A subsidiary of the Glen Dimplex Group, Dimplex Thermal Solutions (DTS) was formed in 2006 when the parent company combined two of the nation’s best industrial cooling technology manufacturers. Today, the Kalamazoo, Mich.-headquartered business is one of North America’s top liquid chiller manufacturers, servicing a wide range of markets and applications. Dan Harvey describes DTS’ remarkably rapid success.
Only a little more than two years old, Dimplex Thermal Solutions (DTS) possesses a combined century’s worth of experience and proficiency in the industrial cooling arena. The company’s birth resulted from a coupling of two top U.S. cooling manufacturers: Koolant Koolers of Kalamazoo, Mich. and Schreiber Engineering of Cerritos, Calif. This corporate conception commingled past lives to produce a creative and industrious prodigy.
“Koolant Koolers – the distinguishing ‘K’ indicates Kalamazoo, where the company was established – was started in the early 1950s to meet the cooling needs for the machine tool industry,” recalls DTS President Mark Rostagno. “At the time, that meant grinders, spindles and milling machines that required coolants be kept at a constant temperature.”
Schreiber, the other half of the union, was established in 1958 and focused on providing world-class chilling equipment for the welding and plastics areas.
The Glen Dimplex Group of Dublin, Ireland engineered the merger of these two baby boom era-born businesses to produce powerful 21st century hybrid with advantageous traits. Today, the Kalamazoo-headquartered DTS can easily, effectively and rapidly manufacture standard, custom and OEM liquid chillers, selling its wares under the Koolant Kooler and Schreiber Chiller brand names. “While we offer several types of products, the chillers are the heart and soul of our business,” says Rostagno.
A chiller, he indicates, functions much like a refrigerator. “However, with a refrigerator, the product is cold air. With industrial chillers, it’s cold fluid,” Rostagno explains.
Before they became conjoined, Koolant and Schreiber were owned by the Dover Corporation, which purchased the businesses in 1998 and 2001, respectively. However, while under Dover ownership, Koolant and Schreiber still operated autonomously, even competitively. This cross-purposeful existence underscored unrealized potential, at least in the eyes of the Glen Dimplex Group. An astute organization, the Irish corporation easily comprehended the possibilities and brought the organizations together in cohesive fashion with the twin purchases that took place in January 2006. “We decided that the way to go was to retain the two brand names but consolidate the two businesses as Dimplex Thermal Solutions,” relates Rostagno.
With the synergistic coupling of capabilities, DTS capably serves a wide range of market segments with products used in an extensive array of applications, both conventional and innovative. The newly formed company’s main focus areas include the industrial, medical and food markets. For industrial market clients, DTS provides cooling solutions for laser, resistance welding, machine tool components (e.g., spindles, ball screws, linear motors, hydraulics), plasma and thermal spray equipment, and water jet technology, among others. In the medical area, DTS solutions provide the cooling of medical diagnostic imaging equipment. In particular, the company offers products that are integrated into fixed and mobile magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units. In the food market, a relatively new area for the company, DTS develops and manufactures products used in dairy, meat processing, fresh-food processing and bakery applications.
The company’s success in all business arenas has been remarkable. “We are one of the top three North American chiller manufacturers in just about all of the segments in which we compete,” reveals Rostagno.
Moreover, DTS’ position within a multinational organization makes it a versatile, flexible enterprise. On one hand, it demonstrates the agility and resourcefulness of a small company. On the other, as part of the Glen Dimplex Group, it benefits from the financial stability and depth that an actively involved parent organization provides. Indeed, Glen Dimplex, which was established in 1973, is the world’s largest electrical heating business, enjoying annual sales that approach $2 billion.
Further, DTS can service and support applications across the world through cooperative efforts with Riedel Precision Cooling, its Kulmbach, Germany-based sister company. An internationally recognized specialist for liquid cooling and air conditioning, Riedel boasts extensive cooling application experience with automobile manufacturers and their suppliers, as well as mechanical engineers, medical technology vendors and other select industries. The association provides yet another level of support and capability to DTS clients, particularly the multinational entities. “The connection provides us with an international flavor,” says Rostagno. “Riedel is looking to expand its North American presence as well as provide a manufacturing point of origin for several of its largest laser customers.”
TWO MANUFACTURING FACILITIES
With the Glen Dimplex Group’s acquisitions, DTS automatically inherited 100,000 square feet of manufacturing space where it now produces a variety of cooling options for customers. The Cerritos, Calif. facility, where Schreiber products are made, includes 20,000 square feet and is staffed by about 40 employees. The larger Kalamazoo facility, where Koolant products are made, includes 80,000 square feet and about 150 employees.
“At both facilities, we demonstrate strong competencies as far as programming, controls, protocols and testing, as well as with handling sheet metal. All of that makes DTS nimble as far as adapting ourselves to specific customer requirements,” says Scott Davis, Director of Research and Development for DTS. “One attribute that makes us competitive is our ability to accomplish rapid customization for our OEM customers, compared to other companies that are either all engineering-based or have a fixed product line. We can make pretty much anything and do it quite quickly.”
