Thermo King produces transport temperature control systems and has helped keep Brazil cool for more than 35 years. As a unit of Ingersoll Rand Ltd, the company is now even better prepared for future challenges. With the Brazilian economy heating up, thermo king assumes the refreshing role as the market’s leading refrigeration and mobile air conditioning manufacturer. Reuben Ford describes.
Brazil’s need for the most efficient and innovative cooling systems is obvious: More than 90 percent of the country resides in the tropical zone, and its road network supports a large amount of goods and passenger transport. In fact, in such an environment, optimal refrigeration technology is about much more than convenience and comfort; it’s a matter of life and death.
Thermo King Brasil effectively addresses such urgency. Thermo King Brasil provides essential temperature control for a variety of mobile applications including trailers, trucks, buses, shipboard containers and railway passenger cars. Its offered technology guarantees safe delivery of perishable goods, medicines and blood for transfusions, as well as a better and safer environment.
TRUSTING IN TECHNOLOGY
“Today our primary concern is supplying clients with safe and sustainable technology for the controlled conditions they require,” says Marketing Manager Paulo Lane.
To ensure optimal equipment performance, Thermo King uses special technology that records and tracks temperatures inside transport vehicles. “Highly sensitive machinery maintains temperatures without jeopardizing the quality of the products,” he continues. Such systems are particularly essential for food manufacturers and pharmaceutical and medical suppliers.
Protection of perishables is an important company focus; indeed, it was the motivating force behind its founding and subsequent development. In the summer of 1938, when a prominent Minneapolis trucking company lost a shipment of chickens due to poor refrigeration conditions, the industry woke up to the necessities of safe and hygienic transportation. The challenge to provide a solution to preserve food triggered the birth of refrigerated transportation, and Thermo King helped pioneered the most viable solutions. Previously, goods in the company’s country were carried with ice, which neither maintained a constant temperature for long-distance hauling nor guaranteed freshness upon arrival.
Advantages of modern technology stretch beyond the accurate regulation of transport conditions: Thermo King also invests in environmentally friendly systems with reduced emissions. For example, research and development, conducted jointly with suppliers, led to diesel engines that release fewer gases from combustion and create less noise and vibrations. “There is a great deal of research into reducing the environmental impact of cooling systems, and all of the engines we manufacture operate in accordance with industry norms established in California and valid until 2014,” Lane explains.
The company constantly looks at low-energy consumption options, which reduce costs related to operation and maintenance and, in turn, translates into lower ownership costs.
Air conditioning in buses is a growing market, and Thermo King is constantly developing increasingly sophisticated systems that provide passengers a comfortable vehicle environment that reduces the stress of long coach journeys. In addition, for buses in city applications, temperature controlled systems assure better conditions for commuters (on their way to work or school) and tourists.
When the U.S. company first entered the Brazilian market in 1974, it focused sales toward the country’s buses and coaches. Locals affectionately nicknamed the first air-conditioning technology installed on buses in Rio de Janeiro as “frescões.” Thermo King also set a standard in Brazil’s perishables transport segment. In the process, the unit became known as a “Thermo King,” a sobriquet independent of the manufacturer’s own name.
BUILDING A BRAND
The ever-increasing comfort of coach and bus journeys in Brazil rests firmly on the foundation of technological innovation that began in the United States in 1938. The first mechanical refrigeration unit earned Thermo King status as an industry pioneer. Through the years, the company emerged as the global leader in mobile cooling systems, with a substantial commercial presence in five continents and factories all over the world.
Thermo King Brasil created its base in Valinhos in São Paulo state. In 1987, the factory was transferred to Campinas, to consolidate the brand’s position as well as to cater to the growing market. The location became the center of operations in Latin America.
Today, Thermo King belongs to the $13 billion global diversified industrial company, Ingersoll Rand. The 1997 acquisition resulted in renewed development in the Thermo King companies. In 2001, operations were moved from Campinas to a new factory in Londrina, Paraná. Bolstered by Ingersoll Rand Group financial investment, the new facility was transformed into a 22,000-square-meter industrial complex, producing temperature control solutions for coaches, buses and trucks using international technology in Brazil.
Today, the Londrina plant manufactures units, and it imports other ones from other facilities worldwide. As such, Thermo King can provide refrigeration units for vans as well as long 30 pallet trailers, and for passenger transportation vehicles ranging from a small bus to a 15-meter double-decker coach.
The company’s expansive infrastructure is a significant marketdifferential. In late 2010, the manufacturing operation will be transferred to a new facility in Curitiba, by the side of the existing Trane plant. Trane, another leading brand within the Ingersoll Rand Group, makes commercial and residential air conditioning systems.
Constant evolution is an important ingredient of Thermo King’s worldwide success. The company has access to three international research and development centers: in Minneapolis, the Czech Republic and China. These centers not only perform important tests on units and components but also conduct R&D of new technology for the whole group. In addition, Thermo King has a local team of highly qualified engineers specialized in the Latin American market. The team works on projects tailored to specific needs in Latin American countries.
ADVANCED PRODUCTS AND SOLUTIONS
The most recent addition to the company’s product line is the Tseries, a line of truck units that demonstrate lower life-cycle costs and fuel consumption, as well as cleaner, quieter operation and unmatched performance and reliability. Unit specifications allow greater capacities at lower working speeds, as well as precise temperature control. The global product line was launched in 2009 in both the United States and in Brazil (the company began selling in the region in early 2010). “The T-series is the result of extensive technological research and customer input,” says Lane.
Thermo King offers a Telematics solution for some of the products. The system allows online operation and temperature regulation. The company based the innovation on remote monitoring of unit operations (temperatures, pressures, alarm codes, engine speed, etc.). The result is improved maintenance and greatly increased safety of refrigerated goods.
With such extensive developments and directed investment, it is no surprise that Thermo King is considered the market leader among the sectors in which it operates. A widely recognized solutions innovator, the company has sustained an average annual growth rate that ranged between seven and 10 percent in recent years.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
The company’s organic growth has been more than sufficient to maintain market leadership. However, as Lane points out, Thermo King remains diligent about maintaining the highest levels of service and customer satisfaction. “We value after-sales services and communication with our clients, and this is an important industry differential,” he explains.
The network of representatives in Latin America (including countries like Chile and Argentina) includes more than 50 partners. It is through this organizational structure that Thermo King can specialize its service. The dealer network is developed and subsequently monitored by excellence programs. These programs focus on overall dealership operation and the training and development of sales staff and service technicians.
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
In Brazil, Thermo King supplies the major coach companies such as Cometa, Itapemirim, Aguia Branca and many others, as well as cargo truck companies that range in size from the smallest to the largest. The Brazilian transport industry anticipates a boom due to the Soccer World Cup in 2014 and Olympic games in 2016. As such, the outlook is extremely promising. “We are preparing ourselves for some great opportunities,” reports Lane.
As transport and communications make the world smaller and increases demand for punctuality and efficiency, Thermo King makes safety, convenience and profitability possible. Time after time, it has proven itself to be at the forefront of global technology. Further, as part of the multinational Ingersoll Rand Group, the Brazilian company has successfully expanded into new areas and markets. Despite the stresses of a modern world, Thermo King’s clients have no need to get hot under the collar. Indeed, they have all of the control they need at the touch of a button, and this enables them to remain cool.