Alpha recently flew competition winner Richard Barker out to Italy to visit the boiler manufacturing plant and headquarters of parent company, Immergas. He came back with a unique insight into the passion the company has for both its products and brand values.
Mature student Richard entered the competition at the apprentice plumbing and heating exhibition HIP-EX! 09, held at Newbury Racecourse. The prize included a three-day all expenses paid trip to Parma, plus a guided tour of the Brescello-based Immergas factory responsible for manufacturing Alpha boilers. The 50,000m2 facility is staffed by over 700 people.
While he expected to see an efficient production line with high-tech machinery and equipment, Richard did not foresee how much time and effort would go into the quality control side of the manufacturing process. As he states: 'I came out of the factory hugely impressed at the level of testing and quality control in place, and this has only served to enhance my perception of the Alpha range.' Indeed, up to 10 boilers every day are taken to a specific laboratory for testing by specialised personnel.
Richard's perception is backed-up by the fact that Immergas is certified ISO9001:2000 – a recognition issued by the German organisation TÜV confirming the rigorous compliance with international standards on quality systems. In other words, it is a guarantee of the extreme reliability of company processes.
The certification ensures the total quality offered by Immergas, since it concerns all aspects of the company, from design to product development, from incoming materials acceptance to manufacturing processes, all the way to after-sales service.
Having previously worked as both a chef and a care worker, Richard has been working with his father for the past four years in the family business – Aquatron in Hove, Sussex. Richard is currently working on Level 3 qualifications at Crawley College in his goal of becoming a registered gas installer. The long-term plan is that 36 year old Richard takes over the family business in the next few years.
The sheer scale of the manufacturing plant also made an impact on Richard. With a production line capacity of some 1500 units per day, Immergas manufactures an enormous quantity of boilers for worldwide distribution, with dedicated production lines for the Alpha brand.
Apart from the manufacturing plant, Richard was also able to take a look around the Immergas Research and Development Centre which is capable of simultaneously simulating operating conditions within a whole host of buildings. The structure, by integrating various heating systems (gas boilers, solar panels, storage tanks), makes it possible to recreate the internal and external atmospheric conditions of the dwelling during the different seasons of the year, and to monitor and constantly verify the operation of the products.
It is also essential for the fine tuning of control systems such as thermal adjustment devices, which optimise operation of the boilers in an effort to achieve overall energy savings.
One of Richard's hosts on the tour was Simon Foord, Technical Sales Manager for the South East of England. Simon was impressed with Richard's desire and capacity for knowledge. As he says:"Perhaps it's because Richard is a mature student that he seemed 'hungry for knowledge'. Richard wanted to know all aspects of the production process, and the quality control procedures – and we were delighted that he learned so much about Alpha. I got the impression that he was really impressed with the Alpha range in particular, and the trip in general."
Apart from the manufacturing lines, Richard was also shown a number of other products offered in the Alpha portfolio including GasSaver, FlowSmart and SolarSmart.
One of Richard's comments was that "Alpha has a real passion for its business". It seems that this passion has had a real influence on Richard, and that Aquatron customers will now have the Alpha option offered to them.