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Omega Refrigeration: taking refrigeration to the next level

By Ilana Koegelenberg

Omega Refrigeration has been manufacturing and custom engineering world-class refrigeration solutions locally since 2009, priding themselves in often setting the trends for others to follow.

The company is a proudly South African supplier of high quality commercial refrigeration equipment, with its factory and head office located in Johannesburg and representation both nationally and internationally. Omega has a staff complement of about 76 employees.

OF00 2 800In Omega Refrigeration’s reception area, from left: Michael Breckle, Paul van Dyk, and Norma Ngcobo (receptionist).

Omega Refrigeration was founded by two extensively experienced refrigeration experts, and their unique approach to industry challenges ensured the successful growth of the business through cutting edge technology in improving refrigeration systems and processes.

Omega Refrigeration specialises in the commercial refrigeration needs of the supermarket and food service industries. Using a combination of expertise in cabinet manufacturing and refrigeration contracting, and supported by many years of experience, Omega manufactures and provides an extensive range of superior quality cabinets that can be used within various segments of the market, including installers, contractors, and store owners.

Omega’s mission is to supply refrigeration products of a high quality to various customers who require refrigeration solutions, backed by excellent customer service. The high quality standard of the cabinets supplied by Omega has to be one of the country’s best-kept secrets — and this is about to change.

PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

As one of the leaders in refrigerated cabinet manufacturing, Omega provides excellent quality cabinet displays (both remote and self-contained) to accommodate any type of system requirements for corporates, installation contractors, and independent retailers. Its extensive selection of refrigerated displays incorporates the latest developments in cabinet manufacturing, while they are also capable of designing bespoke cabinets based on customer requirements for their clients or accredited installers in the food service and supermarket industries.

Their cabinet range includes uprights, jumbos, wide islands, dual combination cabinets, delis, glass doors low and medium temperature, as well as all hot food cabinets. Omega cabinets are designed to accommodate several refrigeration technologies, including simplex units, multiplexes, self-contained air-cooled and self-contained water-cooled solutions. The range includes the standard superior Omega cabinet as well as an economy range. Each cabinet comes with many standard features that are often quoted as ‘extras’ on competitor cabinets.

They have proven to the market that the unique features and claims made against their cabinets and systems as advertised are in fact true and supported by hard facts and data.

Omega pioneered the introduction of the water-loop system in South Africa some eight years ago. This new technology has now become a favoured system among retailers and offers many benefits, from operational cost savings and faster turnaround time on projects, to an additional two days of shelf life on meat.

Omega also gets involved with store revamps, which require an improved system, a fresh set of refrigerated cabinets, or new layout in the supermarket or store. They pride themselves on quick turnaround times.

The company has opened many stores in the past years, all of which have reached the promised targeted savings for their clients. The growth into Africa is continuous, as the system is preferred by most due to the simplicity of maintenance, repair, and installation. Omega trains and accredits installers at their Johannesburg factory to assist with the required knowledge for all to benefit over the long term.

Automated foaming jig driving out for sheet metal assembly. Foaming jig and tubbing assembly. In Omega Refrigeration’s reception area, from left: Michael Breckle, Paul van Dyk, and Norma Ngcobo (receptionist). Thomas Mbatha (stores driver) outside the Omega offices in one of the company’s branded fleet vehicles. Assembly and refrigeration testing line.

Another one of the many professional services that is offered to clients through Omega’s experienced team of refrigeration consultants and engineers, is a complete refrigeration solution and consultation, which is the process of using the company’s expertise to assist businesses with their store design, implementation, and project management needs.

This involves an equipment audit of both display cabinets and refrigeration systems, with an equipment audit report detailing the efficiencies and deficiencies of the existing equipment in line with the value chain of Omega. The consultation also includes a plan proposing the cabinet and refrigeration solution that best suits the client’s requirements.

Omega boasts 24/7 service backup on all its products and services.

CHALLENGES

When it comes to local manufacturing, there are quite a number of challenges faced by companies such as Omega Refrigeration.

One of the most difficult things is to stay competitive with all the imports flooding the market. But the problem with imports is that the necessary backup and support are not always available, as is the case with a local company. Paul van Dyk, Omega Refrigeration CEO, explains: “What makes us different, is that our technology and equipment have been designed for Africa. It is robust and specially made to take very high temperatures like those in Botswana, Namibia, and the far north.” The imports often do not last long in these harsh conditions.

Lack of skills is another big challenge. Omega has to train all its staff in-house to get them to the level needed to work in the factory. While some factory work is fairly generic, there are some areas that require specialist skills and one cannot just take someone off the street.

Skills and training is a problem throughout Africa, though. That is why, if Omega installs a system outside of the country, they normally engage a person from that country and take them through an intensive training course at the factory in Johannesburg in order to be trained up in system maintenance and basic repairs. “We do not want to have to send technicians up all the time when something goes wrong; maintenance is very important,” says Van Dyk.

When it comes to labour, Omega has escaped many of the issues that have plagued the industry in the past few years. “We have been quite fortunate in terms of labour,” Van Dyk explains. “We have a good relationship with the unions and others and we generally have a mature and committed staff. The staff views the company as their own and they are very supportive.”

“We run our business like a family, and treat our staff in the same way, to ensure that they are kept happy and produce the work that our customers would expect from a company of great experience and ability,” explains Michael Breckle, director of Omega Refrigeration. “Our customers and the installation contractors we work with also become an extended part of our family, and we develop a longstanding and positive relationship with them, while taking care of our installed refrigeration systems or partnering with installers on a consistent basis to ensure quality and longevity of our cabinets and displays.”

