Thermo King Greenville team in the plant

Leading by Example: Growing Through Resilience at Thermo King® in South Carolina

At Thermo King Greenville, preparation and collaboration allowed for an accelerated timeline in the buildout of a new site ready for the future of electrification.

We’re leading by example by building resiliency into our operations, our teams, and the supply chain.

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Project At-a-Glance:

The opportunity: As customer demand for reliable, sustainable refrigerated transport solutions continued to increase, the team at Thermo King® needed to expand production, ensuring that customers had units available as quickly as possible, while also designing a site prepared for the future.

The solution: On an accelerated 13-month schedule, the project team launched a new Thermo King plant in Greenville, S.C. The facility includes Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) technology, DC torque tools and robotic welding. It is heated and cooled by the latest Trane AscendTM heat pump chillers and makes use of other sustainability best practices like full building insulation, a reflective roof, LED lighting with occupancy sensors, low-flow plumbing, high performance window glass and energy-efficient appliances.

Sustainability outcomes: 

  • Heat pump chillers for fully electrified heating and cooling are anticipated to reduce approximately 200 metric tons of carbon emissions (mtCO2e) per year
  • Effective stormwater management, including the use of indigenous plants will maximize runoff capture and reduce overall water use

From produce to pharmaceuticals, global demand for reliable, sustainable refrigerated transport solutions continues to increase. Leaders at Thermo King, a worldwide leader in the design and manufacturing of sustainable climate-control solutions for refrigerated transport, saw the need to scale production capabilities to meet the growing demand and to sustain future growth. 

To add to production capacity at their Arecibo, Puerto Rico site, leadership began planning for an additional site that would create redundancy in the supply chain, prioritize sustainable operations and allow for additional advancements in electrification and future business growth. The team chose the growing technical hub of Greenville, South Carolina, for a new site, announcing a $30M capital commitment in March of 2022.  

And then in May of 2022, a tornado touched down in Arecibo, reducing the production capabilities at the Arecibo site by nearly two-thirds. 

With customer demand at the forefront, the project team jumped into action, collaborating across the Trane Technologies enterprise while taking bold steps toward sustainability and resiliency. Less than a year later, the Greenville site was fully operational and shipping product to customers. 

Sustainable solutions in a changing world

Despite the rapid timeline, the project team ensured sustainability remained at the forefront. Guided by Trane Technologies’ 2030 Sustainability Commitments, they worked diligently to build a model facility for the future, prioritizing sustainable strategies and operations throughout the development, from site selection to potential future expansions. 

As the existing building on the leased site was not initially designed for a climate system, the project team first constructed a building shell with HVAC requirements in mind, including an insulated reflective roof, concrete apron and reinforced roofing for rooftop units. Engineering and construction teams ensured the project would include the latest innovations in LED lighting, low-flow plumbing, high-performance window glass and energy-efficient appliances. 

The facility is heated and cooled by the latest Trane AscendTM heat pump chillers and incorporates a broad range of sustainability best practices, from a reflective roof to indigenous plants integrated into the groundwater management plan.  

Designed to produce Precedent S-Series trailer refrigeration units and eventually Advancer S-DRC intermodal refrigeration units, the manufacturing lines make full use of the latest technology advancements such as Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV) technology, DC torque tools and robotic welding, all of which increase precision and efficiency of operations. They can also be adapted for future products to support Thermo King’s goal of electrified solutions throughout the cold chain.

The Greenville team also piloted an advanced manufacturing execution system. Thermo King can capture detailed data on critical manufacturing processes to help control quality and ensure units are performing at peak efficiency before leaving the facility. 

And with a 300,000-square-foot facility with potential for expansion, the plant can continue to grow, responding to changing circumstances with resilient operations.  

Resilient teams at the ready

The successful, accelerated launch of operations at Thermo King Greenville required significant cross-functional collaboration and strategic support from Trane Technologies at every level, from government relations to sourcing and procurement. And the project team liaised with Trane to procure and install world-class heat pump chillers for electrified heating and cooling. 

“We’re positioned for the future of transport and ready to meet customer needs.”

Joe Murphy

program manager, Thermo King Americas

Preparation, foresight and shared company knowledge supported the equally rapid buildout of a new, 200-person team before opening: While the plant was under construction, the management and project teams worked together to recruit, onboard and train 200 new team members in preparation for launch day. 

Even as their own facility was being repaired and rebuilt, the team from Arecibo was instrumental in that training and preparation. New Greenville-based employees from all major functions spent multiple weeks in Arecibo, benchmarking and learning about the Precedent production line and overall site operations. Key project team members in EHS, Quality, Manufacturing and IT assumed responsibility for both Greenville and Arecibo operations, ensuring consistent processes across the company.

And in October 2023 Arecibo resumed full operations.

Facing the future

Today, Thermo King is continuing to innovate for a resilient future. The Greenville and Arecibo plants have both adopted returnable packaging loops; now Greenville will be phasing in returnable metal shipping crates and can quickly reconfigure assembly lines to support an expanded electrified product portfolio.  

“This team overcame several hurdles during the project, including equipment and construction delays,” said Joe Murphy, program manager, Thermo King Americas. “But thanks to collaborative efforts and support from around our business, Thermo King is now positioned for the future of transport and ready to meet customer needs.”

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