Johnson Controls FX: The Good, The Bad , and The Ugly

Johnson Controls: If I took one thing away from my last meeting with my Johnson Controls distributor and his Johnson Controls sales rep, it was Johnson Controls commitment to the 2-Step Distribution Channel and the independent controls contractor. This channel has huge growth potential! Johnson Controls has delivered a host of great FX and FX-PCG products. Enhanced options on the communication platform including Bluetooth, and new software tools will support channel growth! I was impressed!

GOOD: A complete A-Z product line enriched by the FX PCG Controllers, FX-PCT Tool System Selection Tree (nice), Expansion Panels, the FX Documentation Portal, and the newly arrived FX-ASSET Estimating Software (more nice) that will help develop a whole new set of contractor customers and satisfied end users, while giving the experienced integrators plenty of features and horsepower to do their thing.

BAD: The sad sunset of N2 products (needs time-clarified again). Where is the FX-VAV-N2 or did I miss the release?

UGLY: Favoritism: the kind where you favor one child over another. A parent playing favorites is one sure way to guarantee getting called out and yelled at on the Jerry Springer show. As the parent of a great DDC product line, Johnson Controls brings their product to market through two channels (children, if we will be kind enough to indulge the metaphor): The Branch and the distributor/independent contractor network. Is it just me, or do other independent automation controls contractors feel like “red headed step children” only getting to sell Johnson Controls on jobs that the branch does not want?

The reality is, that in today’s marketplace, the independent contractor is going to have a lower cost structure allowing companies like Johnson Controls to gain market share in areas Branch operations cannot be competitive. To be successful, Johnson must treat both their channels ( children) equally. Open up all markets to both your children and let the best child win.

Maybe it’s a case of hyper-sensitivity or I might be all wet on this. Let me know what you think about this and your thoughts on the new Johnson FX product offering in comments.

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19 Responses

  1. JCI has always been that way. Besides giving the installing contractors the crumbs, they wait until the contractor develops an area and pulls the carpet from under them. The installing contractors go the extra mile with Engineers, Building Owners and the like. The Branch Offices have commissioned sales people and corporate to answer to. I have been on both sides of this equation and my advice is, selecting a manufacturer that does not have the Branch Offices to compete with.

  2. I am with NC, as a contractor that has installed and really liked the JCI product line over the years, I am sick and tired of being told when and where I can quote JCI. If the branch has any interest in a job, the independent contractor is told they are not to bid. This usually happens through the JCI distributor, mine told me that if they sold me product on a job I was bidding Johnson would cancel their contract and they would no longer be able to sell the product line. I have heard of other contractors that were threaten with law suits if they continued quoting work at JCI Branch accounts.
    Is this even legal? I for one am forced to quote other Control Lines. I am no longer willing to yield to the local Johnson Controls Branch so by by Johnson, hello Honeywell

  3. Clint, NC, and Out Raged thank you for bringing this out into the open. This has been going on for years in our area and it needs to stop. As Clint says, treat both channels equally and let the best man win

  4. I wonder if this is regional nepotism thing, because the pendelum of support has swung pretty far in “our direction” lately, (but that could change in a letter here, too). At the recent ABCS SHARPEN YOUR EDGE Meeting in Connecticut, Chris Eichmann stated that as a testament to support to our channel, JCI invested over $70 million in inventory, FX-PCG product line, FX-PCT Tool and ASSET Tool, and millions more were on their way because JCI wants to be #1 in every market, and that the ABCS Distributors and Contractors were critical to JCI achieving this goal, because they could find new opportunities and drive new customer development and that basically, JCI was going to let the owners sort it out. It sounds JCI in your region isn’t reading the corporate mail, or ignoring it.

  5. It was my understanding that the whole point of creating the PCG Product Line was to have a differentiated product offering that would eliminate any conflict between the Branch and two step distribution.
    That being said, just recently, we had the rug pulled out from under us and our contractor because our contractor was asked to quote on a job the Branch was bidding.
    I am seeking to understand from our Johnson Channel the rational in this decision.
    Many of you have reached out regarding this post and let me know that you would like to comment on this topic, but were afraid of negative repercussions from Johnson. Yes there are rumors of law suits and the product line being pulled from distributors who crossed the Branch, my hunch is they are exaggerated. Although I have had many disagreements with Johnson about their policies regarding the branch, I have always found them open to feedback and discussion.I have never found them vindictive, I truly believe Johnson Controls is committed to getting this right and your truthful comments are the feedback that can help them understand the realities of what is happening in the marketplace visa vie “Branch” heavy handiness. Please share both positive and negative experiences.
    If you wish to comment anonymously, as some of you already have, please know that ControlTrends will not share your identity with anyone without your written permission.
    We will protect your privacy and assure that ControlTrends always remains a safe place to communicate openly.

