There is a saying that knowledge is power. We are often described as having specialist knowledge which we apply to the benefit of mankind. If we do have power, we do not gain from in financially to the extent of some other professions. When it comes to the ACR industry it sometimes, perhaps always, seems as though we constantly have to justify the price that we put to our knowledge.
As our clients become very conscious of their spending since the financial crisis, they frequently forego chances to gain the benefit of our knowledge in an effort to cut costs. If we remove our rose-tinted spectacles for a moment, we may recall that this is not such a new phenomenon, but has been the way of ACR business for a very long time. Possibly not always, but then this is a very old industry.
Much of the end-user rhetoric of the importance of sustainability and the need for fast technological development doesn't carry-through due to their penny pinching purchasing approach when energy efficient solutions are passed-over for lower first cost alternatives.
Even with the assistance of legislation in the form of F-Gas legislation and requirement for Air-Conditioning Inspections has had little impact on the 'price' of industry expertise as the 'strong-arm of the law' has failed to live up to its name. The cynical will argue that whilst the trainers have benefited, those that had to actually pay for the training have probably not been unable to recoup their investment in elevated charge-out rates or fees. In fact several contracting companies have reported that human nature being what it is, their engineers asked for a pay raise after receiving the mandatory training even though the company was unable to increase its prices to clients.
None of this is new. The English critic, essayist and reformer John Ruskin who died in 1900 once said "There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man's lawful prey".
Cowboy contractors, copy-cat spare parts, and more recently, fatal incidents involving fake refrigerants just go to prove that this issue is as true now as it was when Ruskin said it. There will always be client's around that will buy on price alone. It is to their detriment and to the safety of those that work on their systems that they do. In the long run, no one gains from these often small short term financial wins.
However, this is a great industry with a rich history steeped in engineering and scientific achievements. The values of innovation and engineering excellence combined with industry best practice run deep. Thankfully, there are enough engineering led end-users around who share these values and also financial investors that do look to the long term rather than short term gain. Others, with environmental concerns are often prepared to now listen.
As an industry, we recognize and reward those worthy members (individuals, teams and companies) that excel or make a significant contribution through such prestigious occasions as the Institute Of Refrigeration Annual Dinner and the forth-coming ACR News Awards.
As an industry, we do value our knowledge. We may not always receive as much as we would like for it but that doesn't make it any the less valuable or less appreciated. Hope to see you at the next dinner.