For years we have been hearing that manufacturers are chasing labor and more and more manufacturers are choosing where to locate their new factories in locations they can find people to show up and produce their products. Employers are competing to attract those hard-working folks to join their team and feel good about what they are making. This kind of value adding work is the core of our economic strength that supports all the rest of the interrelated economic activities. Rising wages and automation are employers’ strategies to keep production rolling. Automation can help in certain situations that are repetitious and predictable, but there is no substitute for an interested skilled person adapting to changing circumstances that inevitably arise.
But it is increasingly difficult to get the skilled person to be interested in the process if he or she is hot and sweaty. In fact the employer is not likely to even get them in the door in the first place if they realize what kind of temperature extremes they might have to deal with day in and day out. So more and more of our clients are deciding to make the investment in air conditioning their entire factory. This trend is across the board from relatively low technology manufacturing to high end automotive EV component manufacturing.
The concept is straight forward, they want their team to be comfortable and focused on the work at hand and not worried about dehydration or heat stroke! But the solution is less straight forward. How much air conditioning is needed? Well it depends on a number of factors. The local climate, the number of people in the facility and any process heat that is dumped into the manufacturing space where the workers are. This is complicated further by the fact that these inputs are not constant. Production ramps up over a period of time with a corresponding increase in people and operating equipment. Not to mention this type of amenity is not cheap.
What we are recommending to some of our clients is a modular air-cooled chiller system with interior air-rotation units in 100-ton cooling modules that can be expanded with additional 100 ton modules as employment numbers increase and or heat load producing equipment is added. This measured approach allows the manufacturers to calibrate their investment in air conditioning to their changing needs within their factory. Adaptability equals survivability…a pretty cool idea!