A Century of Innovation in HVAC Manufacturing

Williams Comfort Products

Williams Comfort Products is America’s leader in residential and commercial HVAC solutions. With over 100 years of expertise, Williams is bringing innovative, efficient new systems to the HVAC industry.
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Williams Comfort Products was founded in 1916, when Jesse Williams began building gas steam radiators in his garage in Los Angeles, California. Williams grew his fledgling company by expanding the company’s product line to include residential and commercial furnaces of multiple types and sizes. Williams Radiator Company, as it was originally known, gradually expanded to reach customers nationwide, building a reputation for high-quality products. The company introduced innovative new systems including gas-fired heating and gravity wall heating.

Williams soon captured the interest of others in the industry, and was acquired by Continental Materials Corporation in 1958. Changing the company’s name to Williams Furnace Company, Continental Materials invested in marketing efforts that expanded Williams’ distribution network across the United States, and eventually into the Canadian market.

In 1986 Continental Materials acquired Hydro-Aire/LANCO, a producer of fan coils and air handlers, integrating cooling systems into the company’s product line. With a complete line of heating and cooling solutions, the company continued to grow and expand, eventually adopting the name Williams Comfort Products to reflect the full scope of its products. In 2013 the company experienced another major expansion, introducing air curtain products in order to cater to customers in food service and other commercial industries.

Continuing a tradition of excellence
Today, Williams Comfort Products offers a diverse range of high quality products, all manufactured at the company’s factory in Colton, California. Williams is committed to producing the most efficient and environmentally friendly HVAC systems on the market. The company’s Research and Development team has introduced innovative new HVAC solutions that offer maximum efficiency and comfort. Williams also strives to provide outstanding service to its customers. “We see ourselves as being customer-centric. That’s our mission: we make the highest quality products and we provide value and service to our customers,” says Jerry Miller, Vice President of Sales.

Employee engagement is a central part of the company’s commitment to quality. “Williams values its employees; we lean on them to help us make their work environment better. We have monthly meetings with employees to get their feedback, and we try to incorporate those changes to make it a better environment for everyone to work in. That can be product ideas, processes and procedures, promotional activities, work incentives, and other suggestions of that nature,” Miller says.

Complete HVAC solutions
Currently, the Williams product line includes fan coils and air handlers, furnaces and room heaters, and air curtains.

Heating solutions: Williams offers a comprehensive line of heating solutions, including gas and electric furnaces and room heaters. The company’s residential furnaces are distributed through the wholesale channel and through home improvement retailers including Menard’s, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware. Williams offers safe and efficient heating options for homes of all sizes.

Fan coils & air handlers: Williams provides fan coils and air handlers for residential and commercial applications. The company specializes in customized HVAC systems to meet each customer’s unique specifications. Over the years, Williams has served thousands of customers. One of the company’s most high-profile projects is the installation of fan coil units in Air Force One in 1999.

Williams has also installed HVAC systems for hotel brands including J.W. Marriott and Starwood Hotels. The company has also introduced innovations in its fan coil product line, including its ComforTRAC™, TRACvalve™, and Integrated Piping Systems (IPS™) products. ComforTRAC™ is a totally variable fan coil that offers maximum comfort and control through its ability to recognize and adjust to changing temperatures. ComfortTRAC also offers greater energy efficiency than other HVAC systems.

TRACvalve™ is a modulating valve which offers more set points than a traditional modulating valve. TRACvalve is cost effective and energy efficient, reducing the horsepower required by the system’s central pumps. One of Williams’ most high-profile TRACvalve projects is the Westin Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia, completed in 2012. “It was originally one of our competitors’ projects when the building was first structured; they did a remodel and used all of our equipment for the remodel, because they liked the benefits that our equipment provides and they saw a lot of energy savings,” Miller says.