However, some issues are unavoidable, like the looming industry strike that never materialised. “Preparing for the strike cost us a lot of money,” says Van Dyk. “To meet our delivery and installation commitments, we were forced to work a lot of extra overtime and also order a lot of extra stock in preparation for what turned out to be a non-event. High steel prices and sector wages are a perennial source of worry to us.”

Then of course there was the recent issue of the power supply in certain areas of Johannesburg being interrupted for nearly two weeks as a result of cable theft, and the company had to run on a generator over this time. On the positive side, the national grid seems to have stabilised a lot more and power outages have been a rarity in the past two years.

Another area of concern is trying to get into the larger retail chains. “Corporate support is a challenge,” says Van Dyk. “On top of the imports, some of the chains are tied in with certain local manufacturers who have served them loyally for many years. They do not hand some of that business to other companies easily — even when a superior cabinet is presented to them for consideration.” This makes it hard for companies such as Omega to get bigger projects consistently.

The Spar Group has been incredibly supportive and possibly far-sighted in respect of the energy and reduced operational cost savings achieved with the Omega water-loop systems. Their business model has company-owned stores as well as franchisee-owned stores, and it allows for independent decisions that see Omega getting some of the work. “We are very proud to have been the supplier of choice for a number of the Spar flagship stores — most recently of which was the Thavhani Mall Superspar in Thohoyandou in the northern province,” says Breckle.

It has been a slow year for projects though and stores have recently only been opening during a brief period in the year. Many project plans were released very late this year and in general, business has been sluggish.

BENEFITS OF GOING LOCAL

So why go with a locally manufactured product instead of imports? “One of the areas we pride ourselves in, is quick turnaround,” explains Van Dyk. “We can build it much faster than it takes to import the same product and then we can be assured of the quality as well.”

Then there is the benefit of being able to customise the product to the client’s needs. “We are very accommodating. We can even rework existing systems so the client does not have to strip out all the refrigeration,” Van Dyk explains.

It is not just customising though, it is innovating and constantly improving their product and service offering. Omega is very proud of their experience and ability to innovate. They are constantly trying out new things and coming up with innovative solutions, often leading the way for others to follow — and not just locally.

Imported products and technologies are sometimes tested in overseas labs that simulate conditions that are very dissimilar to those in South Africa and Africa, and the claimed coefficient of performance (COP) is much higher than is realistically possible. “This must also be taken into account when trying to compare ‘apples with apples’,” explains Breckle.

The Omega team has years of experience in not only product supply, but things like store design and retailing, too. This is very beneficial from a project management point of view and means they can provide a complete solution — not just a product. “We are more than just a cabinet supplier. Our offering is huge,” explains Van Dyk.

Quality is another benefit of going local. “A commercial fridge built on a production line is very different from assembling on site,” explains Breckle. “There aren’t necessarily enough quality stops on the line. Are all the electronics tested? Can you actually reach temperature? Many factors come into play here.”

Companies like Omega that build the fridges specifically, test every single product before it leaves their factory. “There is no room for error anymore; everything has to be 100% correct if you are going to hit target. And this target is energy savings operating costs. You can take a cardboard box and bring it down to temperature, but how much energy are you using?” says Breckle.

Upright cabinet assembly line. Sheet metal shop bending machines. Omega Refrigeration also did this Eagle Canyon cabinet outfit. 
Image credit: Omega Refrigeration Omega Refrigeration cabinets installed in a Spar in Secunda. 
Image credit: Omega RefrigerationCNC sheet metal punching machines.

STAYING COMPETITIVE

It is important to stay ahead of the competition and the Omega team keeps itself updated with what the competition is doing at all times — locally and abroad. Between Van Dyk and Breckle, they have very close ties with many international experts who give them regular updates on trends in the international markets to guide them. “Many of our innovations are based on observing overseas trends,” Van Dyk explains. “We are sometimes even one step ahead of the global market, but more often than not, we innovate locally.”

CONTRACTORS

Omega has taken a policy decision to engage directly with and support contractors and their clients by supplying them with quality cabinets for their turnkey refrigeration installations. The Omega technical expertise and advice is freely available to both client and contractor to ensure that the best possible solutions and service level agreements are found for all parties.

“This not only gives the client peace of mind regarding service and support, but also improves breakdown response times and reduces stock losses,” explains Breckle.

The contractor benefits from trade discounts and has the added advantage of being able to offer a far wider range of services for any particular project, coupled with the advantage of having a professional and experienced Omega support team.

FUTURE

So where is Omega Refrigeration headed? They are definitely planning on staying in manufacturing, and are particularly focused on expanding the current export initiatives further into Africa and the US with their innovative products. Omega is currently also engaged with an international bottling concern and will soon be manufacturing beverage coolers to their standards. So, watch this space. This is only the beginning!


Click below to read the November 2017 issue of RACA Journal

RACA Nov2017

02 Sep 2018
08:00AM - 05:00PM
1st IIR International Conference on the Application of HFO Refrigerants
04 Sep 2018
08:00AM - 05:00PM
ATMOsphere Asia
05 Sep 2018
08:00AM - 05:00PM
Mostra Convegno Expocomfort (MCE) Asia
16 Oct 2018
08:00AM - 12:00AM
Chillventa 2018 - 16-18 October

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