Business Profiles

Advantage Air: Keeping cool

Comfort turns a house into a home. The right lighting, the right temperature – these elements can make all the difference between a calm, welcoming, habitable atmosphere, or one we’re at war with when we should be relaxing. They’re fundamentals of a positive living or working environment, and Advantage Air have them covered from both sides. An air conditioning systems and components manufacturer, as well as implementors of innovative, easy-to-use Smart Home technology, they care about home systems from creation to control.

Advantage Air was founded by David and Margaret Devoy in Perth, 1990. As classic origin stories often go, the pair literally began the company in their garage, and from these small beginnings, have grown into an international operation over last three decades. Advantage Air now operate out of Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland in Australia, and Gauteng, Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Western Cape in South Africa. The company also supplies Namibia, Botswana and Swaziland, and now this Australia-born company is now looking to increase its reach throughout the African continent. We spoke with Manager Crispin Cheadle to learn more about the company.

As well as having a broad reach, Advantage Air produce a broad range of products, from components and small parts for air conditioning and central conditioning units, to producing innovative Smart Home technologies. We asked Crispin about the differences between the company’s two main markets: “In Australia, we’re a much more residential-focused company, with a more established market in the air conditioning, lighting and Smart Home technology fields. In South Africa, we’re more focused on our componentry business, and we are therefore much more commercially focused.” The South African and Australian branches of the company work closely with contractors, providing the reliable parts needed to develop top-quality air conditioning systems and similar, whereas in Australia, they work at the other end of the narrative by assisting contractors and home owners and similar who are looking to streamline their household solutions.

This difference is clear in the way the company markets itself in these two territories: Advantage Air’s Australian website offers a detailed breakdown of Smart Home technologies such as MyLight and MyAir, systems that easily control your home’s light and temperature settings via a tablet or smartphone app, whilst the South African branch’s international website focuses on ducting, grilles, air regulators and other speciality components. They boast that they are the most comprehensive one-stop-shop for all South African contractors in the HVAC industry, as well as the most reliable manufacturer and supplier of air conditioning products and components. It is within the small parts field of these operations that Crispin and his two fellows oversee their team.

The company not only produces individual parts for air conditioning, but designs and produces its own control systems as well. As the company states, “Since 1990, we’ve been researching, designing and manufacturing air-conditioning systems in both Australia and South Africa, specifically for our environments. We take great pride in producing a home-grown product that is world class, and we have the six patents, 24 registered designs, two innovation patents, four trademarks and two design marks to prove it.”

Specifically designed for South African and Australian weather and temperatures, Advantage Air’s systems are tough. As they put it, their designs must be able to “withstand the demands of a Durban summer, Johannesburg winter, or four seasons in one Cape Town day.” This is quite a claim, and with such demands to contend with, it wouldn’t be surprising for these systems to come at a high cost – but Advantage Air have made sure to protect their customers through a commitment to energy efficiency in their designs, ensuring that users of their systems are only paying for the energy they need.

For both air conditioning and small parts, the competition is South Africa is heated. We asked Crispin how Advantage Air work to stand out: “We’re one of the three or four biggest companies country-wide, and we just focus on manufacturing the widest variety, as well as trying to provide quick, reliable service. In terms of the market, it’s incredibly competitive – there are many players focusing on many different aspects. Some competitors only focus on one component, so we’ll have someone who just focuses on grills or just on ducts, things like that. Also, in South Africa, there are quite tough economic conditions at the moment.”
With so many companies in the mix, it is the services that really set Advantage Air apart, especially in terms of out-doing one-item specialist manufacturers. As the company states, “While we are at the forefront of technology, we believe in providing old-fashioned personal service. We are here to help and, being local, parts and servicing are always readily available.” Crispin expanded, “We deal directly with our customers, and we try to keep really close relationships with them, in terms of what’s important to them and making sure that they get what they need out of our services.” Working directly with their clients, Advantage Air seek to not only build relationships with the contractors who use their products, but also to boost them up, offering support in the market as well as support services for their parts: ““We take the approach that if they grow, we grow, so we try to grow the market and then introduce them and help them with leads.”

In order to provide their loyalty-winning services, Advantage Air put great importance on the training of their staff, whose abilities must not only be top of the pile, but must stay constantly up to date with the company’s new products: “We combine trying to hire people who have got good experience and providing ongoing in-house training. When people start with us, they do four to six weeks of pretty intensive training to learn about our products and standards, and then we have people travelling back and forth from Australia in order to train there. It’s a continuous process – we try to give our employees the best level of up to date training that we can.”

The other branch of Advantage Air’s operations, their Smart Home products, is operating in a much smaller market, but one that develops at a far faster rate. “There’s three broad categories of Smart Home products: there’s the cheap products that you simply plug into your light switch, and then there’s our category, which is affordable products that have a service behind them, so if something goes wrong, someone will help you. Then, there’s high-end products where someone has to come in and programme it specifically for you.”

As the company explains, “We manufacture the world’s most advanced ducted air conditioning management systems, controlled from your smart device. Our system gives each room individual climate control for the smart home, offices and commercial properties.” These systems extend beyond air conditioning, also controlling your lighting and, through a soon-to-launch new product, window blinds. Crispin described the experience: “It manages the temperature of the house automatically, can switch the lights on at night, and our new camera system will let you know if there’s any unexpected movement. You can also programme so that at, say, 6 o clock, it will open yours blinds and switch the lights on to wake you up.”

Whilst the rise in smartphone technologies and systems such as Alexa are starting to provide extra challenges in this sector, Advantage Air are expanding. Not only are they bringing out new camera-sensors and remote blinds for this range, but they are expanding across the board: “We’ve just moved into a brand new facility, which we’ve kitted out and updated the equipment for to make it more efficient. We’re also looking into establishing ourselves in Zimbabwe: we’ve looked into the market and begun talks, and there’s a lot of new hope now, with the new president. However, it’s still early days.” The company are already established in other Southern countries such as Namibia and Swaziland, but they are always looking at new frontiers.

“For us, the long-term goal is for us to make Smart Homes to be more affordable so that it’s not just for the top 1%, and we want to do that throughout Southern Africa, and then Africa.” This ambition extends to every aspect of their business. Whilst exploration into some African markets is still in its early days, and their approach is therefore still being discussed, Advantage Air know one thing – they want to keep moving. “The markets around us are smaller, but as we grow, we want to keep expanding, and take our business as far as they can go.”

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Alice Instone-Brewer

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