Volume 15 | Issue 1 | Year 2012

This total solution provider achieved its industry ranking through innovation and hard work. Dan Harvey describes the payoff for the company and the implications for its customers.

Established in 1969, M&M Refrigeration just about does it all for its industry and customers.

“In less than 50 years, we’ve evolved into a total solutions provider,” says Charles A. Toogood, the company’s vice president of business development. He should know; he’s an industry veteran.

Equipment and controls is what this Federalsburg, Md.-headquartered enterprise is about. It designs, manufactures and sells the most advanced refrigeration technology. “Our broad, comprehensive product line includes a complete selection of screw compressor, reciprocating compressor packages, pressure vessels of all sizes and configurations, chiller packages, skid-mounted refrigeration packages, microprocessor equipment controllers and system controls,” reports Toogood.

Duffy McConnell, M&M’s founder and president, spells out the mission more definitively: “On the equipment side, we always look toward new technologies and techniques to develop more efficient solutions. On the controls side, we not only focus on how to control the equipment, but how to integrate things better, and best work with the power company, and with the owners, to learn what we can do to help conserve energy.”

The effort is effective. “It is not unrealistic for us to say that we can shave 20 to 30 percent off of customers’ electric bills,” he says.

Also, it’s not hyperbolic to say that the company offers the world’s broadest product line. “We also supply forced and induced draft evaporative condensers, steel and aluminum evaporator coils, rooftop critical process air systems, and open or closed circuit cooling towers,” says Toogood, about a company that seems too good to be true. After all, its menu also includes parts – such as compressors, couplings, pumps, electrical controls and valves – and it enhances its value by providing maintenance and repair services. What’s offered represents its industry’s highest benchmark.

Success resulted from commitment and personal vision bordering on the obsessive. “Simply stated, company growth involved hard work and long hours,” says McConnell. “It started out in 1969 with one man – myself – and I added someone every succeeding year. From there we progressed to now include nearly 100 employees.”

Further, growth included strong focus. “In the beginning, we focused on controls, and that helped knit everything together – the compressor packages, systems, condensers, the whole gamut,” says McConnell. “Some companies deployed controllers for equipment, but they didn’t extend it into their systems.”

As his company started to flourish, McConnell deployed the latest technology to advance his – and his customers’ – cause. “After we started building our own equipment in the 1970s, we shifted our focus toward microprocessors, a technologic development that became prevalent in the next decade. That helped pull together everything we built.”

Toogood defines the impact of this approach. It comes back to control. “You can make the market’s best compressor, but if it doesn’t have a good control system, then it isn’t worth very much,” he comments.

Efficiency and proper function are key words, agrees McConnell. “It’s no good to just build the best equipment. Knit everything together, and you provide the best solution,” he observes.

An innovative company, M&M Refrigeration never took the easy path. “We always looked at the next step,” says McConnell. Consider: one of its key milestones, as far as the United States market, was spearheading usage of CO2, which made refrigeration more efficient and safe. A cascade refrigeration system, which deploys CO2 as a low pressure stage refrigerant and ammonia as a high pressure stage refrigerant, offers numerous advantages. And M&M led in the promotion of cascade CO2 and ammonia refrigeration systems in the United States. “The technology has proven to be up-front cost effective,” says Toogood. “Operations, under most conditions, are more cost efficient than most of the conventional refrigerants, as it is circuited through the coils going out into the process freezer area.”

An alternative would simply be ammonia – not the best option. In the event of a leak, ammonia could damage product and also hurt people, reveals Toogood.

But in the case of a cascade CO2 system, no ammonia resides in the process space. “And it doesn’t reside in any place where people work,” adds Toogood.

The cascade CO2 system greatly reduces the amount of ammonia refrigerant required. “The little amount required is contained only in the machinery room,” Toogood points out. “No one else is doing anything on quite the scale that we have done.”

