Edgar M Purvis, Executive Vice President, Emerson Climate Technologies, was in Dubai in mid-January. B Surendar caught up with him for a chat …

End-users are concerned about energy efficiency. But reliability is a key requirement for them and, perhaps, tops the list of needs. What steps have you taken to ensure your systems meet the reliability standards of end-users?

It’s a requirement everywhere. What makes it unique is the extreme temperature. It is dangerous for any manufacturer to assume that what is applicable in the US can be applied in the Middle East. It is important to recognise that every region is unique.

As a global corporation, we are committed to investing in infrastructure (to manufacture to the Middle East’s specifications) than to import from elsewhere.

While we have been in the Middle East for a long time, we still continue to learn to design and optimise. It’s not enough to design compressors but to work with OEMs and understand how the compressors operate. That way, we can optimise the systems.

We have to commit to training, how to install, how to diagnose problems and have a complete loop. It is important to understand the issues in a particular part of the world. It’s about local presence and to understand the product.

What are the recent, specific initiatives you have taken?

Regarding recent initiative, when you look at scroll, you are going to see scroll being applied for air conditioning and refrigeration. Scroll is very adaptable for high-ambient operations. In terms of energy efficiency, comfort and reliability, you will see modulation technology. So development of modulation technology is the way forward.

We recognise that local presence is important. In the last five years, we have invested in more people and are learning from our customers.

In the case of Emerson Climate Technologies, a little over half of our business is in the US. Our strategy is that in the next two to three years, over half the business will be outside the US. We see Latin America and the Middle East as important areas to grow our business. We are well invested in China and India. But we want to grow much higher in the Middle East. The Middle East is a very sophisticated market. If you look at Emerson Climate Technologies, in five years from now, the Middle East will become a bigger part of what we do.

Refrigerants remain a key area of concern. The search is always on to identify the best refrigerants for low-, medium- and high-temperature applications. What has been your approach?

We believe in teaming up with customers, contractors and key influencers to work on refrigerants of the future. The Middle East is not different when you look at the issue of refrigerants. There is tremendous flux on what’s going to happen in terms of regulations. All transitions have been challenging.

While we are working with systems that use R404A, R407C, CO2 and propane, owing to the geographical scope, we have to be prepared to support HCFC solutions and natural refrigerants. HCFCs are going to be around for a long time. We are the largest manufacturer of compressors in the world. Our position in the market does not allow us to say that we will supply only for certain refrigerants.

But don’t you think there is a need for conscience-based decisions? In the recent Climate Change Conference in Durban, there was scant progress made, also because the world does not seem to be able to agree on where to draw the line on commercial interests.

At the same time, we are working on other refrigerants. If you look at the number of laboratories we have working on refrigerants globally, it is three times more than before. For instance, there is the propane lab in India. And then we have labs in China and in Sidney (in the US). We recognise we have to be competitive.

2012 is a key year for EU decision-makers regarding the position of HFCs in Europe. Ultimately, EU will take a decision on how to regulate HFCs. I hope there is scope for HFCs in EU still. You will see options in Europe and in the US, as well. China and India will also move from HCFCs. In Europe, it is a conscience-based decision. The answers by region will vary. What China, India and the US decide to do will be a little different from one another.

Is their approach right from an environmental perspective? Should not they aim for a consensus?

Ideally, I would have liked Durban to have reached a consensus on Europe, the US, India and China. But I am not surprised by the decisions taken, because economies like China and India are dealing with the realities of growth in their marketplace. Having travelled to China and India, I am hopeful that whether they adopt a cohesive strategy or not, these countries will be moving towards a solution.

Our approach at Emerson has been education. It has been about working with key influencers and OEMs on finding a practical domain for refrigerants. We have been active since the 1980s. We have played that role in Europe, and we want to be active in the Middle East and India, as well. Being active means talking to regulators on options and jointly testing with OEMs and providing information on the technical options available. We are fortunate that we are in a unique position, because we have done it several times now.

What game-changing solutions do you have in cold chain management? What changes can you bring about in regions where you have a presence?

India is a number of years away from having the infrastructure for robust cold chain solutions, and that will come. Having said that, in the area of food safety, a lot of challenges exist in developed and developing countries. It is remarkable how at what temperature food has to be maintained is not readily available in most parts of the world.

Ten years ago, we at Emerson began to recognise the importance of optimising system performance. We need to be more than just the largest compressor manufacturer in the world. About 20 years ago, we became more involved in system controls. We introduced the CPC system, which is about supermarket control equipment. We made progress in the area of electronics. It was not only about controls equipment, but also about diagnosing systems problems and enterprise solutions. Today, we have the capability to look at systems to see what temperature food is being maintained, and to do so proactively before a problem arises. For instance, we can identify if a system has run out of refrigerant charge. Our focus is on the store – can we help our customer understand that food is being held at temperatures that are safe? And what about the transportation side? What about food safety at the point of origin? That’s something to be looked at. By using controls, the capability to understand that date is there. We are monitoring thousands and thousands of supermarkets and convenience stores. We have energy-efficiency optimising algorithm and HACCP-type algorithm. And we can provide documentation.

Even today, in many supermarkets, people are walking from case to case to see what temperature the food in it is being maintained at. The technology to track that is not hard. A big part of the strategy is, ‘What can Emerson Climate Technologies do to expand the value-add to customers? How can we do more for our customers?’ The answer to that is the use of electronics to prove that not only is the compressor running but also so is the entire system.

Again, whatever system you might want to apply, it is of no use if you do not provide the education needed to run that system. The tool has to be user-friendly. If it is not intuitive and if the end-user cannot use it with confidence, then there is no use. In the 1970s and the 1980s, electronics came into the automobile industry. But many service technicians did not know how to service it, and the technology was not as reliable. I think the same is true for food. Before you see FM tools being broadly accepted, the store manager and the maintenance manager need to understand the software. They need to believe that they don’t need a food safety expert to run the software. FM has to be intuitive. So education is important. It is important that people feel confident that the tool works, and that there is user-interface.