Although less severe than the impact on other sectors, the impact of the coronavirus on the HVAC sector in the EU and USA has become apparent. There have been slowdowns, losses and unexpected issues, but just about every country has managed to find a strategy to limit the damage caused by Covid-19.
One key factor is that services supplied by the HVAC sector were defined as essential. Many factories have therefore been able to continue to operate (albeit on a smaller scale with a skeleton staff), so as to ensure their clients’ orders were fulfilled (including many in the healthcare sector).
Statistics on HVAC in Europe
A recent survey, conducted in 11 European Union member states (including Italy), has highlighted how the coronavirus has had a similar impact on the HVAC sector in the EU and the USA. Europe, as expected, has seen negative growth figures in many countries, such as Spain, France and Greece.
A decrease in orders has also been registered, caused mainly by many factories, which were not considered essential, having to suspend production. Spain fared the worst, but other countries such as Great Britain and Denmark have also experienced a significant downturn.
One of the most serious issues has been delays in the supply chain. Components supplied by factories in China in particular, the first country to be affected by Covid-19, became hard to source. The complete closure of Italy’s borders further aggravated a situation which had, until recently, still seemed manageable.
Despite restrictive measures introduced and the shutdown of many factories, the workforce has never posed a problem in the HVAC sector. Many companies, who had already brought in preventative measures with reduced operations involving fewer staff, have managed to combat the crisis thanks to certain expedients. In Ireland, for example, daytime working has been replaced by night shifts, while other countries have encouraged smart working.
Assistance provided by ‘cold’ technicians belonging to various national associations, has been extremely swift and thorough. This has included the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), essential for technicians to carry out their work safely and the planning of short term operational objectives.
The HVAC situation in the USA
Despite similarities between the impact of the coronavirus in the EU and USA, two areas have been the most hard-hit in the American HVAC sector: the supply chain and manufacturing division.
The former issue was caused by the lockdown in supplier countries like China and Mexico, which led to delays in the shipping of raw materials to American factories. The gradual recovery in those countries is now restoring supplies to acceptable levels, even though delivery times are double what they were.
The slowdown in manufacturing was caused, among other things, by a (foreseeable) drop in demand by subcontracted companies supplying HVAC systems. The main reason can be linked to economic uncertainty generated by the coronavirus pandemic, with many families seeing a dramatic reduction in their disposable income. As a result, orders for air conditioning systems (usually high in the spring summer period) have also nosedived.
In the early stages of the pandemic, when many states started to encourage their citizens to stay at home, the main HVAC actors acted quickly to make sure that their sector (and related industries) would be recognised as providing an essential service. Although reaching business targets in the first semester of this year remains a difficult challenge for many companies, this wise move has enabled the sector to limit to an extent the potential damage to business resulting from quarantine.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith