At the beginning of this year, I began recording a monthly series of podcasts for Engineered Systems. I did that to highlight to the HVAC community what equipment manufacturer representatives bring to the design and construction phases of project delivery. From the start of my design engineering career, I would regularly interact with a number of manufacturer representatives for assistance when it comes to selecting the optimum HVAC equipment for the projects I designed. Over the years, I saw how consulting engineers valued these manufacturer representatives, but, while working on the construction side of the HVAC industry, project managers were not so appreciative toward these individuals.

The consulting engineering community, as a rule, does not budget funding for HVAC research. Some construction firms do invest in HVAC research to find more cost-effective ways of improving the furnishing, installing, and/or operating of these systems, but the majority of equipment manufacturers allocate research dollars with the intent of improving their own products. They’re always looking for “a better mousetrap.” These companies do so in sync with the economy, the environment, and energy conservation — three reasons why continuous HVAC improvements are needed.

That said, equipment manufacturers empower their manufacturer representatives to routinely reach out to consulting engineers to educate these designers on new products and improvements to existing products. Consultants recognize the benefits manufacturer representatives bring to the design phase of a building program. Manufacturer representatives bring the classroom to the design engineers. They routinely invite consultants back to their factories to learn more about specific products as well. Representatives frequently provide training programs each year at convenient locations within their sales regions too. These classes may be a single evening course, or they may extend over multiple nights. Equipment manufacturers also contribute educational seminars and forums at numerous organization meetings and conferences, e.g., ASHRAE’s summer and winter meetings.

It can be said, based on the aforementioned evidence, consulting engineers need to interact with manufacturer representatives as well as learn the design and installation details associated with the piece of equipment, e.g., hot water condensing boilers, from these representatives. Designers and the project’s facility manager may also ask about code requirements, equipment cost and delivery time, features, benefits, and options when in the design phase of a project. Construction managers, HVAC contractors, associated mechanical-electrical coordinators, and estimators will usually be interested in these same questions too.

The value of equipment manufacturer representatives is commonly taken for granted, yet these individuals, backed by the companies they represent, contribute both financially and educationally to keep the HVAC industry progressing in the right direction year after year. 

So, next time you meet with a manufacturer representative, give him or her a hug — or, in the era of COVID, at least offer an elbow bump!