Factory Tour

Video transcript

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Hey, it’s Geoff Brown with Quest. I’m Vice President of Technical Solutions. And today, we’re going to do a virtual tour of one of our three manufacturing facilities. This one’s in Montreal. This virtual tour will give you the scale and quality of manufacturing available to the Quest IQ product line. And I invite you to follow me into the factory to start that tour.

One of the keys to any good manufacturing facility is the stock room. The stock room is where all of the parts that come in for units are stored and dispensed to an individual build. And because all of our units are build to order, carrying a very strong safety stock is an important piece of ensuring that our lead times meet customer expectations. We’re going to take a walk through the stock room and just show the scale of it. This building has over 150,000 square feet. And approximately a third of the factory space is stock room. One of the cool things you’ll see here is things like these coils. These coils have a SeaCoast coating on them. And in fact, every coil that we have in this factory is fully coated. This isn’t an option. It’s not something you pay extra for. It’s part of the quality in product that we believe in. Although we apply as many lean for manufacturing principles as possible and do our best to do just-in-time material deliveries, again, part of some of these longer custom parts that we have built specifically for us, we need to warehouse, and sometimes it’s as simple as we bring them in in larger lots so that we can reduce the component costs and ensure that we’re able to put higher-quality components in your product for the same or lower market price than you’re expecting. Things like this are core to our manufacturing principles here.

Here in the northeast corner of the factory, we’ve got our state-of-the-art CNC metal fab shop. Although we run just-in-time manufacturing and many of our standard metal components are brought in from outside sources, outside metal shops, this metal fab shop here allows us to do very quick prototyping, rapid prototyping of new designs. It allows us to iterate designs from the factory floor. So, one of the concepts in lean for manufacturing is ensuring that the factory floor is able to provide quick feedback to the engineering department, quick part changes, to ensure that their job is easier. And being able to produce those parts in-house matters, as well as allowing us to produce custom components for custom units, ensuring that what we deliver to the customer meets their needs exactly. Whether that is a standard product or a custom product or even just an extended product run, having this capability in-house is hugely beneficial to us.

So, we’re here at the first step of large unit production. And the first step is of course laying down the base for it. The factory is relatively quiet today, although not perfectly so, and I apologize for that. It is a Saturday, and we choose to do these shoots on a Saturday because you wouldn’t be able to hear a word I was saying during the week. The factory employs more than a hundred people, and it’s quite a noisy place. These bases are all laid down in the same way, regardless of the size. And again, in our design for manufacturing process, we’ve designed a base that goes together in a consistent way, regardless of the unit size. This base is made from corrosion-resistant galvanized steel and is a real structural part of the unit. As well, one of the sort of interesting things that we’ve done to make these units more manufacturable is really work on reducing things like our fastener counts. You’ll see the fastener wall here in the line, and it’s of course important to have that ready access to these fasteners for the guys working in this department, but there really aren’t that many of them that go into building one of these units. And you’ll go from a unit base laid down like this to a full unit construction ready for coils and piping in a day or two. It’s really quite a quick process. And again, all of these little things that we’ve done on a design for manufacturing basis helped to make that quicker.

We’re going to continue down the line again. Assembly is step one. Piping is the next step. So, let’s take a look at that. And we’ll talk a little bit more about our piping process and some of our technologies in that section.

So, after the major mechanical assembly, the next step is of course piping. And this unit is just approaching the end of piping. In fact, I’ve interrupted one of our workers on the Saturday here working to finish up this new 30-ton Compressor Wall unit. And the piping is mostly complete on this. In fact, we’re at the stage now of just bracing pipes before it gets filled with glycol. One of the great things about the Compressor Wall Technology IQ Series is how modular it is, and the fact that most of the work is done with PVC and glycol, including on split units. And that really reduces both our construction time, the refrigerant risk to the space, and greatly increases our reliability. This last step of the sort of major assembly part – and piping is arguably part of the assembly part – happens here in the second stage of assembly before these units go to electrical. Of course, one of our quality steps is ensuring that there are no leaks. We pressure test these circuits in ensuring that quality control is utmost in everything that we do. This particular unit is configured a little bit differently because it has the economizer coil option. And you will see that there’s a second section of coils in front of the main Compressor Wall modules. And that allows for on anything sort of north of the Mason Dixon line up to a 30% reduction in energy costs over the course of a year. And it’s an option that we’re selling an awful lot of. In fact, this entire order, a dozen or more units, are all equipped with them. Even on relatively small units, it makes financial sense to do. And it’s one of the innovations that we’ve been able to bring to the marketplace, a true waterside economizer. So, not introducing any outside air and not using an outside air economizer and potentially introducing contaminants to the space or diluting the CO2 enrichment allows us to greatly reduce the energy footprint of a farm, which is obviously very important, and it’s a huge cost savings for the customer.

