Enterprise Minnesota Magazine - January 2013
HELPING MANUFACTURERS GROW PROFITABLY
Super Radiator Coils grows from its cast iron radiator roots to a worldwide leader in heat transfer technology.
From radiators to refrigerators, NASCAR to NASA, chances are you’ve seen products from Super Radiator Coils at work. The Chaska-based company’s array of coils, condensers, air coolers and other heat transfer products help heat and cool everything from walk-in refrigerators to NASA spacecraft.
SRC got its start in Minneapolis in 1928, making cast iron radiators for schools and other large buildings before moving into steam coils for large-scale laundry operations and evaporator coils for commercial refrigeration units in the 1950s. Today, the company operates two additional facilities in Arizona and Virginia, and offers a diverse line of heat transfer products.
President & CEO Rob Holt says the company’s penchant for tackling challenging projects has built and sustained its reputation through the decades.
“Our niche is the commercial, highly engineered, custom market. We don’t go after high volume, which can be extremely price sensitive and vulnerable to overseas competition. We go after difficult projects that no one else wants to do,” Holt says.
Those projects take on many forms. Instead of cooling the whole room at IBM’s massive “server farms,” where thousands of computers congregate to store cloud data, an SRC technology cools just the computers, to significant energy savings. Six massive SRC cooling coils weighing 17,000 pounds each keep NASA’s Icing Research Tunnel (IRT) at temperatures as low as 40 degrees below zero.
The company’s team of engineers can also reverse-engineer and replicate coils from many years ago, to replace original coils in older applications.
“A lot of companies say, ‘We only make this. You have to figure out how to fit it in your unit or application.’ We say, ‘We’ll sell you exactly what you had before, and it will fit,’” Holt explains.
That capability has spurred a string of recent contracts with many of the nation’s 104 operating nuclear power plants. SRC is one of only three companies in the world certified by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers to receive an “N” stamp, which allows the company to manufacture safety-related coils for nuclear power plants. Because most U.S. plants were built in the 1950s and 1960s, their operating licenses are set to expire. To maintain them, they must replace a variety of safety-related components, among them a coil product that SRC manufactures. Holt attributes about 15 percent of the company’s growth in 2012 to nuclear power plant projects.
SRC’s testing capabilities are equally unusual. To determine how its products will function in a variety of climates, SRC tests all of them in its one-of-a-kind Wind Tunnel Test Lab in Virginia, built in 2011. The 50-foot closed loop wind tunnel can fluctuate temperature conditions from 35 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, humidity from 40 to 95 percent, and airflow from 100 to 8,000 cubic feet per minute. The most unique feature is that it can vary steam and other fluids that circulate through the coil being tested in the wind tunnel. SRC also makes the wind tunnel available to other companies for product testing.
With a record $78 million in 2011 sales, a 13,000-squarefoot expansion at its Chaska facility in 2012, and an $80 million revenue goal for 2013, Holt is optimistic about SRC’s future. The challenge, he says, is to grow at a manageable pace.
“As a U.S. manufacturer that relies on its reputation to gain market share, our philosophy has always been to have 7-10 percent real growth, year over year. We don’t want to outstrip our infrastructure, make promises we can’t keep, or grow too fast,” he says.
To learn more about Super Radiator Coils, visit www.srcoils.com
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