Dignitaries, including a number from North America and Europe, take part in opening ceremonies at the China Refrigeration Expo.
SHANGHAI, China - The recent China Refrigeration Expo (CRE) had so much diversity and complexity, it rivaled the same aspects of its host city.

The expo showed the dynamics of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in the broadest sense, as a global marketplace. More specifically, U.S. and European component manufacturers touted their products to Asian OEMs, to make the Asian unitary systems more appealing to decision makers and contractors in the Western Hemisphere.

Companies from throughout the world reached out to the rapidly growing Asian market. They promoted their wares and got a clearer understanding of this part of the world. The expo was also a place for them to sound out whether to establish or increase their physical presence in China, where the honeymoon with capitalism has encouraged an influx of new foreign plants and offices at a pace that makes the California Gold Rush seem like an afternoon of window shopping.

The exhibits of U.S.-based companies that have already put down manufacturing roots in China showed their readiness to push deeper into the country and other parts of Asia. These companies bring a corporate mentality focused on the added value of respected brands, quality processes, and a willingness to stand by their products.

It all took place in Shanghai, a city of 18 million, where skyscrapers of staggeringly creative design mix with alleyways and neighborhoods that don't seem to have changed in 100 years.

Chinese government officials want Shanghai to be the regional leader in banking, finance, and business. According to the number of exhibitors having local addresses of some form, the refrigeration and air conditioning industry is going a long way to help make that happen. The fact that much of the business culture in China seems to place significance on most companies having at least a Shanghai office address adds to the equation.

The official title of the event is the International Exhibition for Refrigeration, Air-Conditioning, Heating, Ventilation, Frozen Food Processing, Packaging, and Storage. This, the 15th annual expo, brought 630 exhibitors from 22 countries to the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.

Wei Bihua acted as interpreter at the ARI booth. She used her background as a student majoring in refrigeration and cryogenics at Shanghai University to answer technical questions.

Industry Support

Officials consider this expo one of the top three refrigeration shows in the world, along with the AHR Expo each winter at various locales in the United States, and the IKK Show in Germany each October.

In fact, co-sponsors of both those expos were signed on as "overseas supporters" of CRE and had representatives in attendance. Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute (ARI) President William Sutton said CRE "brings the manufacturers of many countries together to share ideas and discuss ways we can better serve society. It provides a showcase that inspires all of us to display the latest and best technology. And it provides a marketplace that will lead to business agreements, joint ventures, and investments that will bring many long-term benefits to China."

Christian Scholz, president of VDKF, an association of German contractors that co-sponsors IKK, said, "The trade fair impressively demonstrates that it clearly ranks as the most important forum in the industry in Asia. The markets of the future know no frontiers. Trade fairs bring the people, supply, and demand together."

The Air Movement and Control Association (AMCA) also had a presence. China does not have the extent or caliber of standards that have been established in other parts of the world. The presence of AMCA reflects a hope that China will set higher standards in the future.

Yet another perspective on why the expo was important came in a videotaped comment from Fred Poses, chairman and CEO of American Standard. The message aired regularly at the booth of a Trane (www.trane.com) distributor: "China is a vital part of Trane's global business and we look forward to being a part of this nation's great economic growth."

The Bitzer booth gives some idea of the elaborate displays at the China Refrigeration Expo.

Component Considerations

The component equation was explained by Ahmed Abed, sales manager, Asia-Pacific, for Hartland Controls of Sterling, Ill. Abed said U.S. and European component manufacturers have the necessary safety certifications which, if used on unitary systems from Asia, might better enable those systems to reach Western Hemisphere countries. "The quality is high as well," he said.

Chris Robinson of Bristol (www.bristolcompressors.com) echoed those thoughts. "There is a strong customer base here [in Asia]. We want to work with OEMs seeking to come to the U.S. market. Bristol has a good reputation among end users and provides a product they have a better understanding of. Plus, we stand behind our products and can provide help" if questions arise during servicing.

