Small Business of the Month
During a cold winter, it seems ironic to need help with refrigeration, but LoTemp Equipment Company is accustomed to building and servicing industrial storage since 1979.
Founded by his father, Bob Hillebrandt, John Hillebrandt, along with his sister Nicky Rainbolt and cousin Patrick Hillebrandt, are now operating the family owned company. Once a practicing attorney, John saw a gap in the business that needed filling, relieving his sister of the burden of day-to-day operations so that she could focus on her strengths as an engineer.
Recognizing their attention to customers’ needs, the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce has chosen LoTemp as their February Small Business of the Year.
Composed of twelve engineers, mechanics and technicians, they have over 150 years of combined practical experience in industrial refrigeration to bring to their customers.
“The amount of experience we have in our service department sets us apart,” John said. “My dad is a mechanical engineer. My sister is also a mechanical engineer.” Boasting a business teeming with experts, LoTemp is assured that their customers know they are in the right hands when they call.
Providing refrigeration engineering, installation, service and parts to customers all over the Midwest, LoTemp specializes in ammonia refrigeration. To describe his work, John says, “I always tell people to think of Rocky when he is in the meat packing plant. That would be a smaller space for us, but it gives you an idea.”
Instead of punching frozen steaks, however, John and his crew serve clients, from food processors to hockey rinks to pet food manufacturers, to ensure their product stays at optimum quality by keeping it at just the right temperature. By sparing no expense in the installation process, the risk of problems and costs later on are reduced significantly.
LoTemp is setting the standard for craftsmanship and consistency for all other contractors. Follow through is extremely important, John said. “Saying it is simple. Doing it is not. LoTemp does what it says it will do. We are driven to doing things the right way, whether it is meeting project deadlines, providing customer-specific engineering, consistently responding to customers’ service needs, or providing common sense solutions.”
They also respond right away to maintenance issues that can cause millions of dollars in wasted product if the units are not fixed in a timely manner. Imagine an entire warehouse of food going bad: millions of dollars are at stake for the company, which is why John and his team are so quick to jump on service calls. Once the root of the problem is identified, they diagnose and fix it to completion so that the issue will never happen again.
Project management from day to day can take a toll, with a gamut of possible things that could go wrong at any given moment. John describes, “We had a crane day, and all of a sudden, there were 40 mph wind gusts; we could not use the crane that day, so we had to find 80 hours of work for a crew to eat up in a day.”
Their project management strategy involves planning and putting out any fires that may arise, all while keeping ahead of their staff to ensure they are continually occupied with projects.
A problem that arises for John and his employees at LoTemp are service calls during extreme weather, both hot and cold. “Summer hits, and equipment gets stressed. The weird thing is, winter hits, and with extreme cold, you get just as many calls. You cannot reheat a space, and if the ambient temperature is too low, you can have service calls going the opposite direction,” John said. The stakes are extremely high: if the temperature gets too hot or too cold for too long, the company must dispose of their entire supply!
Specializing in ammonia-based refrigeration, LoTemp looks forward to a greener future in refrigeration. Compared to Freon, which is “radically more expensive,” John said. Ammonia costs only one dollar per pound, versus $16-25 per pound for Freon. Freon also depletes the ozone once it has escaped the atmosphere, whereas ammonia is easily manufactured and does little damage to the environment.
When LoTemp employees are not assisting their clients, they are involving themselves in the North Omaha Community by volunteering, coaching youth sports, and actively participating in church and neighborhood service groups. Those that seek additional education in their field have the full financial support of the company, which increases their value not only as an individual but also as a part of the company.
A member of the Chamber of Commerce, John has been grateful to have attracted food processors and other industries that need industrial refrigeration. It has also served as a fantastic networking hub for similar businesses to offer clients a more comprehensive level of service.
John’s advice to other business owners is to always remain ready for anything. One of LoTemp’s biggest strengths has been their ability to anticipate and respond to their client’s needs without sacrificing quality. This takes the pressure away from their clients worrying about equipment failures, so they can continue running other aspects of the business, knowing they are in good hands.