“With our pragmatic and innovative approach, we are able to develop new products within two months,” adds Rostagno. “It takes many companies as much as six to eight months to only come up with a prototype that still requires another six months or more of testing. But with our business model, particularly on the Koolant Koolers side, we can come up with a product – not just a prototype – in far less time. That’s something that we accomplish routinely.”
In addition, through the Koolant Koolers and Schreiber brands, Dimplex Thermal Solutions now has the ability to manufacture and ship chillers from both the Michigan and California facilities. It also has implemented a service and support network that extends from North America into Europe and parts of Asia.
DTS’ Koolant Koolers brand includes cooling systems that chill any liquid in any equipment and are customizable to any application. Cooling capacities ranging from 1/8-ton to thousands of tons. Special designs come with specific controls, voltages, sound requirements, and footprints and meet UL, CSA, CE, and IP66 specifications. Solutions are engineered and built with heavy-duty construction, reliable components and first-class workmanship. Such diligence is necessary, particularly in the industrial environment, where oil mist, dust, heat and 24-hour operation place severe demands on cooling systems.
Highlights of the Koolant line include the A series and the C series. The A series is comprised of indoor and outdoor tankless chillers recommended when a reservoir of fluid such as central coolant pits, storage tanks or quench tanks must be cooled. They are used in cooling metalworking fluids, hydraulic fluids and almost any other fluids. Simple to operate and easy to maintain, these chillers are available with a variety of options including a proprietary cleanable heat exchanger that allows customers to clean out the heat exchangers without removing coolant or refrigerant connections. The C Series chillers are an all-in-one package, including the refrigeration circuit, tank and pump, all sized to suit any customer’s cooling needs. This unit is available in one to thousands of tons of cooling, utilizing multi-module cooling of water applications. This design is also suited for utilization with indirect cooling with heat exchanger packages for all fluid types, including acid and coating technologies. Additionally, the series employs a submersed copper coil heat exchanger that eliminates concerns of freezing and can be used in situations in which glycol mixture cannot be used. Applications include diffusion pumps, vapor recovery, electronic equipment, heat exchangers, lasers, jackets, molds, rubber machinery, spot welders, spindles, as well as electronic, heat treat, hydraulic, processing, printing and medical diagnostic equipment.
Schreiber highlights include the standard chiller lines of the Masterchill and the newest product line, the MicroMaxJT. Both provide value to customers whose processes or equipment require cooling to maintain temperature and sizes ranging from half of a ton to 20 tons of cooling. MasterChill units are available for indoor and outdoor installations and offer the industry standard for moderately sized heat loads, ranging from a half-ton to 20 tons of water cooling.
The new MicroMaxJT took the best of two product lines from the Koolant Koolers side and the Schreiber side and combined these into a perfect cooling solution for smaller applications, including spot welders, small lasers, spindles, induction heaters and many other industrial processes and equipment. Because they’re implemented in a wide range of settings, Schreiber chillers are constructed with highly reliable and rugged components. Typical applications include medical, laser, spindles, water jet, induction heating, food processing, printing, semi-conductors, metalworking, EDM, welding, plasma spray, pharmaceutical, and plastics. In addition, from the time of the purchase order, delivery can be made within four to five days.
PRODUCT LINE EXPANSION
While DTS specializes in liquid/water/glycol chillers, the company is already expanding into areas beyond liquid chilling, in particular into mobile refrigeration units. The best way to illustrate this, indicates Rostagno, is to envision a classic ice cream truck or typical 20-foot food delivery truck. “The dominant market model is a refrigeration unit that is a mobile air conditioner that runs off of a separate diesel generator,” he says.
However, that conventional model has been significantly impacted by rising diesel fuel prices as well as anti-idling regulations adopted in many states. DTS has developed a solution that effectively addresses these issues. “We’ve come up with an all electric cooling system that is rather uncommon in the United States,” comments Davis. “About 95 percent of the reefer/refrigerated trucks that you see on the road run off of diesel power. We’ve partnered with Emerald Commercial Leasing of Atlanta to develop a unit that runs off of a specialty power supply.”
“When a truck stops, the unit can run on batteries for nearly an hour,” informs Rostagno. “The battery recharges when the truck starts up again. Savings on diesel fuel can run as high as $8,000 a year per truck.”
As such, it provides a “green” solution. “That’s the direction the market is headed, and we have patent protection because of the proprietary nature of the product. We’re able to start our large compressors off of a battery. That’s where our control expertise really kicks in, in terms of how we can manipulate power,” says Rostagno.
This kind of product will become dominant in the marketplace within the next five years, envisions Davis. “This technology is the future, and we’re looking to gain enough customers to accrue the lion’s share of the market.”
Right now, in the mobile arena, the diesel-based providers are the giants. DTS hopes to supplant their dominant position. “This is a market segment where we are the ‘David’ going up against at least two ‘Goliaths,’” says Spencer Malcolm, DTS’ vice president of operations. “We’re the little guy with the better idea.”
Davis adds: “If we take on the ‘David’ role, we’re equipped with one hell of a sling shot.”
Indeed, the metaphorical weapon will not only launch a well aimed projectile right between the competition’s eyes; it also will catapult DTS into the future.