Did you know that the most efficient way to keep things cool is to visit Alabama and Tennessee? There (Cullman, Ala., and Athens, Tenn., to be more specific) you’ll find the manufacturing facilities of the Americold division of Electrolux Components Companies.
Americold is capable of producing more than 4 million compressors and 4 million electric motors (including motors sold to other compressor companies) each year. The company manufactures hermetic compressors for use for household refrigerators and freezers, and for commercial refrigeration applications including dehumidifiers and refrigerant recycle/reclaim units. Americold is the primary supplier of compressors to Frigidaire, whose brands include White-Westinghouse, Kelvinator, Gibson and Tappan. It also supplies compressors to General Electric and other companies in the United States and abroad.
“Our compressors end up in a variety of applications. If you can find some type of cooler application, then our products will probably show up there,” says Mike Deaton, OEM and export program manager. “Through our customers, our compressors end up in soft-drink machines and coolers for supermarkets. The main line of our products can be found in several million refrigerators for the household market.”
Snowing Down South
Americold’s Cullman plant has been in operation since 1964 and was initially owned by Bendix-Westinghouse. It sits on 70 acres, has 393,000 square feet under roof and employs about 575 people. Approximately 25 percent of the plant’s operation is devoted to compressor assembly. Its clean-room controlled environment consists of two conveyor-type assembly lines. The remainder of the plant’s operations involves welding, painting, shell fabrication and assembly, warehousing, maintenance, shipping and related support activities.
The company’s electric motors for air conditioners and refrigerators are manufactured in the Athens plant, which rests on 58 acres and has 188,000 square feet under roof. In addition to motors for Americold compressors, the Athens plant ships central air-conditioning motors to Copeland Compressor Company, a division of Emerson Electric; Bristol Compressors, Inc., a unit of York International Corporation; and Scroll Technologies, a joint venture between Bristol and the Carrier Corporation unit of United Technologies Corporation (UTC). The Athens plant boasts one of the area’s finest team-oriented work forces. The factory’s 400 employees have an average length of service of 16 years.
Americold is an American outfit that has a European parent and sister companies. Electrolux Components Companies (ECC), the world’s leading producer of household and commercial refrigeration compressors, has owned Americold since purchasing its previous parent, White Consolidated Industries, in 1986. It has an annual production of 22 million compressors from eight plants on four continents. ECC’s parent company is AB Electrolux, headquartered in Stockholm and the largest producer of appliances in the world. (Last year, the company bought back the rights to the recognizable Electrolux name for use in the United States.)
Americold the Beautiful
Americold prides itself on making all of its compressors for North American distribution at its two American plants, and on using U.S. suppliers. “All of our competitors either fully or partially supply from outside the U.S.,” says Deaton. “Our determination remains to be a U.S. corporation based here, supplying from here.” Yet Americold’s horizons are global. “We’re focused on the U.S. market and are expanding overseas,” he adds.
Its products may be hermetic, but the company is not. Americold shares engineering resources with its sister company, Zanussi Elettromeccanica of Italy. “We are not only using our facilities here in the U.S., but we’re utilizing European corporate to help push a little further on design and give us an advantage,” Deaton says. “We’re fully integrated in terms of our engineering, design and research. We have complete factories and because we manufacture our own motors, we pretty much control our own destiny in terms of quality.”
Quality control is of the utmost importance in compressors, a product line that requires machining to be measured in 10,000ths of an inch to ensure that the compressor runs for a period of 10 to 20 years without failure. Tolerances are tight and precise because anything less would cause a wear condition that is unacceptable. Americold’s close-tolerance machining operations use equipment such as hones, lathes, drills, bores, computer-numerical controlled equipment, heat-treating machines and equipment performing multimachining operations.
Americold’s aggressive capital-investment program is aimed at decreasing costs, increasing production capacity and continuously improving quality. The program is a vital part of Americold’s plan to become the best value in cost, quality, customer response and technical support available to customers all over the world.
A Whisper of Efficiency
In compressors, quiet operation is also integral to quality. That is why Americold’s laboratory tests not only by calorimeter for performance, but also has two state-of-the-art sound rooms. In those rooms, the company evaluates compressors based on loudness, sound pressure and even frequency in intervals of a third of an octave. “The days of the old, noisy refrigerators are long gone,” Deaton promises.
The Holy Grail of refrigeration quality is energy efficiency, and Americold is leading the crusade. The majority of its models already meet the stiff California regulations scheduled to go into effect next summer, which will require energy-efficient commercial refrigeration units. Americold’s GRK compressors have the best energy efficiency rating (EER) that has been published to date — greater than 5.6 (EER is a calculation based on wattage and capacity, with 6.0 as the highest possible rating.) The company’s GRH line, targeted for household use, combines the highest energy efficiency with the lowest noise range. A new line of products planned for 2002 will combine energy efficiency with the benefit of being light in weight.
Americold also specializes in the custom design of compressors, and has one of the best model laboratories in the country, according to Deaton. “Not only can we design and test, but we can also build compressors to any specification for any customer by hand,” he says. “We do our own machining and provide our customers with test samples that fit any requirement that they may come to us with.”