Fan forum

Fan forum
Returning to Sydney for the first time since 2018, ARBS 2024 once again was a meeting point for the HVAC&R industry, writes Matt Dillon.
If the organisers of ARBS 2024 were concerned the Australian HVAC&R community may have forgotten about the country’s biggest building services and refrigeration trade show, their fears were misplaced. Held in the Harbour City for the first time in six years, ARBS in 2024 proved to be a resounding success. “ARBS 2024 has truly raised the bar for our industry,” says ARBS CEO Amanda Searle. “The overwhelming engagement and enthusiasm from exhibitors and attendees have been exceptional.” ARBS Chair Professor Tony Arnel was equally effusive. “The breadth of knowledge shared in our seminars and the diversity of perspectives presented have been truly inspiring,” Arnel says. “We are committed to continuing this trajectory of growth and inclusivity, ensuring that ARBS remains a platform for industry advancement.” Ecolibrium caught up with some key exhibitors to gauge their reactions.

Wayne Norton, Fantech Marketing Manager

“I was hoping for a great turnout in Sydney, and it definitely delivered,” Norton says. “On the Tuesday-morning opening, the ARBS hall quickly filled with visitors eager to see the latest products, cutting-edge technologies, and services on offer. “From Fantech’s perspective, we had a continuous flow of both new and existing customers over the three days to our stand. This gave us great opportunities to strengthen existing customer relationships and build new ones. “We were thrilled to showcase our industry-leading innovations and demonstrate how they can benefit our customers. This year, the overall quality of the ARBS exhibition was once again excellent. Exhibitors are putting thought into what they exhibit and are improving on previous events. Plus, there was plenty of food and drinks on offer from baristas to help build on that friendly, relaxed atmosphere. I’m already looking forward to the next ARBS!”

Jason Duncan, M.AIRAH, Reliable Controls

“I could tell the show was going to be a success when I arrived 30 minutes early on the morning of day one, which is traditionally a little slow and the check-in area was full of people waiting to get into the event,” Duncan says. “It was non-stop on the stand for the three days, and we are still working through all of our leads and follow-up activities. On top of that, we had a great time, there was a constant positive buzz around the halls, and we got to catch up with all of our peers.” Duncan says the benefits of meeting in person are manifold. “At a time where many people work at home or onsite at least a few days a week, it’s never been more important to make an effort for face-to-face interactions with people,” he says. “Having the opportunity to meet new people and to reconnect and rekindle existing relationships face to face is important for our personal wellbeing, our professional relationships and for our business to thrive in the modern business environment.”

Diana Dulevski, Product Manager from MHIAA

“MHIAA were thrilled to see a bustling flow of attendees visiting our stand and actively interacting with the MHIAA team,” Dulevski says. “The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive, describing our exhibit as ‘welcoming, creatively designed, and engaging’.” Dulevski says ARBS provided an opportunity for MHIAA to showcase its latest product innovations to current and potential customers. “The ARBS trade show is a great way for attendees to get up close and learn about all the new developments to the MHIAA commercial and residential product line-up in an educational and interactive way,” she says. “As well as meeting with existing customers, it’s also a great opportunity to network with visitors, and generate new leads and relationships over the three-day event. There is no other industry event that provides that level of scale and opportunity. “The MHIAA Footy Reaction Game was a major hit, with some very competitive players trying for their chance to win a Japanese whiskey valued at $450. Some interesting and let’s say creative strategies were deployed to improve chances.”

Genesis Salao, Camfil

“Reflecting on ARBS 2024, it was a successful event for us,” Salao says. “This year’s event not only allowed us to present our latest product innovations but also served as a valuable platform for engaging with both customers and industry colleagues. Camfil also had the opportunity to showcase our knowledge and expertise by presenting at the ARBS Seminar Series. “Our presence at ARBS attracted a steady stream of interested customers and industry professionals to our stand. ARBS excelled in various aspects, offering informative seminars, a diverse range of exhibitors, and fostering valuable networking opportunities.”

Taksia Tsaganas, Marketing & Communications Coordinator ebm-papst A&NZ

Fan manufacturer, supplier and distributor ebm-papst used the occasion of ARBS 2024 to announce that it has achieved carbon-neutral accreditation for its local A&NZ business. “We at ebm-papst A&NZ are excited to share our gratitude and success at ARBS 2024,” Tsaganas says. “At this year’s exhibition we showcased a major update for our company. This was our carbon- neutral operations accreditation for our local business. This was a major discussion point for all our customers and industry partners.” The performance of the ebm-papst A&NZ operation will help the global business meet its sustainability ambitions. Tsaganas says ARBS was also useful for engaging with industry professionals, and for knowledge-sharing and thought leadership. “We actively participated in the ARBS seminar series, sharing insights on energy efficiency in a carbon neutral world and active power factor correction,” Tsaganas says. “Our presentations sparked engaging discussions and highlighted our thought leadership in the industry. “Moving forward, ebm-papst A&NZ remains dedicated to delivering high-quality, energy-efficient solutions and continuing our journey in carbon neutrality.”

The seminars situation

Run in concert with the ARBS exhibition on the floor was a series of technical seminars. Here are a few Ecolibrium attended.