  6. JCI has a long history of lack of genuine commitment to a “two channel to market” approach for their BAS products. They are fickle and periodically, block access to their N2 or legacy products in a purely protectionist tactic. Do not give to JCI what JCI does not deserve.

  7. I manage the Controls Product business for JCI and am responsible for all of the channels we sell product through, both direct and indirect. I’d like to clarify some of the comments in the postings above.

    The BAD – We’re sunsetting the legacy N2 controllers because of component obsolescence. These products are up to 20 years old and we can’t get components for them anymore. We’ll be introducing FX-PCV VAV controllers with N2 later this year and FX-PCG controllers with N2 mid-2013 prior to retiring any of the legacy products.

    The UGLY – There are no limitations on which customers an ABCS can sell to within their contracted geographic region. If someone tells you differently please let me know. We don’t segment the market and we don’t restrict you or your customers on who they can do business with within your market. We do limit the geography an ABCS has access to. This benefits the ABCS and JCI as it prevents free-riding by outside parties that haven’t invested in the given geography.

    We’ve invested millions of dollars to give the ABCS channel an extremely capable product offering and put additional resources in place out in the field to help you be successful in your markets. We know we have more work to do to make JCI easier to do business with and are investing in tools (FX-ASSET) and resources to make that happen. We had our ABCS advisory group (distributors and contractors) in to Milwaukee this week to give us fresh feedback on how we’re doing in the market and input on what more we can do. Stay tuned. There’s more good things coming from JCI.

  8. Chris, Thank you so much for addressing these concerns with our ControlTrends community. Chris, is a straight shooter and is the person responsible for all channels, so I for one feel much better about Johnson “treating both of their children equally”. Chris thanks again, for reaching out to the Controltrends community !

  9. That makes it all better. If JCI says it…we all know it to be true!! Truly we plebes are not worthy of your millions dear JCI.

    Give me a break. Count me with Out Raged and NC. JCI has proven time and time again that you don’t dare compete with the precious favorite son. Competing in open market is clearly beneath the fairest child. Why ….what would the world think if our fair child lost to … a red headed step-child…!!!?

    Rest assured it is not really a matter of principal or protecting a reputation…it IS all about protecting the pocket books of the favored ones in the channel.

    Consider these words on the day you contemplate competing with the chosen one. And consider this too. Maybe it’s time you re-evaluated your business model. Who is the master of your destiny? Who have you given too much power to? JCI?

    But of course …I wouldn’t expect this post to stayed posted long enough for anyone but Eric to read it either…

    Red H. Stepchild

  10. It’s been this way since I got into the industry, which is quite some time, 1990. I watched Honeywell do the same thing. The problem lies in the fact that bean-counters run businesses now instead of engineers, They haven’t a clue. Rana Foroohar wrote a short story, two pages, in Time magazine titled “Driven off the Road by M.B.A.s”,,9171,2081930,00.html . The big corporations value the almighty dollar above all else.

    The company I work for was contacted by an owner who wanted another price since JCIs was way high, way way high. When JCI found out that we were going to price the job they instructed our distributor that they were not to provide any pricing to us. Funny thing was when our rep was in our office pushing the product I said that his true interest and devotion was to JCI, not us. He emphatically denied that and said he was all about us. That was two weeks prior to him telling our distributor that he couldn’t quote us on said project. Lying bastards, pure and simple. Know it going in and it will not sting as badly.

  11. I just happened to stumble across this site while doing a little research on the new JCI products.

    Our company is looking at more opportunities to bid work and was thinking about adding JCI to our list of products. JCI has a lot of big accounts and has a very bad reputation in our area (based on their service).

    My question is would or have they contact the distributer and tell them not to sell product to a local controls contractor that is trying to service “their” customer?

  12. Beware of that FX-PCT system selection tree, particularly when doing Boiler and Pump applications.

    The programs that are generated appear to have a mind of their own!

    Works good for Air Handlers, though.

  13. To expand on the above comment, we just recently tried to implement a boiler program on a fairly standard application (2 boiler, OA reset, injection pump, lead/lag system pumps) and were more than a little disappointed by the behavior that we got from the PCT software when using the system selection tree.

    It is apparently designed for huge boiler plants – like maybe the main plant for Purdue University, for example. The injection pumps never seem to shut off, boilers overshoot the setpoint by far. It is unsuitable for 98% of the boiler apps out there.

    That kind of defeats the purpose of having the selection tree – when writing a custom application is, more than likely, going to be required.

    It would be a good idea to modify the application in the selection tree – making it applicable to more moderately sized boiler apps. However, maybe its just another example that this stuff is geared to the branch; as the factory branch is much more interested in going after large plant work (universities, hospitals, etc.) as it is going after a moderately sized building (a community center or medium-sized apartment building, for example).

    Do not give to JCI what JCI does not deserve.?

    Yes, I would say so.

  14. Sounds like Clint sleeps in the same bed as The mighty crooked Honeywell!

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