Volume 21 | Issue 2 | Year 2018

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The Virginia company’s unique to the refrigeration industry ISO 9001 certification and cloud-based compliance software services best serves expanding customer needs.

Innovative Refrigeration Systems Inc. designs, builds and installs customized turnkey world-class, computer-controlled ammonia refrigeration systems, large tonnage freon and CO2 systems for the cold storage and food process markets.

It’s one thing to put “Innovative” in your name—that’s the easy part. It’s quite another to deliver on the promise of innovation. Innovative Refrigeration Systems, Inc. is one manufacturer that doesn’t just live up to its name, it defines it.

“We like to say that when you hire Innovative, that’s exactly what you get,” says president Mike McGinnis. “We’re the only company with extensive in-house experience to succeed at every level of any refrigeration project, whether it is engineering, manufacturing, building, crafting, commissioning, or servicing of any customer need in North America.”

He notes that, “In 2016, we initiated a huge investment in our facilities and our people to better address customer requirements by improving our engineering and manufacturing processes and policies. Key to that effort is obtaining ISO 9001 certification. We are currently in year three of a five year plan to attain certification in all ISO 9001 standards. We are laying the ground work to certify not just in engineering, manufacturing and customer service but in all categories for quality management. That will make us the only company in the refrigeration industry to demonstrate across-the-board ISO-9001 certification.”

He adds, “Thanks to the improving economy and the recently enacted corporate tax cuts, our customers are investing in new expansion. The current market is extremely hot. That can be a problem, though it’s a good problem to have. The problem is how do you satisfy rising demand without straining your existing capacity and without compromising product quality and delivery. You could hire more people or outsource to expand capabilities, but these kind of ‘let’s ramp up in a hurry’ approaches carry risks. It’s difficult to maintain high quality if you are expanding too fast with inexperienced people or relying on outside sources that you do not directly manage and cannot totally regulate the quality of work.”

The answer, McGinnis believes, is to do more, and do more better, with what you already have. “We do everything—design, engineering, fabrication, custom installation—in-house. That ensures optimum quality of what we make, how it is installed and how it operates for our customers. Our commitment to continuous improvement and in particular the ISO 9001 certification process helps us not only achieve the highest quality standards, but achieve those standards in the most cost-efficient way,” he points out. “In looking at our own processes and how we can do things more efficiently, we’re better able to provide our customers with the systems they need when they need them that provide 100 percent value.”

Just one example was the decision to replace valve systems in its carbon steel piping systems with a stainless steel pipe. “As part of our engineering inspection process, we uncovered certain weaknesses that are typical of most refrigeration systems,” McGinnis says. “Beginning three years ago, 100 percent of our valve station piping systems use stainless steel piping that correct these weaknesses. Furthermore, all the carbon steel piping is coated with a corrosion-resistant gel that is completely bullet proof against pipe degradation.”

Similarly, shortened piping runs improved the efficiency of its Freon-based Master Series systems. “The problem with Freon is that it is inefficient, which means higher operational costs,” explains John Stoklosa, vice president. “For hybrid commercial/industrial uses, we designed a system with less piping, so it is easier to maintain.” The Master Series is also available with Ammonia and offers the same improved operational efficiencies.

Technical Improvement

Equally important as process improvement is the implementation of new more efficient technologies and technical approaches. “Ammonia is a very popular refrigerant, but it also involves implementing and managing a set of very complex processes to ensure employee and community safety. So customers are always looking for something different that is more cost-efficient and easier to run,” says Stoklosa. “We designed an Ammonia/ CO2 Cascade System that contains all the ammonia in an isolated mechanical room that significantly reduces the amount of ammonia charge required on-site. We were able to reduce a system that before used 33,000 pounds of ammonia that now only requires 4,900 pounds. Another system that had used 25,000 pounds was reduced to 4,000 pounds. These systems not only significantly improve employee safety, they also reduce the costs to ensure compliance with federal regulations.”

In the Cloud

Innovative Refrigeration lives up to its name not only in the technology it deploys, but the technology it uses. “We’re the only business in our industry that is completely cloud-based,” McGinnis explains. “All of our internal processes are totally digitized and paperless, which makes us that much more operationally effective and responsive to customer needs. In addition, we provide customers with web-based applications that ensure regulatory compliance and limit risk with standardized data storage and reporting tools. Our cloud-based services not only save customers money by reducing labor-intensive recordkeeping programs, they help companies conserve energy and improve the efficiency of their refrigeration systems.”

In addition to being at the forefront of technology, both in terms of the systems it sells as well as its own internal company systems, McGinnis emphasizes a “home grown” approach that further distinguishes Innovative Refrigeration.

“We do everything under a one-roof-design – design, build, install and service. We provide customers with a seamless ‘one-stop’ point of contact.

Innovative Refrigeration Systems, Inc. has continued success with repeat business first because of the quality systems we build for them, but just as and maybe even more importantly, the relationships we develop. The job isn’t over when an installation is complete. It continues by providing customers with timely support with minimum system downtime and interruption.

Home Grown Talent

Also home grown is the cultivation of Innovative Refrigeration’s employees. “We hire people and train them for the skill sets they need to succeed. Even before new hires set foot on the premises, they take on-line training to get the certifications they need to start doing their jobs safely and effectively. We also cross-train everyone so that if there’s an area where there’s downtime and we need help somewhere else, we can easily reconfigure,” McGinnis says. “That not only helps us make better use of our resources, it makes the work more interesting and challenging for our employees. We provide career paths so that someone hired in as a laborer could conceivably work up to be a project manager. Not everyone may choose to do that, but we provide the opportunity if anyone is interested.”

Just last December, Innovative Refrigeration celebrated its first Welder Apprenticeship graduating class. The program, started in 2015, requires 8,000 hours of classroom and on-thejob training. “Programs like these help our team members learn at work with their peers and grow in their careers at Innovative,” McGinnis says.

The company’s promise to customers is that “Your success is our goal.” It’s a goal Innovative Refrigeration achieves with its commitment to excellence in manufacturing, workmanship and service with state-of-the-art designs that provide energy and operational saving solutions.

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