So, one of the big innovations that we brought to the market and we’ve been incredibly successful with is our Compressor Wall Technology. In this area, we build the Compressor Wall pods, and these pods consist of the coil, compressor, and flat plate heat exchanger. And it allows us to create multi-circuited systems in an incredibly compact and cost-efficient solution. Each one of these modules is built externally before being put into the unit in the assembly stage of the process prior to piping, and each module only weighs about 250 pounds. So, for serviceability in the future, if you need to fix something, you’re replacing a single pod, and it’s a quick and easy process to do. And quality management process here is of course an integral step of creating high-quality product. These run-tested units, once fully assembled in the unit, get run tested again to ensure that no damage occurs in the production line and that the product that we’re delivering to you when it leaves the factory works a hundred percent. We’ve had to ramp up to being able to produce thousands of these Compressor Wall modules a year. This technology has been incredibly successful in this marketplace and very, very well received. And we’re really excited to be able to bring it to you. And we’re going to continue walking through the construction process or the build process of these Compressor Wall units built here in the Montreal plant.

So, the unit has now progressed out of the piping department and into electrical. This is the last of the major construction steps prior to the final tests that are carried out final to the test bay procedure and then to shipping. So, in the electrical department, we install, of course, all of the electrical, all of the sensing, all of the power wiring, the controls, and each unit is given a separate wiring diagram, regardless of whether it’s a standard configuration or something custom. So, the electrical department is following a unit-specific, a job-specific wiring diagram that captures any changes that we’re making on a continuous improvement basis. And it continues to capture any custom features that are added because we really do build these on a per-unit and per-customer basis, meeting the demands of our customer base. The electrical on a unit like this is really quite a straightforward process. And again, with good documentation, it allows the installing contractor and future service contractors to really know what they’re doing and have a really good idea of how to maintain the unit and service the unit over time. Some of the things that individually we do, obviously the control panel, which is also the main power distribution panel, in this case, an auxiliary electric heater – this is a heater that is not used for reheat, but is used in the event that there’s a space heating demand required for whatever reason. The compressor pods each get wired individually. The flow valves, the dry cooler, which in this case is packaged – all of that stuff gets wired together. And again, the stage is roughly a two-day step here in the factory prior to moving on to the final test. And let’s go take a look at that now.

Here we are in the last and final major step of building units here at the Montreal factory. And this is the test bay, one of five that we’ve got in this building. You’ll notice on the wall to your right, a huge amount of power. Each one of these test bays is fed by 300 KVA, allowing us to fully test any configuration that comes through. We don’t have any issues with power requiring us to partially test or partially run test units. They’re able to run in the configuration that they will when they’re on your roof.

The last step that we looked at was electrical. Following electrical, we go through a couple of additional quality control checks, as well as filling the glycol circuit. We pressure test and then fill the glycol circuit as well as doing a 24-volt test, a high pot test, before they end up here in the test bay. So, now that it’s in the test bay, we’re able to hook it up to power and do a full control and run test of the unit again in its final configuration, testing every aspect of the unit. One of the things you may have seen as we walk through the factory are job files that are magnetically attached to each unit. And these job files give wiring diagrams, bill of materials, work instructions. Everything that the floor needs to know about a unit is attached to that unit. There’s no danger of losing paperwork or having a mismatch between what the factory is building and what the customer is expecting. You’ll also notice here behind me, this unit has been fully labeled. And part of that is proving as-build wiring diagrams in the unit itself. So, as a quick reference guide to any service or mechanical contractor either installing or servicing this unit in the future, it’s just a little value add thing. Those are of course available from our service department in electronic format as well, so that’s not the only place to get them, but it is there. Each stage also has some quality control stage gates to it. And those are all recorded and available to us in a post shipment status, and that’s kept for posterity purposes forever. So, we’ve got a full online library of all of our quality control checks, pass/fails, what has happened to that unit throughout the manufacturing process.

The last step from here is these units will get cleaned up to ensure that there is no construction debris that’s left in the machine, that there’s no things like metal shavings on the floor that could rust between here and the customer site. That all gets cleaned up. The unit gets wrapped. And then they get shipped out. One of the very interesting things about our shipment facilities at the three factories, we’re going to talk about in a second and why it’s important. I think you’ll find it really cool. Let’s take a look over there.

Here we are in the last and final step to getting units out the door. This unit here is just waiting to be wrapped before it leaves in the shipping bay behind me. One of the things you’ll notice about the shipping bay is it’s fully indoors, and we actually back the flatbed into the factory before lifting the unit on the gantry cranes above us and setting it down on that flatbed. That allows us to do that whole operation – I mean, we’re in Montreal; it rains, it snows, freezing rain, all sorts of things – it allows us to do that entire operation sheltered from the weather. It allows our outbound logistics company to wrap and cover the unit – again, protected from the weather. It ensures that we’re not forcing a poor trucker to try and tarp a unit outside in inclement weather and the safety hazard that poses. We really do all we can to ensure that the unit leaves in great shape. It’s wrapped in great shape. The people, the contractors that we use to get it outbound, are happy to work with us and take extra care, and that ultimately you receive exactly what you asked for.

Over the course of this tour, we’ve done as good as we can to give you an idea of the scale and breadth of our manufacturing capabilities. Little tidbits are unfortunately hard to do. Things like seeing these four-sensor supply air temperature arrays – questions like that are typically done on an interactive basis.

We’re very much looking forward to bringing our customers back through the factory, showing our hospitality in Ottawa and in Montreal and really impressing you with what we have here. And these tours of course are more valuable in an interactive way. And as soon as we’re able to, we’re very excited to welcome you to the factories. Thanks for taking the time with us today. We hope you found this useful.