LG Electronics has made a major investment in its Air Conditioning Training Academy to ensure dealers, contractors, consultants and TAFE students are kept even better ahead of the curve on product and industry developments. Sandra Van Dijk went  to Sydney's west to sit in on an Academy session to check out the revamped facility, LG's integrated smart product offering and its big plans for the summer ahead.

With innovative product releases set to roll out in 2017, LG Electronics has big plans for the Australian market, including increased support for its dealer network after its recent revamp of its Air Conditioning Training Academy. LG has been busy ramping up operations at its Academy in Sydney's west in preparation for 2017, which coincides with the release of the new LG split systems. Since March 2016 more than 550 students have completed a LG Academy course to ready themselves for the busy summer months ahead.

In addition to investing in a refurbishment of the Academy at LG's sprawling HQ in Sydney's Eastern Creek, the company has broadened course content to ensure that its training for dealers, contractors, consultants and students will make them specialists in the marketplace.

‘Whole-of-house’ solution
LG has a big story to tell and its product mix sets it apart from the rest of the market because integration enables LG to go beyond heating, cooling and solar solutions. While the company has been busy showcasing its complete range of HVAC solutions, it has also been busy integrating appliances for the smart homes of tomorrow.

LG's general manager for air conditioning and solar, Andrew Barron, describes it best when he says the company is moving toward a 'whole-of-house' solution.

“We are very excited about the year ahead because LG is the only company in the marketplace that can deliver a completely integrated product range - from Solar and battery through our energy management solution (HEMS) to the air conditioning unit and other appliances,” he said.

“This is the direction we are heading and we're bringing our dealers, contractors and consultants along with us by keeping them up to date so there are plenty of opportunities for everybody.

“The LG Academy sets the standard for training in Australia and we're giving everyone that goes through the Academy the ammunition they need to be specialists in the marketplace.”

With the emergence of home-energy management systems to manage household appliances for the smart home, Barron said this whole-of-house focus will drive the LG success story over the next 18 to 24 months.

This innovative approach to product development isn't new. Innovation has always been at the forefront of the LG story which is evident in its commitment to Research and Development (R&D). LG spends around eight per cent of its revenue on R&D, an exceptionally high figure. LG also boasts strict quality control processes with batch testing on every product and component. A single fail leads to a full batch return.

Investing in the LG Academy is all about supporting LG's upcoming product announcements and to ensure LG partners are up-to-date with changing technology.

Dealer partnerships the key
For LG's national dealer manager, Gerard Cassidy, product information is important but even more critical is premium partnerships.

“LG's role with dealers is changing, we are becoming trusted advisors,” Cassidy said.

“We recognise the importance of training in the marketplace, it's about developing our dealers and every aspect of their business. It's about giving them everything they need to succeed.

“The consumer is getting more and more information when making buying decisions, so our dealers need to be experts.”

To expedite dealer expertise, course content has broadened to include technical information, installation tips, problem solving, standards and greater customisation. Head of the Training Academy program, LG Electronics national operations manager Ben Price, said courses can be customised for specific businesses.

“We can tailor training at the Academy to help dealers be more successful,” Price said.

“We actually ask our students what their sticking points are so we can address their challenges and mould each course to suit each particular class.

“Obviously we can also cover the basics and roll out refresher courses dealing with the fundamentals.”

Getting touchy feely with the products
Price said students at the Academy get to interact with the display products in operation in the facility’s showroom. “It's good for them to touch and feel the products and get first-hand access to new technology so they can understand how it works,” he said. “Today's products are more complex so technical tips are important.”

In 2017 LG is introducing online training, including introductory courses for apprentices with more detailed offerings for dealers, contractors and consultants.

“The online training is being introduced in conjunction with our new partner portal. This is where everyone can go to download data on all aspects of the LG product story,” he said.

In late October a room full of dealers attended a LG Academy course which covered everything from high wall splits to Multi V 4 products. Price introduced dealers to the company's product plans for the year ahead.

Dealers were excited to hear about some of the features that will be included in new products to be launched in the second half of 2017. “The products are so new that they don't even have names yet,” Price said.

In addition to LG's product roadmap, the course keeps students up to date with critical industry information that ensures they are fully across changing market conditions.

October's course covered refrigerant classification standards, ISO updates and the introduction of new refrigerants such as R32. It is this sort of information that is so essential for dealers to stay a step ahead of the pack.

What the dealers say
Thermal Air director, Scott Weekes, had to undertake a seven-hour round trip from Orange to attend the recent LG Academy course. But for Weekes, every minute of the drive was worth it.

“For my shop to succeed I need to be familiar with all of the products we sell and the LG Academy allows me and my staff to be all over the new stuff,” he said.

For Frost Byte Air Conditioning director, Omar Ghoneim, the best part of the course is seeing what's new in the LG range.
“It keeps me a step ahead so I don't fall behind with what's happening in the market,” he said.

Custom Air Conditioning director, Steve Axisa, said it's great to actually see products first hand and use them before they go on sale. As a tradesperson, Jorge Calderon of Integral Electrical Engineering and Air Conditioning, is more concerned with picking up service and installation tips. “I work out in the field so I want to get a hands-on feel of the products and get the best information about installation and maintenance,” he said.

LG comes home to comfort this Summer
Once attendees at October's course were successfully schooled up as product experts, Price introduced the class to LG's upcoming summer marketing campaign. The campaign provides dealers with marketing support for the summer months ahead.

Taglined 'Coming Home to Comfort', the campaign features radio advertisements that are broadcast in the late afternoon when consumers are driving home from work. It reminds them that their air conditioning at home could already be turned on if they had a LG unit. Dealers are provided with in-store displays as part of the campaign which showcases the company's move toward smart home appliances.

The company is soon to release a series of devices that are part of the smart home platform that will enable consumers to control other devices in the home from their smartphones. There is even a smart plug that was developed to help users manage their electricity consumption more efficiently.

A must for TAFE students
While the LG Academy and everything it offers may be central to the success story for dealers, contractors and consultants, it also continues to be an important part of the learning experience for apprentices and TAFE students. Nirimba College of TAFE teacher for air conditioning and refrigeration, Mark Edwards, has been utilising the LG Academy since it began.

"We put students through the academy at every opportunity because it is such a positive experience for them," he said. "It gives students insight into different types of equipment and they get a feel for the market. For an apprentice it is an exciting experience."

Edwards said four different student groups from Nirimba College of TAFE go through the LG Academy each year. "Our next course will be in April or May 2017," Edwards said. "Students learn a lot because the course is always evolving with the arrival of new products each year."

Edwards said LG is always accommodating when it comes to supporting the TAFE's teaching programs.

"They are very focused on support for our students and programs wherever possible," he said.

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