Telling Friedrich Air Conditioning Company to keep it cool in a market that continually heats up with the changing seasons is like telling a bird to stop manufacturing nests. It’s just the thing that this manufacturer does better than anyone else. Lorie Russo explains how.
It’s nice to be able to turn on a little machine and get cool air in the hot summer months. In a way, we can all thank a German immigrant who used to make billiard tables for this little bit of himmel. The immigrant’s name was Ed Friedrich, who started Friedrich Air Conditioning Company in San Antonio in 1883. Friedrich created a business that, for more than 100 years, has developed products responsive to public needs – and that has consistently met the challenge of making those products better. The can-do attitude that got Friedrich started is now an ingrained work ethic that has catapulted it into world-class status.
Friedrich’s dual purpose of marketing both energy-efficient and competitive air-treatment products continually forces the company to raise the bar. Says President Charles Marino, the fundamental direction of Friedrich is to be the top manufacturer of specialty air-treatment products for the worldwide market. Moving the company forward are dedicated employees who are committed to excellence and have a passion to succeed, he says. “Friedrich is respected for its high degree of integrity and professionalism, as well as being recognized as the best in the business,” says Marino.
A History of Craftsmanship
Being recognized as the best was important to Ed Friedrich. The eldest son of a German immigrant cabinet maker, he started his business in a one-room clapboard shop and produced several handcrafted products, including store fixtures, wood billiard tables and finely carved cabinetry. Coincidentally, ice was starting to become a big commodity for preserving food; Friedrich soon began to develop products that became the forerunners of today’s refrigeration systems. By 1915, the business had expanded to fill a 35,000 square-foot, two-story plant, from which Friedrich continued to expand and refine his products.
His son George sustained the culture of innovation, producing the Floating Air refrigeration system in 1920. The concept was patented in 1931, revolutionizing refrigeration technology as it is known today. A leader in the manufacture of refrigeration equipment by the 1950s, the company soon began to see the potential in room air conditioners with the expanding housing market. In 1995, Friedrich acquired the Zoneaire® product line of packaged terminal air conditioners and heat pumps. This acquisition enabled Friedrich to expand into the lodging industry.
Friedrich’s products now are sold worldwide to the appliance, HVAC, contract, hotel/motel and export sales channels through a network of dealers, distributors, manufacturers’ representatives and overseas agents; Friedrich products are now found in 160 countries. Today, the Friedrich name remains synonymous with quality.
Into New Markets
A recent acquisition has positioned Friedrich to be one of the top suppliers for the multifamily manufactured and modular home building industry, says Marino. Last April 1, the company purchased Consolidated Technology Corporation of Olive Hill, Ky., a manufacturer of two specialized air conditioning and heating systems. The first unit, says Marino, supplies heating and cooling in a down-flow configuration through floor ducting, an alternative to the electronic furnace and central air systems traditionally used in the manufactured-housing industry. The system is a self-contained heat pump resulting in increased energy efficiency, compared with conventional electric furnaces. “It is almost three times more efficient for homeowners,” says Marino. “It results in reduced monthly utility costs.”
The second unit delivers heating and cooling through an up-flow configuration, which is best suited for multifamily apartment and condominium units, says Marino. Both systems, he says, fit in well with Friedrich’s philosophy of building and supplying air-treatment products designed for ultraquiet, superhigh-efficiency operation. Friedrich, says Marino, engineers and designs air-treatment products to be user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing, and which meet customer requirements.
The company uses the most advanced computerized test equipment at a number of test locations along the assembly line to verify product reliability and ensure total quality; Friedrich air conditioners have met the strict approval standards of Underwriters Laboratories as well as the CUL standards of Canada. To further enhance the manufacturing process, the company uses state-of-the-art, computer-controlled robotics to produce the consistent, error-free coil and tubing assemblies vital to each product. An extensive bar coding system tracks units through the assembly process, and continuous auditing of components and computerized testing are performed along the assembly line. Each unit must pass strict inspections.
Friedrich’s other products include:
• Quietmaster® electronic series using one-touch cooling digital controls, touted as America’s quietest and most energy-efficient room air conditioner
• QSTAR® high-efficiency bedroom air conditioners
• Wallmaster® through-the-wall series, offering quiet, energy-saving cooling and heating
• Zoneaire® package terminal air conditioners and heat pumps, offering a quiet, attractive slim design with the highest energy-efficiency ratios
• C-90 portable electronic air cleaner, the industry leader with the highest clean air delivery rate, ideal for providing clean, fresh air in today’s tightly sealed air-conditioned homes and offices. In addition, Friedrich offers its unique Floating Air ductless split systems for comfort, quality and reliability. The product line includes wall-mount, ceiling-suspended and 2-by-4-foot T-bar models in a large range of BTU sizes.
Through continual capital investments, including a new coil manufacturing operation in San Antonio (Friedrich’s total manufacturing space measures 650,000 square feet), the company continues on a steady program of improving itself. Consistent growth has enabled it to export products to such markets as the Caribbean, Central America, the Middle East and Africa, as well as North America.
Significant changes, such as the new coil manufacturing operation, point to Friedrich’s commitment to making its manufacturing processes more effective and competitive. Known throughout the world as a manufacturer of premium-quality, energy-efficient products, Friedrich has sold more Energy Star room air conditioner models (a federal government designation that denotes efficiency in energy output) in North America than any other competitor in the business. “We have led the industry in high efficiency for decades,” says Marino. “Our goal is to strive to master the art of change by being outwardly focused and market-oriented.”