Quality components were also shown for systems destined for China and other parts of Asia, regardless of the unitary manufacturer. J.W. Harris Co. (www.jwharris.com), headquartered in Cincinnati, stressed the quality and manufacturer support common in many products produced in the United States. Personnel at the Harris booth demonstrated soldering and brazing techniques, noting that company representatives will be taking this type of training to factories around the country.

Manfred Ulrich, managing director of Refco Manufacturing Ltd. based in Hitzkirch, Switzerland (www.refco.ch), noted the importance of Asia from a European perspective. "We just see Southeast Asia as a fast-growing market, an important market."

Refco produces its products in Switzerland and exports 95 percent of them; growth depends on expanding into markets with growth potential.

The Hailiang Group (www.hailiang.com), based in Shanghai, sends components in the other direction. The company produces copper and copper alloys for tubes, rods, bars, wires, and fittings. The sales pitch was "strong sales on the domestic market radiating out to the whole world," accompanied by a map showing production in China reaching throughout the world.

From Velten, Germany came ESK Schultze (www.esk-schultze.de), with components such as oil-level regulators, oil separators, and discharge line mufflers.

Also part of the component delegation was Zilmet (www.zilmet.it), a company from Italy that makes expansion vessels and pressure tanks. Dixell (www.dixell.com) from Belluno, Italy had a plethora of products and a physical presence in China including a local e-mail address: dixell@china.com.

There were those within the Asian market that had components for OEMs. At the expo they were sensitive to the globalization issue, offering literature in both Chinese and English. For example, Beifeng Refrigerant Equipment Co. Ltd. (www.beifeng.com.cn) pointed out that it has 25 years in the business. Its products include compressors, condensers, evaporators, receivers, filter-driers, and the like.

Sometimes, though, something gets lost in the translation. Zinchang RSP Refrigeration Equipment (www.cn-rsp.com) offered a full line of components, but started its English version of its brochure with "Zhejiany Zinchang auspicious bodyguard's general refrigeration limited company is located in the industrial developing zone of new and high technology in the county." (Good thing translations of American-English marketing materials into other languages don't have these types of problems, right? Ahem ...)

Shanghai-based Fenshen (www.fenshen.com) displayed automatic controls, backed by a staff of engineers available for service-related needs. Another Chinese company, Saturn (ChangZhou) Technology Co. (www.saturnchina.com), also noted factories in Egypt, Malaysia, and Hong Kong.

And an organization called the AUX Group (www.auxgroup.com) in Ningbo, China, promoted a "high-tech zone," a common occurrence in China and other areas where many companies from other parts of the world set up operations.

Asian component companies were not limited to those from China. A Siheung City, Korea company, S.K. Brazing (www.skbrazing.com), had an English-only brochure on its brazing and soldering products for a variety of refrigeration and air conditioning applications.

Vagn Helberg, president of global operations for refrigeration and air conditioning, Danfoss A/S, is interviewed by Bloomberg reporter Samuel Shen at the expo in Shanghai. (Photo courtesy of Danfoss.)

Familiar To North America

Among the more familiar names to this editor was Emerson Climate Technologies (www.emersonflowcontrols.com), which focused on digital scroll compressors from Copeland, the ACK check valve, as well as a condensing unit using R-22 (which is still common in the Asian market). The overall theme at the booth was "Emerson. Consider it Solved."

Hansen Technologies (www.hantech.com) out of Burr Ridge, Ill., cited its physical presence in the Jia Hua Business Center in Shanghai. The company used the expo to promote its solenoid valves, stop valves, and differential pressure relief valves. Mueller Industries (www.muellerindustries.com), Memphis, Tenn., also had a valve presence at the expo.

Parker, based in Cleveland, showed its valves through Parker Hannifin Motor & Control Co. Ltd. (www.parker.com). Raytek (www.raytek.com.cn) out of Santa Cruz, Calif., featured temperature meters. And Heatcraft (Wuxi) Refrigeration (www.heatcraftrpd.com), with world headquarters in Stone Mountain, Ga., had a booth with information on Lennox and Bohn, plus details on blast tunnel chillers.

