Participating in an IIAR panel on finding and retaining technicians are, from left, Wayne Blackburn, Don Tragethon, Godan Nambudiripad, Gary Webster, and Jeff Sloan.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Sustainability is not just the buzzword in commercial real estate. The concept has spread to major industrial refrigeration sites. That was evident by comments and the keynote address at the most recent International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration Conference & Exhibition.

“Sustainability is a growing theme with customers and consumers these days,” said Don Stroud of Kraft Foods who chaired the most recent conference. “Industrial refrigeration that uses energy-efficient and environmentally friendly natural refrigerants has a key role to play in this new approach to business that is growing worldwide.”

Said Jeff Welch of Freeze-Pro, who was IIAR Chairman at the time of the conference, “We are uniquely positioned with natural refrigerants and over 100 years of application experience. To use a surfing analogy, there is a green wave getting ready to break. If we position ourselves correctly, we are in for a long enjoyable ride.”

The keynote speaker at the opening session was Steve Yucknut, who holds the title, vice president of sustainability for Kraft Foods.

As noted by Welch, the VP’s “current responsibilities focus on leading Kraft toward its vision of making sustainability a part of every business decision, balancing environmental, social, and economic responsibility.”

Yucknut told attendees that “there is no more sitting on the side,” wondering about getting involved in sustainable projects. It is wrong, he said, to say, “It is not happening today.”

He defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

He stressed the need to balance environmental, social, and economic aspects, but contended it can be done, citing Wal-Mart as an example of how to be “proactive in a good way.”

“Customers are starting to get aware and regulations are increasing. Regulations are 10 times what they were three years ago.”

He acknowledged that decision makers of refrigeration equipment have to balance environmental costs with the bottom line. But he said those deciders should consider “that this is a time of opportunity. The time to act is now. It is a huge competitive opportunity, not philanthropic.”

He noted his company “is doing well by doing good. We overlap the economic, social, and environmental, and at the center is sustainability.”

For the audience of industrial refrigeration contractors, wholesalers, manufacturers, and end users, he stressed various approaches to sustainability.

• “Focus on savings such as energy, packaging, waste.”

• “Integrate sustainability into the ongoing business plan.”

• “Evaluate all opportunities.”

• “Drive growth via sustainability-related consumer benefits.”

• “Partner with external experts and stakeholders.”

• “Design for sustainability, and then have continuous improvements.”


Another topic that apparently encompasses all aspects of HVACR is finding and retaining good technicians. Just as it is a concern among small contractors working on residential air conditioners, it also affects those involved in major industrial refrigeration complexes.

At the IIAR conference, five panelists took on the topic.

One presenter, Godan Nambudiripad, who earlier in the conference was named an IIAR Life Member for his involvement in the industry, said it is the responsibility of the facilities in need of technicians to “develop their own training programs.”

To find such people, he said the search should encompass ads in newspapers and industry journals as well as recruiting through educational institutions and the armed forces. “Find those with mechanical aptitude.” To retain, he said, “Take good care of them. Ensure they work in an atmosphere where they can develop.”

Steve Yucknut of Kraft Foods talks sustainability at the IIAR conference.

Don Tragethon of Western Precooling Systems, who also serves as executive director of the Refrigeration Engineers Technicians Association (RETA), encouraged training and an awareness that money is often not the incentive that causes someone to go elsewhere. “There is the need for fellowship, communication of the company’s mission, and listening to your people.”

He noted the ammonia refrigeration sector does have strong training directives with the Ammonia Refrigeration Training Guidelines.

Wayne Blackburn of Garden City Community College also noted the American College Testing Work Key, a formalized measurement. “Each occupation has required skill levels. This establishes a task list that the person in that occupation must be able to accomplish.” He said those in the refrigeration industry can use this “to access the skill level of employees.” Then, he added, “skills gaps can be filled by individual training rather than rejecting a person because he does not have all the skills needed.”

Jeff Sloan of Lanier Technical College voiced support for apprenticeship programs that are often linked with the Department of Labor through its Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training.

“This is learning through on-the-job training and other sources,” he said.

Gary Webster of Kraft Foods said, “You can’t afford not to train. If you fear losing someone who is well-trained, you might get someone else who has been well-trained somewhere else.”

Publication Date:05/26/2008