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This company is like the stage director of the longest-running successful play – seen but unheard while the actors perform magnificently and flawlessly. Like the director, it’s unknown to the general audience but is widely respected among its peers in the industrial refrigeration market. This company is FES Systems, Inc., of York, Pa. – an ISO 9001-certified manufacturer with more than a half-century of experience as a supplier to the growing global industry of industrial refrigeration.
Most people are not even aware of FES’ involvement in their daily lives. But FES, like that director, ensures that all systems are go and that we all enjoy a star performance in the products we use. FES equipment appears in a wide range of industries, including food and beverage, refrigerated warehouse, chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, industrial and liquefied gas, and petroleum refining.
FES’ expertise today rests on a rock-solid foundation of engineering know-how first developed on 1949 by Henry B. Pownall, who began Freezing Equipment Sales in York. Pownall’s goal was to create a company to design, manufacture and install automatic freezing tunnels for the ice-cream and frozen food industries.
That original vision continues to live today, as evidenced in FES’ numerous product innovations over the years. One of the company’s first pioneering efforts was the application of rotary vane compressors in low-temperature ammonia refrigeration booster applications. During the 1960s, FES developed a special program to advance bareshaft screw compressor technology, a program still used in the industry today. Other FES innovations are in screw compressor application, packaging, design of efficient oil separation, liquid refrigerant injection and microprocessor control.
The original engineering prowess that established FES’ leading role continues to live into the 21st century. Today, FES is a leading global manufacturer of custom-engineered and factory-packaged systems designed to meet the exact requirements of industrial applications. In its 100,000-plus-square-foot facility, FES manufactures screw compressor packages with microprocessor control, shell and tube heat exchangers, plate and frame heat exchangers, control systems, computer supervisory systems and complete custom engineered packages.
From Outsource to In-house
“As a packager, you utilize a number of components (compressors, motors, etc.) that are outsourced,” says John Miranda, national sales manager. “But with our new G-series screw compressor just introduced in June, we can now use our own screw compressors.” This is due to the company’s January 2000 acquisition by GEA, a company of the Frankfurt Metallgesellshaft Group. GEA is a global supplier to the industrial refrigeration market through its refrigeration division based in den Bosch, The Netherlands.
GEA’s technology, now a part of FES’ technology, has advanced screw compressor design beyond the product offerings of others in the global industry. Innovations in rotor design, gas passage configuration and manufacturing processes are providing benefits to users in power savings, vibration and noise experience.
FES, with the technology GEA brings to the company, can now use the patented G-series design for its own in-house design of screw compressor packages, which will account for most of FES’ business in the future.“The screw compressor is the heart of the refrigeration system,” explains Miranda. “It’s like the engine in your car. Without that engine, you’re not going anywhere.” Screw compressors are the heart of the refrigeration system needed to maintain a particular temperature in any given application. “Say a refrigerated warehouse needs to maintain a temperature of minus-20 degrees. Our screw compressor compresses the refrigerant, which boils while absorbing heat from fan-coil air coolers in refrigerated space, thereby changing the state of the refrigerant from a liquid to a gas. “We call this ‘latent heat of vaporization,’ and during this process, heat is absorbed so the desired space or warehouse temperature can be maintained.”
Service in Place
In addition to FES’ experience and controlled manufacturing processes, assuring product reliability, patented designs also assure serviceability. “You can actually rebuild this compressor in place,” says Miranda. Companies can therefore eliminate the inconvenience and cost of removing the equipment with heavy-lifting machinery to send it back to the manufacturer to have it rebuilt. “Which is the case today for all other brands out there. This is a real benefit to export customers and others in remote areas.”
The G-series was designed to be repaired in place, minimizing down time and lost profits. This is especially important in industrial refrigeration applications.With 20 different models of screw compressors to offer, FES stands ready to provide companies with the compressor to meet their exact needs. The G-series can handle industrial refrigeration applications using the smallest machine of 164 cubic feet per minute (cfm) to the largest machine of 4,122 cfm.
Why is FES equipment synonymous with unsurpassed service and reliability? The answer rests in FES’ commitment to engineering. “We are an engineering-focused company,” says Miranda. “We started as an engineering contractor in 1949, and then started to manufacture products. Today in our facility, we have an electronics engineering group, a mechanical engineering group, a heat-transfer engineering group and an applications engineering group. And all of our managers and senior managers are engineers.”
A glimpse into FES’ history will affirm that commitment to unparalleled engineering expertise. “One of the early products we pioneered for refrigeration duty was the rotary vane compressor. We modified it to work with ammonia and we introduced it into the industry in 1949, and it displaced many other products being used for that purpose. This was a more viable product. We’ve pioneered many new technologies since then.” FES was the first to integrate a microprocessor control system on a screw compressor package, and the company pioneered the application of coalescing oil separators for screw compressor technology.
Level Management Field
FES products are marketed through independent sales representatives in North America. Throughout the rest of the world, FES products are sold to distributors in more than 50 countries in a buy/resell arrangement.
Miranda describes FES management as a “flat organization,” meaning that all managers report directly to Jeff Graby, FES president. The company employs 280 people, some with more than 25 years of service to the company.FES is an ASME U-certified shop. “This means we can handle things like ASME vessels and heat exchangers because we are a U-stamp shop with extensive manufacturing expertise,” says Miranda, who describes the manufacturing process as a “job shop environment. In other words, we build the subassemblies, which then go to be fully assembled in another area. As in any job shop, we have travelers that follow the equipment around and we complete inspection in line with our own quality program as well as the requirement of the ASME program.” Other certifications include China Pressure Vessel and ISO 9001 quality program.
The physical capabilities offered by FES are impressive and include four 25-ton overhead cranes (with 20 feet under the hook) and two 10-ton and 10 5-ton overhead cranes (with 20 feet under the hook). FES’ facility is equipped with numerous jib cranes, a 100-ton ironworker, a computer and electric eye multitorch plate burner, 70 semi-automatic and stick electrode welding machines and one stationary and one portable submerged arc welder, with capacities of 20 inches to 120 inches in shell diameter.
The company’s major expansion four years ago included the installation of the large, overhead cranes, a state-of-the-art painting facility and a sandblast facility. “We did this in order to meet the special requirements for large engineered packages we supply to the chemical, petrochemical, and pharmaceutical markets,” explains Miranda. “These packages must be built to very stringent specs.”
FES looks to a bright future and plans to continue to lead in quality, product and satisfying customers’ expectations. “We will continue to be pioneers and leaders in propelling this technology,” concludes Miranda. “Our goal is not to be the biggest, even though we are No. 2 in North America. We strive to build customer loyalty with superior product quality, and customer service that is second to none.”