A frustrated scientist. that’s how Alok Maskara describes himself early in his career as a researcher who co-wrote nine patents, some of which never made it to market. “I started thinking about leading a business,” says the now CEO of Lennox International. At the helm of the Richardson-based HVAC giant, Maskara has a front row seat to innovation at the growing enterprise. He took over as CEO in May 2022 and led the company to a record $4.7 billion in revenue in his first eight months on the job. “My only goal is to leave Lennox better for the next generation,” he says.
A top priority will be continuing to pioneer more sustainable technology as new environmental regulations come into effect; by 2025, every air conditioner sold in the U.S. will need to use a chemical compound that impacts the ozone layer less than the current industry standard. “In fewer than two years, all of our products must have the new refrigerant, and we are pulling that together,” Maskara says.
Lennox is also testing its cold climate heat pump, which was the first of its kind to meet requirements for the Department of Energy’s Cold Climate Heat Pump Challenge. The call to HVAC companies hopes to spur innovation and reduce emissions; space conditioning and water heating account for 42 percent of all building energy bills and 56 percent of household energy bills each year. “We need to win at heat pumps to make our future secure,” Maskara says.
Heat pumps account for roughly 15 to 20 percent of Lennox International’s revenue, and this new model will open even more doors, allowing the company to warm buildings in the northern regions more cost-effectively. “Overall, I think that percentage of revenue from heat pumps will keep going up,” Maskara says. He anticipates launching Lennox’s new model in the next 12 to 18 months, but says even after the launch, hybrid furnace and heat pump systems will power the way forward in the near term. “Thirty to 40 percent of our sales will be heat pumps in the next four years—that’s what we are shooting for,” Maskara says.
He will need to rely on lean manufacturing to meet demand and facilitate growth. Having held leadership roles at General Electric, water treatment company Pentair, and industrial company Luxfer, Maskara hopes to leverage his channel distribution and manufacturing expertise to continue to navigate supply chain woes at Lennox. The company does its own distribution, supplying its 250 retail stores nationwide. “In today’s digital age, it’s hard to be dependent on a distributor, especially old school distributors,” Maskara says.
He is also helping Lennox rethink its geographical focus. He pulled the company out of its business in Europe—where it had manufacturing hubs in Germany, France, and Spain—in late 2022, focusing solely on North American operations and sales. “We need to come down to a nimbler footprint,” Maskara says. Lennox recently signed an agreement for a new lean manufacturing facility in Saltillo, Mexico, and agreements for investment in larger distribution centers will be underway soon, Maskara says. Texas will play a key role in the company’s new operations. “We are spending a lot of effort in making Richardson an even bigger location for us,” he says.
Finally, Maskara hopes to guide Lennox through a transition as several C-Suite officers may retire. “In the next two to three years, about half my team may be sailing off into the sunset,” Maskara says. He was responsible for finding his own replacement internally as the former CEO of Milwaukee-based Luxfer and hopes to successfully backfill and develop leadership the same way at Lennox. “I’ll spend a lot of time on talent and leadership transition,” he says.