Bitzer is a global company that ranks among the leading manufacturers of refrigerant compressors. They have over 3,000 employees in more than 90 countries – 200 of whom are located in Australia. Globally, they are at the forefront of technology and innovation and are able to feed that synergy back to their divisions across the world.
The origins of Bitzer go back to 1934, when eponymous fonder Martin Bitzer started the company. Ownership passed hands a few times between then and 1979, when it ended up under the control Peter Schaufler, who inherited it from his father. Schaufler took Bitzer to the next level, expanding the brand to a global scale and increasing the product base as well. He had the drive to be a leader in manufacturing and innovation, and that passion has carried the company since.
“The lineage is the fact that this technology has always been designed to be the best,” says Andrew Japp, Marketing Manager for Bitzer Australia. “It is this determination by business people to really come up with the best technology for refrigeration.”
Bitzer Australia, on the other hand, did not begin its life as a branch of Bitzer. When they started out, they were a different company called W.H. Evans, founded by Bill Evans. W.H. Evans was originally a customer of Bitzer, distributing their compressors in Australia from 1960 on. In 1988, Evans decided to retire and sell his business, which Bitzer Germany was happy to buy.
Japp himself has been with Bitzer since 2003. He started working in Germany, when an opportunity arose to spend six months in the headquarters. “It, of course, seemed like a fantastic opportunity as an Australian to spend some time as an engineer in Germany,” he says. “I’ve always seen Germany as the heart of engineering. You see all these fantastic engineering companies there. It’s actually quite interesting that all of these engineering powerhouses come from a similar area.” Unsurprisingly Bitzer is among those companies – such as Mercedes and Porsche – that was started at roughly the same time, in the same vicinity.
Today, Bitzer Australia has two manufacturing facilities. One is in Melbourne, the other is in Sydney, and roughly half of the company’s workforce resides in each. “The one in Melbourne is actually a further diversification form the core of the business,” Japp says. That facility actually originated under the brand Buffalo Trident. “To holistically understand Bitzer Australia, you’d also have to understand Buffalo Trident, as they’re a major part.”
Buffalo Trident was established in 1958 as a joint venture by Buffalo Refrigeration and Trident Refrigeration. Their purpose was to manufacture and design heat exchange equipment. In 1992, that company was for sale, and Bitzer Australia bought it because it fit well into their portfolio. “I always refer to your home air conditioning split system, because it’s a fairly easy way for most people to relate to this equipment,” Japp explains. “The inside portion of your split system, which sits inside the room, is what Buffalo Trident manufacturers.” That half consists of the fan which delivers the cold air. “The Bitzer equipment, which is manufactured in Sydney, is more like the outdoor unit,” he continues. That includes the compressor – the heart of the system, driving the refrigeration and compression cycle.
“Being a part of a heat exchange system brings us one step closer to bringing a cohesive solution to contractors and end users,” says Japp.
The culture among the 200 employees divided between the company’s two branches is fantastic, according to Japp. You could even say the same for the culture across the whole Bitzer international empire. Japp remembers being in Germany, and hearing Bitzer employees joking: ‘If you cut me, then I bleed green.’ “A lot of the people who work for Bitzer, whether it’s in Buffalo Trident, or Bitzer Sydney, or Bitzer Globally in Germany – a lot of them have been with the company a long time,” Japp says. There is no greater indicator of a good corporate culture then employee retention, and at Bitzer it is not uncommon to find employees who have served with the company 7, 10, 15 or even 20 years.
“It’s a very passionate company where people are engaged with the business and where the management have a fairly open style of allowing different people within the organisation to be creative, and achieve positive things together,” Japp explains.
Aside from the loyalty they instil in their workforce, there are a lot of other ways Bitzer differentiates themselves from their competitors. One way is by simply incorporating the heat exchange component of the business from Buffalo Trident – that makes for a unique and strong product combination.
“The second thing is Bitzer Germany has been the backbone of Bitzer Australia, and in their technologies they’re always striving for the best energy efficiency,” Japp explains. Bitzer Australia can benefit from being an international brand and lean on those global products and efficiency gains to come up with solutions that are always market leaders. “They are market leaders in terms of efficiency and market leaders in terms of technology advancement.” Bitzer has a huge pool of research and development teams in Germany continually processing, testing, and pushing out new products and Bitzer Australia is able to reap the benefits.
Another differentiator is history. Refrigerator technology is a highly technical product linked to contractors, so upgrading can be difficult. Bitzer Australia benefits in this arena from having a long term market penetration and consistent training. “A lot of people are aware and know to use, maintain and repair our equipment efficiently,” Japp explains. Competition that does not have that history, however, may not be able to keep their customers as well up to date.
Environmentally, Bitzer is also leader in offering sensitive technology – it is just something they feel is a necessary part of their product portfolio. “It gives us an advantage, the fact that we’re proactive in offering these,” says Japp. Bitzer Australia is one of the biggest developers of CO2 technology in Bitzer globally – Bitzer Germany even recognises their advancement in this area.
Finally, Bitzer Australia can credit their Managing Director of 10 years, Rüdager Rudischhauser, for their continued success. As Managing Director, Rudischhauser is extremely active, and extremely adamant about pursuing environmentally sensitive technology. “The development, the drive for CO2 technology within Australia was fundamentally his doing. He’s the driving force behind that.”
Looking forward, Bitzer Australia has their eyes set on ARBS – Australian Refrigeration and Building Services – a biannual refrigeration exhibition that is a main event for Bitzer Australia and the sector at large. Japp says they will be looking to launch a few new products and technologies at this year’s exhibition. “That is typically a unique time for us; we use this opportunity of the biannual event and surrounding publicity to launch these new products,” he says.
In the future, Japp wants Bitzer to continue to capitalise on opportunities in environmental and smart technology, and maintain their pattern of growth. He wants to ensure that Bitzer continues its market penetration – even if the end user cannot recognise it. “While you can’t see our products anywhere, you can feel them everywhere,” he says. “That’s fundamental because Bitzer is not something that’s in your hands that you see on a day to day basis. You don’t see our products but we do affect lifestyle in a very real way. We’re a part of a system that keeps food fresh, we’re part of a system that provides conditioned air. So indirectly, compressor technology can really influence the comfort of our lifestyle, but it’s invisible.”
For more information of Bitzer Australia compressor technology or Buffalo Trident heat exchange equipment, visit their new website at http://www.bitzeravp.com.au