After 15 years of working in corporate supermarket environments, refrigeration specialist Joe Gallego was looking for a way to get more involved with emerging new technologies from the contractor’s side. He found what he was looking for at Bay State Cooling, Bridgewater, MA. He’s been there about a year now, as Bay State’s special projects manager for all things refrigeration, HVAC, EMS, as well as general contracting, and he couldn’t be happier.
Gallego has 26 years of industry experience, most recently as refrigeration/HVAC project manager for BJ’s Wholesale Clubs. But his first 11 were in the contractor arena, so he’s no stranger to serving customers well.
This Team Knows Refrigeration
Bay State Cooling was founded in 1989 by refrigeration expert Jim Kjelgaard. Since its founding, the company’s primary business has been based in commercial refrigeration for supermarkets. With an eye toward expansion, the firm has recently started exploring hospital and hospitality work, as well as cooling systems for environmental chambers, such as a manufacturing process line or a temperature-sensitive research environment.
Jim Kjelgaard does most of the refrigeration estimating for new and remodel projects. His cousin, Dave Kjelgaard, is service manager. (He and Gallego started in the industry 26 years ago as apprentices for a company called Low Temp Engineering.)
Bay State’s major supermarket clients include BJs Wholesale Clubs, Shaws Supermarkets, and the Ahold Group’s Stop N Shop stores, as well as assorted independent stores, and emergency calls for non-customers as needed. They have about 35 active store accounts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
The company has 14 employees; 11 of those are field service technicians and systems installers.
Putting Energy Management into Action
Gallego is impressed by the refrigeration industry’s strides in energy management and reduction, and he wants to bring his knowledge of incorporating those systems to Bay State. “I’m most excited about the proliferation of energy management systems in supermarket that are being used more to their fullest potential,” he marvels. “It’s become so much more than a ‘time-of-day’ controller or simple ‘on-off’ controller. People are using algorithms and logic statements for more useful applications. This is a fantastic trend. There are energy savings out there just waiting to be tapped into, and troubleshooting calculations you can build in. Today’s systems can tell you what the problem is. “
Among the technicians continuing education are completed energy management systems training by Danfoss and Emerson, and the company is submitting bids on energy-focused installations as often as possible.
Training at Bay State takes various forms. “First, we approach training company-wide, meaning a new piece of equipment comes around that everyone needs to be trained on, such as a new heat pump controller or a Danfoss or Emerson component.
“Or, on an individual basis, we assess work orders to see where more customized training can be applied. Dave and I will come up with a plan for the individual technician. We’ll either set him up to work with another technician who is very good in a particular area, or Dave and I will walk him through the issue.”
Gallego appreciates the benefits of new training as a way to break those hard-to-break troubleshooting habits.
“From the time a technician first learns a particular poor troubleshooting method, they will continue that method until they learn how to troubleshoot correctly. I was trained by a good technician, and I have followed a systematic troubleshooting methodology to this day,” he says.
For example, for Bay State’s BJ’s store customers, Gallego has outlined the four club store designs the team might encounter, how those systems are designed to operate, their proper set up, and things to look for during service calls.
“We’re also putting a web resource page together that they can access in the field,” he explains. “It contains links for information on various types of equipment, troubleshooting tips for various customers’ stores and equipment information; anything we can put at their fingertips to eliminate a phone call.”
Some other important things are keeping up with the leak detection technology. “With refrigerant costs going through the roof, you have to show your customers that you’re keeping leaks to a minimum. That means investing in hand-held leak detection that works. Additionally, You’ve got to have talented, dedicated, and well-compensated technicians. Gallego says a company’s success can be measured in a few different ways, and that Bay State Cooling has remained a small company by choice.
“One of the ways Jim runs the company successfully is by never compromising on quality. He won’t take a job that’s poorly engineered, or compromise for a low price. Our customers know if they want it done right, come to Bay State. They’ll find the right equipment, and experienced technicians, from a quality — not quantity — contractor.
“You also must have talented, dedicated, and well-compensated technicians. Ten years ago, guys would go with the best ‘deal’ and change jobs every year. When the economy slowed down, the good contractors kept their good technicians. Remain dedicated to keeping your technicians. Train them and pay them well.”