Source – SUN HERALD MELBOURNE – 21 August 2019
SIMONS Boilers has grown from humble beginnings making ice chests and steam boilers to become leaders in clean energy nationwide.
The story of the family business closely parallels the history of steam and HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) industries in Australia, changing over the years and finally evolving into green energy.
“There’s a constant evolution within our business responding directly to market changes,” Derek Simons said. “We spend a lot of time and money on research and development on steam and hot water products we manufacture. We’re proud to be one of the remaining companies that are still manufacturing in Australia.”
Derek’s great-grandfather, artisan carpenter Woolf Simons started making ice chests in the days before refrigeration and in 1932 with his three sons Asher, Percy and Sol, founded Simons Boiler Company.
Eighty-seven years later and Simons Boilers is thriving, having adapted to become a leader in thermal energy, thanks to the family’s constant innovations, and expanding to form Simons Green Energy.
Derek, a fourth generation Simons and third generation mechanical engineer, currently runs the business and works proudly alongside his father Robert Simons, and wife Toni.
In the late 1930s, Robert’s father Asher, also a mechanical engineer, invented a new way to press clothes using an electric iron with a small steam boiler. The Simons iron was an instant hit and later became part of Australia’s War effort pressing military uniforms. This boiler was patented by Simons.
In the 1970s the discovery and exploitation of natural gas brought demand for gas boilers and coincided with third-generation engineer Robert Simons entering the business.
Derek joined the firm in 1992 and recognised opportunity in the emerging clean energy market, advancing Simons’ history in thermal engineering. Market demand as well as client requests and relationships the team made in the industry moved the business into providing high efficiency condensing boilers and non condensing boilers for HVAC and space heating to the commercial and industrial market place.
Simons offers Australian and European-made hot water boilers for space heating and process heating applications and in 2010 Simons Green Energy was born.
“We founded Simons Green Energy to provide Cogeneration and Trigeneration solutions, and have become leaders in the clean energy market,” Derek said. “We’re working on several cogeneration installations in NSW, a biogas project in Victoria and have installed a Trigeneration installation at Swinburne University of Technology.”
Cogeneration features onsite production of electricity while using waste heat for space heating, heating a pool or manufacturing processes.
“We’re proud of our heritage and quality of service. From humble beginnings in steam and boiler manufacturing to our latest designs in Co and Trigeneration systems, our aim has always remained the same – to deliver reliable thermal engineering solutions and assure customer satisfaction and peace of mind.
“In the 1960s-1980s when clothing manufacturing peaked, we couldn’t build electric boilers quick enough. Fast forward 20 years and clothing and laundry still support the industry but it’s much smaller now.”
Recent peaks in breweries, artisan distilleries and specialised food manufacturers have boosted the need for steam, which is also required in many other industries including bee-keeping, hospitals, food production, and manufacturing and processing.
Commercial hot water heaters including space heating have taken off in office buildings, aged care, hospitals, pools, libraries and government offices, while laundry equipment is still offered to support long-term repeat customers.
In 1980 the business expanded to Melbourne and recently joined forces with Airatherm to collaborate to offer products and services.
One challenge is finding skilled labour, due to fewer young people entering the ‘old trade’ of steam.
Derek said the company remained in business because of its personal approach, long-standing relationships with suppliers and customers and belief in product and staff.