Larger component technology included cooling towers from Evapco (www.evapcoasia.com) with headquarters for the region in Shanghai. Semi-hermetic screw chillers using brine as a coolant were shown by Shanghai Refrigerating Machine Works (www.srmw.com.cn).

Greenheck (www.greenheck.com) displayed dampers and other types of air-handling equipment. The Schofield, Wis.-based company noted the recent opening of a production facility in Kunshan, about 35 miles from Shanghai.

Danfoss Industries Ltd. (www.danfoss.com), headquartered in Nordborg, Denmark, featured condensing units, heat pumps, compressors, and various valves and switches.

Personnel at the Rheem booth wore contemporary and traditional Chinese dress.

Unitary Showing

The customers for such components were there as well. Unitary companies showed a range of products with an emphasis on the Asian market. Rheem (www.rheem.com), Fort Smith, Ark., featured heat pumps, rooftop air conditioners, household air conditioners, air coolers and heaters, humidifiers-evaporators, boilers, and gas-fired water heaters and storage heaters.

Goodman (www.goodmanmfg.com), Houston, also featured central heating and air conditioning equipment, carrying a common theme among Western Hemisphere companies by pointing out that "quality and value speak for themselves."

Fedders (www.fedders.com), Liberty Corner, N.J., noted that it traces its presence in China back to 1995 and "has been expanding its presence ever since."

Carrier (www.carrier.com.cn), Syracuse, N.Y., had a booth with massive products like chillers and rooftop air conditioning units, as well as smaller items like heat pumps and fancoil units. The company also displayed its Totaline aftermarket products.

So many commercial and industrial refrigeration systems are still so new in China, the aftermarket is just starting to become a critical aspect of HVACR. The building boom in Shanghai has been going on for the last five to 10 years. Those first installations are starting to need aftermarket attention.

Another company with a range of unitary products was Hitachi Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Products (Guangzhou) Co. Ltd. (www.hapg-hitachi.com).

It showed water- and air-cooled chillers, air and water heat pump packages, and commercial split air conditioning units.

What's In A Name?

One way to make inroads into the Asian market is for a U.S.-based company to link with an established manufacturer in that part of the world. Such has been the situation with A.O. Smith (www.aosmithmotors.com), with global headquarters in Tipp City, Ohio.

At the expo the company noted that it wholly owns the Taicang Special Motor Factory and renamed it A.O. Smith Electrical Products (Suzhou) Co. Ltd. That business manufactures hermetic and semi-hermetic motors used primarily in commercial air conditioning and refrigeration applications.

A.O. Smith also noted ownership of Jiangsu Changheng Motor Group, which it renamed A.O. Smith Electrical Products (Changzhou) Co. Ltd. while retaining the Changheng motor brand name.

Inque Qinghua Refrigeration has such familiar stateside products as the TIF XP-1 detector and the TIF 5750A detector, the Robinair 16350 leak check kit, and the Robinair 25176A refrigerant recovery machine.

Raypak's (www.raypak.com) line of hydronic heating equipment came to the expo through Shanghai Thermo-Instrumentation Equipment Co., Ltd. (www.rg.com.cn), as well as at its own booth. Sporlan products come to the market through Hongzhou Sporlan Refrigerating and Heat Equipment Co. Ltd. (www.sporlan.com), and through Acal (www.acalny.com), both of which had large booths.

Brand names were also in evidence from distributor Century Equipment (www.centuryequipment.com), which had a booth with products from Alco, Cope-land, Honeywell, Ranco, and Sporlan. A company called Far East Refrigeration Group (www.fareastref.com.sg) also had product names such as Alco, Bitzer, Copeland, Ranco, and Sporlan.

No Boundaries

The China Refrigeration Expo reaffirmed the fact that HVACR is an industry that knows no geographical boundaries. The IKK show held in Germany each fall draws primarily manufacturers from Europe, with a lesser mix of companies from the United States and Asia. The AHR Expo tilts toward U.S. companies with a strong presence of companies from most other parts of the world.

