Andrew Leach is vacating his position as Actrol business development manager, although he has made it clear he is not “retiring” – Leach says he is likely to continue working with the industry in some form.
During his 26 years in the sector, Leach has seen a lot of changes and acquired a lot of knowledge, so HVAC&R News pinned him down on his last day in the office for a quick chat…
Andrew, what are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you’ve been involved in it?
There’s been some huge changes. From the wholesaler side, the big wholesalers have all had major changes. Actrol’s had two ownerships, and back in the day it was Lovelock and Kirby, that became Heatcraft, now they’ve had another change. So from that side of it, that always mixes the industry up a bit, gives us something to talk about.
But probably the biggest change would be phasing out of refrigerants, firstly CFCs, then HCFCs and now HFCs. It has certainly driven change in the way we do everything – for the better. The fact is that it forces change, and when you’re forced to change you try and improve. You’re not just creating the same thing with a different refrigerant. You actually try to better it on the way through. That would be a major change.
We often talk about the need to raise the profile of the HVAC&R sector. Has it changed much over the years or is it still under the radar?
It’s very much under the radar. I think what I do notice though is that more and more industry groups and people are very conscious of this and are working to change it. So I think that in the next few years the profile will change quite a lot.
What challenges and opportunities do you see coming up for those in the industry?
Still the continual change to better refrigerants. I don’t want to leave naturals out of the conversation, but at the same time I don’t want to make them sound like they’re the only alternative. I just see both have their place. I think CO2 growth at the moment is really interesting.
And trying not to be and ad for this company, but at ARBS we showed a prototype of a new refrigeration system for cool rooms called DC-3, which is really along the concept of a simple split air conditioner, where you buy the whole package – the evap, the controller and the condensing unit all as one – and it’s pretty much just pipe up and wire up and away you go. But on top of that it had a lot of smarts in it and everything is talking to each other so the energy savings and all those sort of things are optimised.
Now I can see we’re not going to be the only ones doing this – others are going to be doing it as well – so in a way it will simplify the industry. But at the same time the technology that’s inside it will mean that the people who are working on it have to understand that technology.
Any career highlights that come to mind?
I’m sure there are highlights but I think one of the biggest things is that over the years I’ve just met so many great people in this industry and built friendship that are life lasting. And I think that the industry itself is just a really nice industry to work in. There are so many nice people out there. And even when I was at ARBS I walked past booth after booth after booth and went “Oh, I know that person” and said hello to them. It was just interesting that after all this time you build all these great relationships with so many different people.