Williams introduced its innovative Integrated Piping System (IPS™), an HVAC system that offers the highest degree of comfort combined with low installation and operation costs. Designed for buildings with domestic hot and cold water piping in each unit, IPS leverages the existing piping infrastructure to fulfill the needs of the heating and cooling system. The same pipes that supply tap water feed water into a fan coil terminal unit rated for use with potable water. The terminal in each unit is connected with an individual thermostat, making the Williams IPS system ideal for residential buildings including apartments and condos, senior living, and dormitories, as well as hotels and other buildings with central circulating hot and cold water.

IPS provides 4-Pipe comfort and costs a fraction of what other HVAC systems cost. The value of this innovative new system has been demonstrated in over 170 successful projects in the United States and Canada.

Air curtains: Air curtains are the newest product line in the Williams Comfort Products portfolio. Air curtains help to contain heated or cooled air and prevent airborne contaminants from passing through, which makes them indispensable for food service, office, retail, medical, and other commercial facilities. By preventing the loss of conditioned air, Williams air curtains provide substantial energy savings.

Competitive advantages
Williams Comfort Products’ fully customizable HVAC solutions set it apart from other HVAC providers. “Williams is a customized fan coil provider, whereas our competitors are modeled around a catalog-style requiring an engineer or contractor to select from a limited offering and they say, ‘this is everything that we have.’ Other factories don’t like getting into that kind of customization, so it’s a competitive advantage for us,” says Miller.

“We struggled for years with quoting these customized projects; if we built a part number for every possible configuration we can offer, we would end up with over a million part numbers,” Miller says. “One of the things that’s difficult, across the industry, is getting quotes quickly.” Calculating performance ratings for each possible configuration was equally challenging.

In 2007 Williams built a proprietary online configuration tool that allows the company’s sales representatives to design customized fan coil units, providing performance ratings and price quotes in real time. Representatives are able to modify fan coil selections to match each customer’s unique needs. “At the same time as they’re selecting all the different components of the system, the tool prices out all the different options and accessories. With the click of a button it prints out a full set of submittals for the entire project. Before, everything was in manuals and spec sheets, and they were having to cut and paste.”

Few of Williams’ competitors have a tool that can provide this detailed sales information. “Some of our competitors have configurators that can provide performance ratings, but they don’t have anything that generates a price and submittals like our tool does. That’s definitely an advantage for us,” says Miller.

Growth and innovation
Williams Comfort Products is focused on bringing new innovations to the HVAC industry. “Our company has a new President, and with his leadership we’re hoping to add on some additional product lines, and to be even more innovative with the products that we have today, to be more technologically advanced,” Miller says.

“One of our goals, which is going to help us with sales, is to become the systems expert. We have the products, but now we’re going to focus on developing systems and more efficient products,” says Miller. He cites the Integrated Piping System as an example of the company’s innovation in HVAC systems.

Williams has experienced consistent growth averaging five to seven percent per year, with continuous growth in sales of fan coils. “Our online tool has helped us to grow the business, especially in fan coils, because it’s made it easier for us to quote projects,” Miller says.

This year, the company hopes to reach $50 million in annual revenue. “In our fan coil product line, our growth strategy is focused on product development of more energy efficient products to offer with our units. We’re working on incorporating new technology, like thermostats and new digital displays, and adding new features and energy efficient components. We’ll also be looking at products that we don’t have in our offering yet. Our Product Development and Engineering teams are working on new products to expand the line,” Miller says.

“We’re also creating new sales strategies to help us grow our business. In addition to focusing on engineers and contractors, we’re going to start promoting at the property developer level, showing the cost savings our products can provide. The goal is to get them to talk to their engineers about using our product as a basis of design for their buildings.”

As Williams enters its second century of operation, the company is renewing its commitment to innovation, quality, and outstanding service. The company is continuing to develop new products with the most advanced and efficient technology available.

More than Money

Attracting and retaining the best and brightest employees is a catch-22 of the construction industry. The best and brightest want to work for companies with stellar reputations, but companies achieve outstanding reputations only when they can attract and retain the best and brightest. We asked some of the successful companies we have interviewed what they are doing to recruit and retain. Here is what we found out.

October 17, 2018, 11:06 AM EDT