At the CRE, the Asian manufacturers dominated, but the United States and Europe had strong representation. It all goes to show that the industry is global to the nth degree.

Part of the European contingent at CRE was Bock (www.bock.de), of Frickenhausen, Germany, with semi-hermetic compressors on display that use a range of refrigerants. Bitzer (www.bitzer.net.cn), Sindelfingen, Germany, featured refrigeration compressors. Tecumseh Europe (www.tecumseh-europe.com), La Verpilliere, France, displayed a broad line of condensers, evaporators, relays, recovery equipment, fans, air coolers, and the like. Another condensing unit-chiller-heat exchanger-valve exhibitor was Vilter (www.vilter.com) out of Cudahy, Wis. The company came to the expo through Jiehuate (www.jiehuate.com).

Yet another compressor company coming to the expo that stressed its strong Asian ties was Mycom (www.mycomj.co.jp). Its literature focused not only on products, but worldwide plant locations and sites throughout the world where the products are used.

RefComp (www.refcomp.it), Lonigo, Italy, showed a semi-hermetic screw compressor line using a range of refrigerants. Another company on hand was J&E Hall (www.jehall.co.uk), with information on its headquarters in Dartmouth, England for Europe; in Malaysia for Southeast Asia; in Dubai for the United Arab Emirates, and in Wuhan for China. The focus was on transport cooling with split systems in battery- and direct-drive configurations.

Embraco (www.embraco.com), Joinville, Brazil, also had a presence with a line of compressors, including those for R-12, -22, -134a, and -404A.

A local company, Shanghai Ship Refrigerating Machine Co. Ltd. (www.sh-ship.com), showed condensing units such as those with semi-hermetic, reciprocating, double-stage compressors, and cascade systems for secondary refrigerants.

Technology once most closely identified with Europe made its way to the China expo. For example, ice machines using rotating evaporators with stationary blades to create shaved ice were shown by a company called Grant Ice Machines (www.grant-ice.com), Houcang, China. The company is a cooperative effort by American Grant Group and Ningbo Nanyang Hotel Equipment Manufacture Co.

Rotating evaporator ice machines were also featured by a company called Snowkey (Snowman Refrigeration Co., Ltd.) (www.snowkey.com), which listed offices in Beijing.


The refrigerant issue was low key. Much of the equipment at the show had systems using HCFC-22. Over the past six years, more and more HFCs have been used in stateside refrigeration. The Asian market seems ready to embrace HFCs, but R-22 still showed a foothold - no surprise, since it may be used for new equipment in developing countries into 2030.

Honeywell (e-mail: hua.xu@honeywell.com), represented from offices in Shanghai, offered a technical publication in English concerning HFC-134a. Atofina (www.atofina.com), carrying addresses from Lyon, France, and Shanghai, gave technical details on R-134a.

Solvay was present as Solpac Chemicals Ltd. (www.solpac.com.cn) in China. The company placed its emphasis on R-404A and -507.

Shandong Dongyue Chemical Co. Ltd. (www.dongyuechem.com), Zibo City, China, offered a range of refrigerants, including a product called THR03a. This blend of R-22 plus -134a/-227ea was billed as a replacement for R-22 and -407C.

A U.S. refrigerant company that has hovered just under the radar screen for 10 years surfaced at the China Expo. Weitron (www.weitron.com) is a repackager based in Elkton, Md. The company has been selling to China for four years through Shanghai offices.

One of the few companies to make note of refrigeration oils was Emkarate (www.emkaraterl.com), which has its Asian offices in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Worthington (www.worthingtoncylinders.com) also factored into the refrigerant equation, with its cylinders (made in Columbus, Ohio).

Various leak detectors were at the booth of Inficon Ltd. (www.inficon.com) out of Hong Kong. SPX Robinair (www.robinair.com) had a booth with refrigerant recovery equipment and leak detectors.

Is there a way to sum up a first-time visit to such a diverse showing of products and to some degree cultures? In a word, it was amazing.

Look for more coverage of the Asian market in future issues of The News.

Publication date: 06/07/2004