NatRefs Industry Soldiers on During Pandemic

As the world grapples with the coronavirus (COVID-19) health emergency, several HVAC&R companies that make natural refrigerant products report that they have been able to carry on most business activities, while focusing on keeping their employees safe.

The following is a review of how some companies have reacted:

Stellar, Jacksonville, Florida (U.S.)

In addition to following government mandates,this contracting company has taken the following steps within its facilities and job sites, according to an email message from CEO Mike Santarone and President/COO Brian Kappele:

  • Having sanitizer stations readily available.
  • Increasing sanitation in common areas, handrails, doorknobs, etc.
  • Educating and encouraging proper hygiene practices and social distancing for all employees in the offices and in the field.
  • Eliminating all travel unless it is a customer emergency. 
  • Utilizing “Zoom” and other [telecommunication] technologies to more efficiently conduct business.
  • Denying visitors other than scheduled service individuals access into corporate buildings.
  • Encouraging employees to work from home, particularly those with “high risk” profiles.
  • Prohibiting group meetings larger than 10.

They added that Stellar views the coronavirus crisis “as an opportunity to enhance the methods for the delivery of our services, and challenge the status quo.” 

Dover Food Retail (Hillphoenix), Conyers, Georgia (U.S.)

The OEM announced that as of the week of March 16, it is fully operational across all of businesses and plants in North America. “We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments and remain sensitive to the potential impacts to our customers.” The company stressed that “the safety of our associates and our communities is of paramount importance to us.” 

AHT Cooling Systems USA, Ladson, South Carolina (U.S.) 

“We have not seen any impact to our supply chain and are continuing to produce and deliver equipment to support customer projects as needed,” said Drew Tombs, President of this propane (R290) display case manufacturer. He surmised that potential impact of the pandemic would be “delays or postponements in new construction or remodel projects in certain areas.”  He added that the cancellation of industry and customer Events “reduces opportunities for networking and discussion of new and existing projects and opportunities.”

In a message to its customers and partners, AHT said it is“working hard to ensure all deliveries, installations, projects and other activities related to your systems are completed as scheduled to the best of our abilities and to the same high standards we always strive to attain.” 

AHT said that several steps have been taken to maintain operations “in a safe and socially responsible manner,” including the following: 

  • Visits to AHT’s Ladson, South Carolina facility by non-essential visitors have been restricted, and any exceptions would require advance approval from senior management.
  • Business trips to risk areas or trips of a non-urgent manner have been postponed or will be held via video conferencing.
  • All staff have been issued a “COVID-19 Handbook” and educated on recognizing signs and symptoms along with proper preventative and personal hygiene measures.
  • Telecommuting options are being evaluated on a case-by-case basis, especially for those in a high-risk category or with underlying health issues. 

Freor, Vilnius, Lithuania

”There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment,” said the manufacturer in an email communication. 

The company said its manufacturing process continues, as well as incoming and outgoing shipments, “while taking every precaution to ensure safe working conditions” for its employees, truck drivers, and others. 

However, Freor did report an “unfavorable situation” in the transportation sector. “The trucks face long queues at border controls and some transportation providers are cutting back their services,” while transportation costs have started to rise, the company said. 

“We are doing everything we can, but ask for your understanding when we cannot guarantee agreed delivery dates,” said Freor.

To protect the health of its employees, most of Freor’s administrative staff is working remotely, accessible both by emails and mobile phone during working hours. “We make every effort to fulfill clients’ requirements as much as it is possible in the current situation.”

There is no mistaking the challenge of this moment.