As a Sweden-based company with a lone manufacturing site outside Stockholm, Kocoverk International has primarily provided its heaters and AC units at airports across Europe. With recently acquired representation by Harlan Global Manufacturing, the company has planned to strengthen its capacity and its stance as a worldwide supplier.
Heating up the industry
Founded in 1920 as a sheet metal company, Kocoverk unveiled an oil-fired heater that was used in various industries, including construction and farming. Built with a capacity of up to 120 kilowatts, the company went on to sell 45,000 units across the world.
With its extensive experience in oil-fired heaters, the company entered into the aviation industry with the production of its first series of aircraft heaters in 1979 for Scandinavian Airlines, according to Max Ternheim, owner and CEO of Kocoverk International AB.
Since entering into the field with its heaters, it has developed more than 10 models with diesel and electric engines — with functions ranging from cabin heating, engine deicing and maintenance. The company has also manufactured bridge-mounted and apron heaters.
At the request of Scandinavian Airlines, Kocoverk began building AC units in 1982. “They were asking for AC units for hangar use,” Ternheim says. “It was too hot in their aircraft during maintenance. Since then we have delivered AC units worldwide, actually for the same application.”
The company also ventured into the military sector with an environmentally friendly air cycle air conditioning system, which was produced in conjunction with Svenska Rotor Maskiner AB (SRM), holder of a world patent for screw compressors. The company avoided using chlorofluorocarbons found in traditional air conditioning units by designing a system that did not require refrigerant, instead compressing outside air and expanding it to cool. The system has been implemented in the Swedish Air Force, Indian Air Force and EADS program since 1994.
Though Kocoverk has devised several models for its heating and AC units, Ternheim says it works to create customer-specific equipment from its product base for quick turnaround. “Previously we had so many different heaters so when an airline came with some requirements or a specific one, it just took us a week or two to give them a prototype,” he says. “I think most of our customers have been very pleased that we can give them some specific solutions for their heating requirements.”
A matter of capacity
The company has established a presence in Europe with sales to multitudes of airlines and airports but when it came to breaking into a wider market such as the US, a lack of manufacturing capacity has proven challenging.
“We see a limit in extending the production here,” Ternheim says. “That’s why we have the contacts with Harlan Global Manufacturing in order to extend the production and have the future production capability elsewhere.”
Anticipating a favorable market for the technology amid rising fuel costs, Harlan has represented Kocoverk in the US since 2007. “The potential is huge as the use of a ground heater eliminates or minimizes the use of the APU and saves fuel,” says John Moore, vice president of sales and customer service at Harlan Global Manufacturing.
Moore says the heaters have been demonstrated and approved by most major airlines in North America. “In fact any airline that has tested it approved it for purchase,” he says.
Kocoverk has recently gained a modest customer base in the US with orders from a couple companies due, in part, to its local representation by Harlan Global Manufacturing, Ternheim says.
“I think our entrance into the US market has not been able to be done without some substantial backup and assistance from a US-based company with references within the airline business,” he says.
“We’re in discussion this year as an agent/distributor or a licensee to manufacture,” Moore says. “There’s been more than 100 units sold in the US market. Based on that, we’ve been slow to get it going, because the orders were coming faster than we could get it manufactured.
“Right now, Harlan has a division of our business called OEM manufacturing, where we help other manufacturers cost-reduce their equipment,” Moore says. “In Kocoverk’s case what we’d like to do is not only cost-reduce their equipment, but manufacture and assemble under license in the United States. We would do that for the US market but we’re also talking to Max about augmenting his production for the rest of the world.”
Moore says production in the US would likely begin next winter. With a site in China, Harlan is also looking to extend Kocoverk’s products to the other side of the globe. “Harlan has a manufacturing facility outside of Shanghai in Nantong, China and we may take this product over there and assist in the Asian marketplace,” he says.
The alliance would not only increase manufacturing capability, but allow Kocoverk to further enhance its technology such as its environmentally friendly AC units for commercial usage. “We are now getting our hands on more suitable compressors for that application,” Ternheim says. “Now it’s on the market from SRM more suitable low-pressure compressors that we can use, but we have been too heavily involved in the heater business since the past two years due to the big requirements from the US market … By having Harlan helping us out on the US market, we can do that development here in Stockholm together with the SRM company. That’s the thing we would like to do.”
With its established presence in the European arena and a future tensed in increased manufacturing capability elsewhere, Ternheim foresees Kocoverk becoming an eminent force in aircraft heating units. “We will be absolutely one of the world leaders regarding aircraft heaters,” he says.