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Maryland-headquartered M&M Refrigeration has been a privately- owned company for close to 50 years, during which time it established itself as a leader in industrial refrigeration systems and controls. But things are starting to heat up for this cooling giant. In May it was acquired by private equity investment firm Source Capital LLC to help further M&M Refrigeration’s ambitious expansion plans.
“We’ve continually grown over the years,” remarks Chuck Toogood, vice president of business development. “With the improvement of the overall economy and the general optimism among our industrial customers to commit to capital expenditures, there’s a lot of opportunity for us; we are planning for 10 to 20 percent annual growth over the next four to five years. The acquisition by Source Capital helps us realize this goal.”
Company founder Dufferin McConnel says, “Source Capital is the right partner for this transition. I am pleased to see the company in good hands for the next phase of growth.”
M&M Refrigeration is highly-regarded for design and fabrication of industrial refrigeration systems used in cold storage, food processing, ice rinks and ground freezing, among other applications. It is acknowledged as the first company in the U.S. to implement CO2 Cascade refrigeration systems, which are more environmentally-friendly with lower power consumption and less reliance on the use of potentially toxic ammonia.
While the majority of customers are based in North America, M&M Refrigeration has developed a global installed base of industrial refrigeration systems. “We’re considering future opportunities outside the U.S., particularly in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia, as well as Canada and Mexico,” Toogood says.
Consequently, the company is also on a hiring binge to support future expansion. “In fact, we just hired a new mechanical engineer today and are looking for one or two more,” Toogood says. “We’re also looking for more sales and service technicians. Generally we like to hire new people who are just out of college, train them in our processes and offer them the prospect of long-term careers.”
M&M Refrigeration is unusual not only in manufacturing its hardware in-house, but also developing its own electronic controls software. “We’re unique in our commitment to survivability,” notes John Condorodis, president of the company’s M&M Systems division based in Florida. “Our hardware has a 15 year product life cycle and we used a shared platform across our product lines. That means instead of customers stocking 20 to 30 parts to have on hand in case of a catastrophic failure—and in the case of refrigeration a failure can truly be catastrophic in terms of ruined products— they need only two or three because they can be used on any hardware platform.” Such a significant reduction of inventory carrying costs is quite a value add beyond the superior performance of the equipment.
Refrigeration hardware comprises a complete selection of screw compressor and reciprocating compressor packages, pressure vessels, chiller packages, and skid mounted refrigeration packages, microprocessor equipment controllers, and system controls. M&M Refrigeration 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.
“We make both modular off-the-shelf products as well as customized systems,” Toogood notes. “Pure Refrigeration is our newest line of configurable modular systems for any industrial application. There are three models available—Pure Chill, Pure Freeze and Pure Cold. All three models have a low ammonia charge and are offered in sizes ranging from 50 to 200 tons.”
M&M Refrigeration aims to expand capabilities to manufacture as much as possible under roof. “We recently acquired a rolling machine to make our own pressure vessels up to 120 inches in diameter,” Toogood points out. “In the past we had to stock rolls from other suppliers.” Pressure vessels are made to American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) specifications and welders are ASME certified. All work is inspected and certified by the National Board of Boiler Inspectors. Radiography is also employed to gain vessel strength.
Of course, M&M Refrigeration services its own systems; but it also services other manufacturer products and refrigerants. The company stocks thousands of parts in its Alabama warehouse and can typically ship orders the same day. “Often we can solve a problem by phone, working with the customer’s in-plant maintenance team,” Toogood notes.
Even Cooler Software
Playing an ever increasing role in M&M Refrigeration’s future is “Big Data.” Thanks to M&M Refrigeration’s Windows-based software, which is uniquely shareable among multiple screens of multiple sizes, customers are provided with dashboards to not only identify energy usage, but to control it.
Condorodis points out that, “People leave doors open. Somebody is focused on getting a forklift in and out of a refrigerated space and forgets to go back to shut the door. That’s wasted energy until someone sees the door open. But with our software, there’s an immediate alert that a door hasn’t been closed.”
Also, the software can control systems other than refrigeration units, for example lights or HVAC. These systems can be put on a schedule to automatically shut-off when there’s less need for lighting and conditioning during certain off-work or other non-peak periods. It even works directly with the power company to off-load electricity as required.
A suite of energy savings tools reduces power usage without sacrificing temperature control or facility safety. These control systems have been shown to provide energy savings up to 25 percent compared to electromechanical controls and simple PLC systems.
The prospect of energy savings through better analytics and controls is considerable. Condorodis points to the example of one customer that was spending $320,000 in monthly energy expenditures. Thanks to M&M Refrigeration energy management software, that expense was reduced by $39,000.
“The more data you collect, the more you learn, and the more you learn the more you can control, not just for one customer, but for customers with similar profiles,” notes Brian Rodriguez, program manager, software and application development. “It allows us to develop applications for, say, a warehouse of a particular size with certain given refrigerant and energy systems and employ it across all customers that share the same characteristics.”
He adds, “We have the ability to look at a dashboard and project the energy consumption for a day, or a week, a month or a year. You can use that projection to determine periods where you are over or underutilized, and plan accordingly.”
While this data can be contained in the cloud, Condorodis notes that certain customers still opt for on-premises systems. “Healthcare companies, for example, are highly concerned about protection of personal health information and tend to prefer maintaining their own systems. Our software works with both cloudbased and on-premise storage.”
Currently under development is a suite of mobile applications. “Today’s workforce is no longer bound to an office and is increasingly reliant on mobile devices to do their work,” Rodriguez notes. “Soon you’ll be able to access our dashboards from your smartphone or tablet.”
The next big step concerns advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. “We’ll be able to develop models to show how users can benefit even if they aren’t running a system,” Rodriguez points out. “The models themselves will sort through all the big data we collect and define how users can better manage their systems.”
Moreover, these integrated AI models incorporate more than just refrigerant systems. “We’re looking to integrate data from all the customer’s systems, from the ERP to the HVAC to the CEO report,” Condorodis says. “That’s going to build a totally comprehensive energy management system that learns by itself and works smarter than ever.
That’s just one really cool idea from M&M Refrigeration as it helps define the future of its industry.