Haier’s new air-conditioners employ the firm’s proprietary Smart Variable-Speed Energy-Efficient (SVE) technology and is reportedly 59% more energy-efficient than standard models.
Localized Designs for India
promote the SVE technology in foreign and rural markets, Haier has
carried out extensive research on the needs of consumers in both
markets. For example, when Haier Air Conditioning first set up its
R&D team in India, one of the engineers’ tasks was to make a
thorough survey of consumer preferences.
discovered that one of the ways some Indian households fought the
scorching heat of summer was to use thick drapes and even blankets to
block out the 40°C or higher winds coming from the desert. This,
however, could keep the air from circulating and make the indoor
environment unbearably humid and muggy, especially noticeable when
someone enters from the outside. This makes quick cooling one of the
most popular air-conditioning features for Indian consumers. Haier’s
research team consequently tailored its SVE technology models to
incorporate fast cooling capacity.
domestic Chinese market, Haier has benefited from the
government-financed program to subsidize rural purchases of home
appliances. The program stipulates that only products that meet or
exceed Class 3 of China’s energy-efficiency rating are eligible to
participate. There are five classes in total, with Class 1 being the
most energy-efficient. This rule gives Haier a big advantage—all of the
15 models it entered for the bid were accepted. Those models all
feature the SVE technology to lower operation costs for the users.
Localized Designs for Rural China
some modifications were made to better accommodate the rural
environment. Taking into account the shaky electric grid in many remote
areas, Haier designed those models to operate on a wide range of input
voltages, so they can run smoothly without a voltage stabilizer. The
exterior of the air-conditioners were also protected to keep farm rats
from climbing in and damaging the parts. Since rural users are often
not as tech-savvy as urban users, Haier did away with the complicated
setting options on a regular remote control and designed a
“one-button-does-it-all” interface. Depending on the weather condition,
the air-conditioners will adjust the temperature automatically to
choose the optimal comfort setting.
seems fully prepared to serve the rural market. Over the past decade,
it has set up an elaborate sales and distribution network, with 6500
exclusive stores across China’s more than 2000 counties. The OEM boasts
that it is capable of delivering services and products to any Chinese
household within 24 hours after the order is placed, no matter how
remote the destinations might be. In addition, more than 38,000 trained
personnel are in place across the country to offer speedy maintenance
and repair services.
reason that Haier seems to fare better in this economy than many of its
fellow appliance OEMs in China is because it exercises a more cautious
inventory policy. Many Chinese appliance OEMs are hurting from the
hundreds of thousands of air-conditioners still sitting in their
warehouses from the 2008 production cycle.
Haier doesn’t have inventory pressure. At present, every
air-conditioner that comes off of our production line has a buyer.
Otherwise we wouldn’t send production orders to our operations
division,” says Su Ming.
“You should sell an
air conditioner like you might sell seafood,” says Haier CEO Zhang
Ruimin. “That is, we have to guarantee that at any given time Haier
air-conditioners are using fresh technology, and this ultimately means
that inventory is supplied on demand. Actually, this has been Haier’s
best line of defense during this economic storm we are experiencing.”
Water Heaters Combine Technology and New Look
are equally busy in Haier’s water heater business. In February 2009,
Haier announced a shift in brand positioning for its water heaters.
Less than two months later, it unveiled the Chang Xiang series
consisting of six electric water heaters, marking the firm’s official
entry into China’s high-end water heater market.
at around US$560 to $800, the heaters employ “3-D Super Fast Heating”
technology, an improvement over the dynamic heating technology that
Haier developed with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. First used in
Haier’s TT series water heaters, the 3-D dynamic heating technology
uses two heating modules that work independently or jointly to offer
the combined advantages of the storage-tank and on-demand heaters. A
small tank holds warm water, which heats up instantly when the switch
is turned on, so users will not experience inconsistent water
temperatures as more water is being heated up. While the original
technology can raise the temperature of 3 L of water by 15°C (59°F) in
a minute, the improved technology can now deliver a heat rise of 3 L
per minute at 24°C (75.2°F).
To make sure
the water heaters can stand up to the varying quality of water sources
in China, the tanks of the new water heaters are made with decarburized
enameling steel coated with porcelain enamel powder fired to extremely
high temperatures to deliver durability and resistance to stress and
acid. The tanks are also heavily insulated to minimize heat loss and
the energy wasted on repetitive reheating.
water heaters come in white and black, with three models available for
each color. Contrary to the bulky look of traditional storage-tank
water heaters, the new models are compact and are designed to be an
elegant addition to modern bathroom decor. “Those models are compact
because even the biggest inner tank only has a capacity of 30 L,” says
a Haier engineer. A 30-L tank, however, can produce 196 L of hot shower
water, thanks to the fast heating technology. Even in winter, Haier
says, when water temperatures are below 5°C (41°F), hot water can be
available in less than 30 minutes. The water heaters also allow users
to program shower time in advance and input the number of users. By
detecting the current indoor and groundwater temperatures, the heaters
can calculate the time it takes to heat up enough water and determine
when to start heating. Compared with traditional water heaters, Haier
says the Chang Xiang series can reduce energy consumption by more than
Inspiration Comes from Customer Complaints
got the ideas for those groundbreaking products from customer
complaints,” reveals a Haier technician. “Before we began development
we surveyed more than 1000 consumers in 20 cities, and discovered that
customer complaints focused on issues like ‘bulkiness,’ ‘designs hard
to incorporate into bathroom decor,’ and ‘complicated buttons.’ So
during the design process we addressed those issues.”
week, 10% of the employees from Haier’s Water Heater Division were in
the field learning about the market and learning what customers want.
The black and white exteriors were also based on customer suggestions.
“This time we designed a total of 10 prototypes and finally narrowed it
down to two designs based on poll results.”
Shengjun, China regional sales director of Haier Water Heater Division,
says: “For many years Haier’s water heaters have been at the top of the
domestic market, but have lagged in the high-end market. Now, with the
Chang Xiang series and a brand makeover, we are expecting to reach a
growth rate of 50% in the high-end market.”
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