M&M Refrigeration’s manufacturing plant and corporate offices are housed on wide space in a Federalsburg industrial park. “But we have more than 126,000 square feet of total facility, because of our controls division, located in Ormond Beach in Florida that encompasses about 4,000 square feet and a service and rebuild center in Montgomery, in Alabama, that boasts about 1,500 square feet,” describes Toogood.

The enterprise is supported by regional sales and engineering offices in Georgia, California and Pennsylvania, and it has a distribution office located in Montreal, Canada. In this way, M&M can serve refrigeration and controls needs for clients throughout North America.

“Our main customers are those that have large facilities, and we’re talking about processing plants that reside, for the large part, in the food and beverage industry,” says McConnell. “But when it comes to CO2, we’re totally in the food industry.”

But the company doesn’t limit itself. “We’re also involved in recreational and air conditioning for large projects, in places where a chiller is needed,” adds McConnell.

Business growth has been steady, even in recent years when the economy went flat. That’s because of reputation, informs McConnell.

Reputation has led to international projects, he reports. “We’re doing more international work than ever before. At the same time that we’re getting less projects in the United States, we’re garnering more projects in places such as Asia, Europe and South America,” he reveals.

But that doesn’t mean that M&M neglects its North American constituents. It continues serving them well. “When you look at it from a control standpoint,” says John Condorosis, who heads the Ormond, Fla.-based M&M Systems, “the economic downturn made corporations look more closely at their infrastructure, and to areas where they can cut costs. Controls is one place where they first looked, particularly those companies with cold storage facilities, where the largest expenses relate to power and labor. Control helps them cut expenses in both areas.”

Many companies pay more than $200,000 in power bills each month, he reports. That’s huge.

“Shave away 15 percent with a strong control system and you’re talking about considerable savings – obviously something that is very attractive,” he says. “That led us into retrofit, the cost-saving update of outdated equipment, or the added controls, where controls didn’t previously exist. We’ve been doing that in the United States, but we’re moving beyond the borders.”

As such M&M is ever moving forward, in the most innovative fashion. “The next big push, from the controls standpoint is the ‘cloud,’” says Condorosis. “That means cloud computing and storage of information in the cloud, and getting that information to the right people and in the right format.”

As he relates, the largest and most successful plants are becoming more complicated and thus need better control and information processing. “The challenge is to boil copious data into serviceable information that will prove the most useful to the person who sees it and needs to access it,” he says. “And the ‘person’ may be different, depending on where they reside within the company or corporation. For instance, someone in the boardroom focuses on costs. Someone at the mid-management level also wants to watch dollars, but they’re more concerned about scrutinizing operation. Someone at the engineering-room level also needs to be concerned about costs, but they have to be more focused on day-to-day operations.”

At all levels, decisions need to be made, and these decision must be based on the most accurate and up-to-date information. “We’re going to place our fingers on the the pulse, and feel the rhythm that resides at all levels, and make information available at a glance,” says Condorosis. “That’s a major challenge, but that is where we are heading, from a controls standpoint. And we have no doubt that we will succeed.”

It also points to where M&M Refrigeration is heading from a customer-service standpoint.

“We’re not satisfied until the end user of any product we provide is satisfied, and we go the extra mile to make sure that’s the case,” says Toogood.

What’s at that end of that mile?

“Repeat business,” says Toogood. “The only way a company is going to stay in afloat is through repeat business. We’ve accomplished this in many ways. Anything we build, even if we don’t do the installation, we provide startup and training for the equipment. We won’t leave the customers alone before their own engineers are confident about understanding and operating our equipment.”

This is where the phrase “partnership” takes on more meaning. “Customers describe our relationship with them as a partnership,” says Toogood. “Sure, we supply them with product and services, but it’s the partnership – or the relationship we develop – that makes them successful, and that’s one element that sets us apart.”

Indeed, M&M Refrigeration manufactures chilling technology, but it warms up to all customers.

“We’re only satisfied when they are 100-percent satisfied,” says Toogood. “To reiterate, when they are satisfied, they prosper. When they prosper, so do we.”

Business symbiosis, perfectly stated.

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