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A plumb Australian legend

For more than 80 years Rheem has been delivering reliable and resourceful hot water solutions to Australian homes. From historical to the contemporary, what is it that makes Rheem an Aussie icon?
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What does it take to make an iconic Australian business? One that is here through tough times, solid yet versatile?

If you grew up in Australia in the last century, the triple cry of ‘Install a Rheem, install a Rheem, install a Rheem’ would be as familiar to you as the doodling’s of Mr Squiggle, the flavour of Tasty Toobs or the mid-summer delight of unwrapping a Sunny Boy frozen pyramid.

While we’ve been singing along to their catchy jingle since the 1960s, Rheem’s presence in Australia dates back to 1936, when the US-based Rheem Manufacturing Company made its first foray into overseas markets. The young company established a manufacturing plant at Waterloo, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, and specialised in the production of 44-gallon steel drums for the oil and allied industries of Australia. In 1939, BHP (which supplied the steel for the drums) acquired 50 percent of the business, and it became known as Rheem Australia Pty Ltd.

In a move typical of the ingenuity and innovation that underpins their business ethos to this day, the company quickly began to diversify, and the first Australian Rheem gas hot water heater was made in Sydney in 1939. However, with the advent of World War II, Rheem shifted its focus to assisting the war effort, manufacturing much-needed items such as boom defence buoys, ammunition boxes and ship storage tanks for the defence forces. During the war, Rheem also produced more than 300,000 water canteens for the Aussie troops.

The post-war period saw further expansion, with manufacturing facilities established in Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, and in 1945 Rheem began making what would become one of its most successful products – the electric water heater. Within a few short years, they were the southern hemisphere’s largest and most reliable producer of hot water systems.

In the 1950s, as customer demand for reliable hot water began to outstrip supply capabilities, Rheem moved into a large purpose-built facility at Rydalmere, in Sydney’s west. This site remains the epicentre of the company’s R&D, design and manufacturing operations and underwent major technological upgrades in 2016. Today, a significant percentage of the electric and gas storage water heaters sold in Australia are manufactured at this factory.

The forefront of innovation

Rheem invested in new and emerging technologies which included the acquisition of businesses in the solar – renewables space and in the manufacture of high quality stainless steel, which added the Solahart and AquaMAX brands to the Rheem business.

Something that’s been key to their success is the ability to tune into the ever-evolving needs and priorities of their customers. With sustainability top-of-mind for housing professionals and consumers, for example, Rheem has engineered a range of advanced and eco-friendly solutions, from solar systems through to energy-efficient heat pump technology and five- and six-star gas and continuous flow water heaters.

Across the board, their current product line-up meets the full range of consumer requirements, delivering the ‘steady, hot and strong’ flow with unprecedented efficiency.

But even with these innovations, Rheem has always been committed to doing the basics well, and the brand has earned the trust of Australian housing professionals, the plumbing community and home owners by producing durable, reliable, and cost-efficient hot water systems.

Rheem has been recognised with awards over the years for customer service and reliable products. ‘We have a focussed business that covers the breadth of hot water needs for all Australians. Rheem is the icon brand that exemplifies our commitment to customer service and our consistent superior build quality of our products backed by industry leading warranties of up to 12 years on key products,’ says Rheem Chief Executive Officer, Chris Taylor.

Building our community

Today, seven decades after Rheem stepped up to support Australian diggers during World War II, the company still has Australia’s back. They are committed to supporting the housing industry and stepping in to help the wider community be ‘steady and strong’ in times of need.

Since 2012, Rheem has awarded $240,000 in grants to apprentice plumbers around Australia through its Apprentice Plumber Grants scheme. This initiative was established to help alleviate financial strain for apprentice plumbers, and to invest in the skills of future plumbers. So far, the program has helped many fledgling plumbers from all walks of life in Australia overcome that first hurdle, putting them on the path to a successful career.

‘Rheem is committed to the plumbing community and our involvement doesn’t stop with products and innovation,’ says Rheem Chief Executive Officer, Chris Taylor. ‘One of the most valuable ways we can support the future of our industry is by championing the education and training of Australia’s next generation of plumbers.’

Rheem also supports its trade customers with a comprehensive range of multi-channel professional development opportunities. This includes national online training courses, a reference handbook, how-to videos, simplified access to spare parts and a rewards program. Trade engagement isn’t all about work, either: Rheem has just run the third round of Aussie Plumbers’ Hidden Talents on Facebook. The contest, hosted by Shane Jacobson, is all about showcasing the artistic flair of plumbers across Australia and has attracted some seriously high-level entries, with $10,000 in prize money up for grabs.

Since reaching our shores early last century, Rheem has forged a strong identity in the Australian market – as a powerhouse of innovation and product development, a champion of industry, and trusted local manufacturer of ‘strong and steady’ hot water systems. But ultimately, it’s the company’s community spirit and genuine connection with the people who buy, install, and enjoy their products, that has seen Rheem become such an enduring Aussie icon.

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