What began as a one-person repair shop has grown into a large manufacturing firm with two production plants and plans to expand even more. “My father started out as a refrigerator repair man,” says Edel Ojeda, Jr., president of Grupo Ojeda and son of the company’s founder. “He set up shop on the patio of my grandfather’s house and worked from there until 1948, when he established a company that would manufacture parts for refrigerators and freezers.”
During the following years, the company, headed by Edel Ojeda Sr., experienced continual growth. So much so, in fact, that it relocated to a new plant in Mexico City. Today the company’s operations are carried out in two main locations: the Mexico City plant, which consists of 18,000 square meters for production purposes and 2,000 square meters of office space, and its plant in the city of Toluca, where the production zone spans 8,000 square meters and office space takes up 600 additional square meters.
Grupo Ojeda consists of four companies: Ojeda Refrigeración, S.A. de C.V., which produces commercial refrigeration equipment; Frigopanel, a division specializing in coolers and freezers; IsoDoors Solutions, a joint venture with the Spanish company Repro which produces doors for coolers; and Ojeda U.S.A., Inc., the company’s facility in South Carolina that serves both the United States and Canada with products manufactured by the group. Grupo Ojeda’s 800 employees carry out operations to manufacture a variety of products, ranging from beverage coolers to display cases to biomedical refrigeration units. All of its products fall under the umbrella of goods for the commercial refrigeration industry.
When it comes to refrigeration products, Grupo Ojeda has plenty of experience. In 1969, the company began making specialized coolers and freezers for supermarkets. It set up a joint venture with Tyler Refrigeration International to manufacture freezers, refrigerated merchandisers, and other products. In 1979, Tyler Refrigeration International withdrew from Mexico, an act that left the Mexican market wide open to Ojeda.
During the following years, the company continued to grow and steadily increase its level of operations. In 1997, Frigopanel began operations at the Toluca plant. Then in 2001, the company received ISO 9001 certification. In 2006, it opened operations in the United States. One of its most recent developments involves the joint venture with Repro to manufacture cooler doors. As Ojeda explains, Repro provides the technology and Grupo Ojeda takes care of the manufacturing process.
Today, the company produces a range of cooling products to meet various customer needs. “We have a number of product lines, including beverage coolers, ice cream freezers, display cases, open air merchandisers, and upright freezers,” notes Ojeda. The company’s equipment is designed with maintenance-free condensers and a refrigeration system that is easy to access. Its line of beverage coolers comes with designs to help customers promote their products. A cooler made to hold small bottles of drinkable yoghurt can be manufactured in the shape of a yoghurt container, for instance. A beverage cooler designed to hold milk products might take on the shape of a milk bottle.
By continually developing its products and training its workers, Grupo Ojeda has experienced success, year after year, even as the market shifts and changes. It currently distributes refrigeration units to clients in Mexico and other countries. It serves as a provider for top companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Unilever, and Nestlé.
Grupo Ojeda also manufactures biomedical refrigerators, which are designed for storing medications and vaccines at proper temperatures. “These units have built-in security systems and temperature monitors,” explains Ojeda. The temperature reading can be used to see if a medicine has been exposed to a temperature level that it should not be exposed to. This feature serves as a safety net, as the exposed medicine can be discarded rather than given to patients.
“All of our equipment is designed and produced with a large focus on energy efficiency,” Ojeda notes. The company’s products use up to 75 percent less than average industry standards when it comes to energy. “Our products use less electricity, and thus produce less heat, which contributes to the fight against global warming.”
In addition to energy efficiency, Grupo Ojeda takes the environment into account in other areas of production. It uses LED (light-emitting diode) lighting in its equipment, generating less heat and making it easier to keep refrigeration units cool. The company’s products also use eco-friendly refrigerants that do not contain chlorofluorocarbons. These refrigerants are less toxic than others often used in the industry.
A GLOBAL AFFAIR
Currently Grupo Ojeda reaches its clients in one of two ways: through direct sales and through distributors. Concerning the latter, it has a network of 70 distributors located throughout Mexico. For large companies with specific needs, Grupo Ojeda uses its office in the United States as a point of contact. The products ordered are then shipped directly from the factory to their final destination. The company also works directly with supermarkets, selling them coolers and freezers that fit their needs.
While Grupo Ojeda has a strong presence in Mexico and a facility in the United States, it is in the process of expanding into additional countries. “We’re opening distributorships in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Venezuela, and Colombia,” explains Ojeda. The company also has plans to step into European and Asian markets. Most of its new locations will simply be distributors, with the exception of Asia. “To be competitive in Asia, we’re going to be involved with the manufacturing process there as well.”
Creating a company that operates across the globe is no small task. To adjust to the new vision, Ojeda notes that officials are looking at company operations both on internal and external levels. “We’re working to become a much more international company. This means we need to organize ourselves internally to be able to meet the upcoming demands. On the outside, we want to continue with projects that give us better coverage in areas around the globe.” Putting all of this together has resulted in changes all over the company, from the manufacturing end to the service and logistics divisions.
Besides expanding its presence in the international market, Grupo Ojeda has plans to develop more products. “We currently produce a number of specialized products for our large clients. In the future, we’re going to focus more on these specialized products, which should help increase our position in the international market.”
The fact that the company has been able to succeed in tough economic times is not a surprise to company officials. The commercial refrigeration equipment industry is a highly competitive one, and Grupo Ojeda does not take making a solid product for granted. “We’re always focused on the product, manufacturing goods that are of the highest quality,” says Ojeda. Clients tend to notice this strategy. “Over the years, we’ve occasionally had customers switch to one of our competitors. In many cases, however, they come right back to us. Well-developed products are our strength.”