The Schaufler Academy building has underfloor heating and cooling, chilled beams, indoor air quality sensors, and heat recovery systems taking heat from condensing units. The infrastructure includes a 300,000 litre ice storage tank which stores latent energy, solar absorbers and a combined heat and power unit.
Peter Schaufler, the late president of the company, had the idea for the new training centre in 2009 when the recession was at its deepest. That is unusual. Most companies cut two aspects of their business in a downturn to save money, namely marketing and training. Bean-counters think that cutting investment in customers saves their companies.
Not Bitzer. Peter Schaufler knew that to survive and develop, his company was going to have to design and develop smarter compressors. The F-Gas legislation was going to make the market more complex and technical. With increasing complexity and new refrigerants, Mr Schaufler knew Bitzer was going to have to invest in helping engineers apply its new compressors correctly in real-life applications.
With its five 'theory' and three 'practical’ training rooms, the approach is designed to make sure that knowledge is backed up by skills. Having theoretical knowledge is important, but not at the cost of knowing how to apply it in the real world.
Training in the new centre focuses on applications and not just products. Engineers on the courses will know how to apply solutions using Bitzer compressors. Engineers need to know about the systems and surrounding environment into which they plan to apply the Bitzer compressors and applications.
The training is very much 'hands-on'. Bitzer is moving with the times with its training, making it practical. People learn better by 'getting stuck in’. There is no simulation when it comes to the compressors. Courses include the latest on the F-Gas regulations, COP21 and EcoDesign, as well as specific programmes on Bitzer compressors and applications. When it comes to natural refrigerants and low-GWP refrigerant training courses, Bitzer has courses on CO2, ammonia, and hydrocarbons, with more to follow.
Natural Refrigerant Training
Bitzer had already trained around 50 UK engineers on their CO2 systems when I visited. Some of the engineers were from retailers using CO2 refrigeration systems. Many of the delegates needed training for commercial refrigeration applications, with some needing skills to apply in industrial refrigeration applications.
The demand for CO2 systems is strong. According to Bitzer, CO2 is increasingly replacing HFC refrigerants. “Sales of CO2 [systems] are growing strongly,” was Volker's reply to my question. Until recently there has been something of a 'north-south divide’ in the world in relation to CO2 systems. However, since the introduction of the new Ejector technology, which improves the efficiency of CO2 applications also in warmer climates, this is no longer a significant factor.
Hydrocarbon-based technology, such as propane systems, were also continuing to develop. As with CO2 systems, there were obviously very important safety considerations to observe, requiring engineers to attend specialist courses to learn how to manage the refrigerant safely.
Traditional alternative refrigerants, such as ammonia, remain an important option. Bitzer's ammonia course is two days long and covers system design, how to deal with flooded evaporators, and oil management, to name a few aspects. Trainees get 'hands-on' with compressors while learning about safety and using a system test container.
Bitzer will tailor courses to suit the needs of its delegates too, given that 'real world' application is an important aspect of what the academy offers.
Volker was keen to point out that Bitzer collaborates with universities and academies, the work from which adds to their training courses. The collaboration with the academic world includes research and funding, and it helps Bitzer to find good lecturers. Furthermore, Bitzer supports some of the students during their studies.
Most factories have a 'lean manufacturing' system which includes constant improvements in the process of making their products. Bitzer has its own feedback system for making its compressors. Hour by hour, the operatives write improvement ideas on boards at their part of the production process.
Their managers have to follow-up on their ideas, and whether they will use them or not, within the time of their shift. There are no tedious committee meetings. If the improvement idea is a good one, they use it and improve the process.
The attention to detail in making a Bitzer compressor is staggering. When machining the components for each unit, for example, Bitzer has a four micron tolerance. Four microns!
Watch the video showing the recently opened Schaufler Academy
Top of the Class
With their new training academy, Bitzer is demonstrating that its pedigree is not just built on its past. It is built with the future in mind, too.
Find out more about Bitzer's Schaufler Academy and what you can learn with them here: www.bitzer.de/gb/en/service/expertise/seminars