customers better.

    Watch the full video on what Chirag Baijal has to say on air-conditioning systems and the pandemic, and more...

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