Cold Hard Facts 4

Soon to be released, Cold Hard Facts 4 will report on progress towards natural and low-GWP refrigerants. Graham Dewerson from Expert Group authored the report, which found that Australia is lagging significantly behind its Kigali Amendment targets.

Electrification explanation

AIRAH’s Electrification Special Technical Group (STG) covered topics such as the performance of heat pumps in cold climates, safety considerations for low-GWP refrigerants, and constraints around power supply in building retrofit projects (See story p.78)

An exhaustive study

AIRAH’s Commercial Kitchen Exhaust STG provided an overview of its best-practice guide for commercial kitchen exhaust management. The session covered topics such as system design and components, maintenance requirements, and access to and into kitchen exhaust systems.

ARBS Awards

The ARBS Awards were announced at a gala dinner held at the ICC.

The victors

Young Achiever Award

Travis Schick, NRG Services

Project Excellence Award

LCI and A.G. Coombs for Allianz Stadium – Mechanical and HVAC services

Software/Digital Excellence Award

Exergenics – Cloud-Based Chiller Plant Optimisation Software

Outstanding Industry/Training Award

Beijer Ref Academy CO2 Safety & Systems Training

Product Excellence (Refrigeration) Award

P Series Refrigerator, Hussmann Oceania

Product Excellence (HVAC) Award

Thermal XR, Graphene Manufacturing Group

Hall of Fame

ARBS inducted five industry legends into its Hall of Fame. The new inductees are:
  • Carl Balke, Affil.AIRAH
  • Klaas Visser, M.AIRAH (in memoriam)
  • Bob Woodhouse, Affil.AIRAH
  • Gemma Collins
  • Andrew O’Connor

Vexing VET

Chaired by outgoing AIRAH president Paul Jackson, F.AIRAH, this panel included AIRAH CEO Sami Zheng, Affil.AIRAH, Shayne Le Combre from the Plumbing Industry Climate Action Centre, academic Dr Les Trudzik, and A.G. Coombs HR Manager Claire Bennett. The panel discussed the skills shortage in HVAC&R and what can be done from a VET perspective to attract and retain talent within the HVAC&R industry

The contractor perspective

A.G. Coombs HR Manager Claire Bennett says the firm has a dedicated apprenticeship pathway. Student applicants are encouraged to complete year 12. And A.G. Coombs engages with schools directly to generate interest. “The investment we make in these efforts along with trade show participation, pays off with ROI compared to recruitment fees,” Bennett says. “And we have a 95 per cent retention rate for apprentices.”

The circular economy

Dr Les Trudzik says we need to plan for changes to our economy, including the circular economy, because traditional training has struggled to keep up. Employers will need to be looking beyond mere technical skills in apprentices, and consider talents such as digital literacy, regulatory compliance, and customer service. Traditional qualifications may not be appropriate for the VET sector of the future, and that’s where micro-credentials might come in. In fact, the federal government is funding a micro-credentials pilot.

The skills shortage will worsen

PICAC’s Shayne Le Combre says that given the need for new buildings and infrastructure projects, the skills shortage is set to worsen. The real challenge? Capacity. It’s quite challenging to equip a workforce of the future without assistance from government and industry – funding doesn’t cover it. “There’s just enough money in it if you want to do training,” Le Combre says. It’s challenging to find good trainers, and when you do, you have to keep them current and upskilled.

An advocate and connector

According to AIRAH CEO Sami Zheng, Affil.AIRAH, the HVAC&R industry is resilient and focused. Even as significant change is experience, its adaptability must continue. “Technology is the tool, not the purpose,” Zheng says. “Cross-skilling is crucial. In the skills crisis there is a double hit: a labour and skills shortage, with three out of four applicants deemed not suitable for jobs. Amid this, AIRAH is an advocate and a connector.”
Ecolibrium June-July 2023

This article appears in ecolibrium’s June–July 2024 issue

Want to read more?


Click here to learn more about Ecolibrium and AIRAH.


Become an AIRAH member or subscribe to Ecolibrium.

Building on success

Building on success

The NABERS/CBD Conference was an opportunity to celebrate 25 years of Australia’s building ratings system – and to look to the next quarter century.

The life aquatic – and beyond

The life aquatic – and beyond

Ambitious sustainable targets have been set by the host nation for the Paris 2024 Olympics to reduce the Games’ carbon footprint by half.

Armstrong Fluid Technology introduces DEPM pumps 

Armstrong Fluid Technology introduces DEPM pumps 

Armstrong Fluid Technology introduced its range of design envelope permanent magnet (DEPM) pumps for the Australia and Asia-Pacific markets at ARBS 2024.   “Armstrong’s extended range of DEPM pumps, with motors up to 45kW, deliver a 35–65 per cent reduction in energy...

Atomic habits 

Atomic habits 

Should there be a green light for nuclear energy in Australia? Definitively no, writes Ian Kenins.A rapidly expanding population, power outages, surging power bills, and an increasingly volatile climate has made, somewhat belatedly, Australia’s future energy supply a...

Professional associations in a fast-moving world

Professional associations in a fast-moving world

I’m writing my second CEO column while on a long-haul flight across the Pacific Ocean to visit my family. I have to admit, I haven't seen them since COVID-19 started, so this should be an exciting moment. However, I can’t shake the feeling that travelling is tiring...