Contractor Insights: January 2009

Advanced Refrigeration is a leader in commercial refrigeration for the Orlando, FL area and parts of Georgia.

Matt Thurman founded advanced Refrigeration in October of 1986. He had gained experience working for various commercial contractors, and eventually decided it was time to strike out on his own. It's been a well-rewarded decision.

Thurman had one installation job to get him through the remainder of that first year. In 1987, he picked up five installation projects and six service contracts. By 1996, Advanced Refrigeration's customer base had grown to 44, and it completed 13 construction projects that year. Customers over its 21-year history have included just about every major food chain in Florida and Georgia, including Winn Dixie, Publix, Wal-Mart, Costco, and Albertsons. Today, Advanced Refrigeration has five branch offices in Florida — Venice, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, Gainesville, Tallahassee and the corporate office in Orlando. Its service area extends from south Sarasota through the gulf coast of Florida to south Alabama, Orlando and surrounding regions, Ocala, Gainesville, Tallahassee, and south Georgia.

The company's service roster boasts more than 250 service locations. In 2007, its 160+ employees helped the company generate an estimated $17 million in installation and service revenue.

“For 2008, we completed installations in about 20 new Publix stores and more than 25 remodeling projects,” reports Jeff Haley, vice president, construction.

Advanced Refrigeration's crews are experienced in installation and complete start ups of refrigerated cases including self-contained units, walk-in coolers and freezers, single and parallel rack systems, and condensors. It works with ready-made engineered systems, and has also engineered its own equipment to meet specific customer needs.

“Our customers attend conferences such as Food Management Institute events to get a good idea of what their competitors are doing, and that drives them. We're driven on the same way,” says John Thurman, engineer. “When it comes to being greener, we're driven to be certain our equipment is properly commissioned, and we keep an eye on refrigerant levels. For example, we try to be leaders in leak detection, and we have a good idea of where we are against our competitors.”

In-house Training Imitates Real-life

To maintain a high level of technician expertise, Advanced Refrigeration has installed an in-house training facility based on a working supermarket environment. It features an operating rack with cases, walk-in coolers and freezers, and all the latest Computer Process Controls (CPC) technology. “We bring our technicians in and train them here. There aren't any commercial supermarket refrigeration schools in our area. We've started our own curriculum, and will be expanding it. We hope to obtain government grants that will enable us to train other contractors' technicians, Haley says. ”

Eventually, Advanced Refrigeration would like to open its training facility to the technician universe at-large.

“On the service side, we conduct our own training, but we also attend vocational schools to find graduate recruits,” says Kenny Crites, vice president, service. “We test them, and run them through a trial period to see how they'll work out. We try to recruit the best from those schools.”

Bring on New Technology

New technology on the front burner at Advanced Refrigeration includes secondary cooling systems, which require reduced amounts of refrigerant, lower maintenance, and provide improved temperature control.

Advanced Refrigeration is making use of a secondary refrigeration system by Hill Phoenix, which reduces refrigerant needs by 50 to 75%. Other brands it services and installs include Hussman, Tyler, Kysor//Warren, Barker, Danfoss, Witt, Russell, and Heatcraft Refrigeration Products.

Contracting Business asked John Thurman what advice he'd give to companies seeking to reach new levels of technical expertise and customer service. His answer — as we've often heard — relates back to people.

“It's vitally important to have a team of associates with the right attitudes that clearly understand that the customer is always right, and that we must continue to strive to improve,” Thurman says. “We improve not only for our benefit, but also for the success of our customers. We realize that our future success is dependent on each other. This almost always means being adaptable to change. We must look at change in a positive light. We must give the associates the tools necessary to stay up-to-date on the leading edge of technology so that the company and its associates will always be successful.”

With that approach to service, Advanced Refrigeration makes it through the hottest southern temperatures with relative ease. Its days are very cool indeed.

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