A host of remarkable qualities mark out Klima-Therm as an exceptional business, including its people, its approach to solving problems, and its diverse, innovative product range. As the company celebrates its 40th anniversary, we take a closer look at what made Klima-Therm the powerful force it is today.

Klima-Therm was founded in 1982 by two former York salesmen – Geoff Lovell and Ian Mundie – to sell McQuay chillers.

Both had been given financial training at York and were confident that, with this knowledge, their years of experience in the industry, and their new approach to selling equipment, they could make a success of the business.

Their self-assurance was further bolstered by the fact that they intended to create a whole new way of doing business. Historically a HVAC system would often be designed by a consultant, put out to a mechanical and electrical (m&e) contractor to tender for, and the equipment manufacturer would then tender to the m&e contractor.

Geoff and Ian recognised that, as a small start-up business, they would struggle to compete if they applied this model because the bigger players would always be able to offer a price advantage – even, perhaps, factory pricing – and still make a profit.

‘Designed in’ from the start

Their solution was to approach consultants at the design stage. Operating in this way meant that Klima-Therm’s equipment could be specified at the outset and therefore ‘designed in’ to the project.

As a result, Klima-Therm was, from the outset, interested mainly in targeting m&e consultants. This enabled the business to punch above its weight and establish itself as a significant force in the HVAC sector. Almost all the business at this time was centred around London and the South-East.

Of course, none of this would have worked had the consultants not had confidence in the products Klima-Therm supplied, or the company’s ability to deliver them on time and to budget.

Innovative products, technically skilled sales engineers

It was always a policy, therefore, to invest in innovative products and highly technically skilled sales engineers. It was their job was to find m&e consultants active in the areas in which Klima-Therm was operating and get close to specific consultants who they could develop as close contacts.

Over time, as consultants moved around and/or moved up in their organisations, this network of consultants provided an exceptionally strong customer base and, while price is always an issue, it was recognised that a properly engineered solution was far more important – and that remains a basic tenet of Klima-Therm’s sales approach to this day.

At its inception, Klima-Therm had the sole distribution rights to McQuay, a respected Italian manufacturer with a ground-breaking two-speed compressor, and the Westinghouse centrifugal chiller ranges from the USA, badged to McQuay.

The relationship with McQuay ended in 1984 when the group was acquired by Dallas, Texas-based Snyder General Corporation, a US industrial giant responsible for engineering, manufacturing, and marketing residential and commercial heating and air conditioning products, and commercial and industrial fans.

But, by then, Klima-Therm’s reputation had grown to such an extent that finding new suppliers was not as challenging as it otherwise might have been. Indeed, it was a significant catalyst for launching the next phase of Klima-Therm’s development into a wider range of areas.

AHUs, fan coils, chilled beams & chillers

This phase included a move into the supply of a ground-breaking range of air handling units, advanced fan coil units, cutting edge chilled beams, and state-of-the-art chillers from a range of top manufacturers. In each case, the product was taken on because it offered compelling technical advantages, or fitted neatly into the portfolio, and Klima-Therm established a close relationship – not to say partnership – with the supplier.

Over the years, under projects director Paul Davis – who has been with Klima-Therm and its sister company LH-plc in various roles since 1986 – a highly skilled team of sub-contract ‘partners’ has been built up.

In fact, at the time of writing, Paul is project managing the removal and replacement of two McQuay centrifugal chillers which he witnessed being delivered to site way back in 1986. The replacement chillers are compact, highly efficient Turbocor-compressor machines.

Sister company LH-plc’s investment and support has allowed Klima-Therm to develop its contracting side so it can now not only provide the equipment, but also install it by embracing an efficient turnkey approach.

This has allowed the company to sell installation packages to major commercial players which appreciate the fact that the installer is also the manufacturer’s representative.

More recently, Klima-Therm has grown its product portfolio dramatically to incorporate everything from air conditioning and distribution to air handling units, chilled beams, and fan coil units, as well as an extensive range of heat pumps and chillers.

Bespoke, consultancy, contractor & end-user solutions

But Klima-Therm’s offering does not end there. This resourceful company also offers a comprehensive range of services including bespoke, consultant, contractor, and end-user solutions.

Klima-Therm also recognises that encouraging a supportive learning work environment is essential to creating a happy, healthy workplace. Therefore, as part of its commitment to ongoing lifelong learning, it has developed a whole series of cutting edge continuous professional development programmes which keeps participants’ thinking fresh, their skills relevant, and their motivation high.

Benefits of CPD for individuals include opportunities for upskilling training and the ability of participants to show their commitment to self-development and professionalism.

Future plans

Moreover, the company is investigating opportunities to open regional offices in Manchester and elsewhere to strengthen its national coverage.

Beyond this, Klima-Therm’s range of projects has expanded to cover various sectors including healthcare, commercial, retail, education, construction, financial services, and food & drink, as well as data centres.

But this trailblazing company refuses to rest on its laurels. It continues to innovate in a number of ways. The company’s sales director, Tim Mitchell, explains: “We have a responsibility to act in the best interests of all its stakeholders, not just our shareholders and employees, but also our customers. That means investing heavily in the company, our people, and our products.

“Our historical success won’t guarantee fruitful times ahead. That’s why we must guard against complacency and maintain our focus on peak performance.

“I believe that by constantly reviewing our products, procedures, and policies, we are successfully managing change. We have also ensured that continuous improvement has become ingrained in our business culture, so we are able to sustain our growth by concentrating on the right aims and objectives.”

Major milestones in the company’s history

  • 1982 Began trading.
  • 1983 First major order – centrifugal chillers for London Bridge City development.
  • 1985 Set up London Docklands office.
  • 1990 Set up Bristol office.
  • 1992 Industry recession – satellite offices closed. London absorbed into the Sunbury head office and Bristol ‘given’ to manager Ken Strong who used the established customer and maintenance base to launch Cooltherm (now part of the Carver Group).
  • 2003 Sold to LH-plc.

Klima-therm, the pioneer

Klima-Therm has always punched above its weight with large, well-known organisations trusting the company to provide the correct solutions.

On top of this, the technical innovation that forms the basis of Klima-Therm’s pioneering product range has seen the company set a number of industry firsts in the UK. These include:

  • Two-speed compressors.
  • Chilled beams.
  • Turbocor compressors.
  • Large air source and water source heat pumps.
  • Alternative refrigerants.
  • Modular small footprint condenser systems.