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issue: November 2003 APPLIANCE Magazine

ARI 50th Anniversary
ARI - 50 Years of Striving for Excellence

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by David R. Pannier, vice chairman, ARI Board of Directors

Long before anyone conceived of fax machines or the Internet, there was Koldfax, the printed monthly publication that has served as the official voice of the Air-Conditioning and Refrigeration Institute since ARI was born in May of 1953 following the merger of two associations serving the comfort cooling and refrigeration industry.

Derived from "Cold Facts," it was a monthly summary of news items for the Refrigeration Equipment Manufacturers Association that merged with the Air-Conditioning and Refrigerating Machinery Association.

A reading of yellowed copies of the publication - which in modern form is also available at the speed of light over the World Wide Web at www.ari.org - reveals just how far we have come as an industry.

Koldfax reports that at the start of 1953 there were just 500,000 U.S. homes with window air-conditioners. A "Flash" in the June issue predicted shipment that year of 1 million additional units. Central air-conditioner shipments that year totaled just 127,000.

"You can remember when automobiles had no self starterÉno heaterÉ.no radio," reported Koldfax. "Now comes the announcement that air conditioning will be available in 1953 Cadillacs and Oldsmobiles as optional equipment. This might well be the beginning of a trend."

Koldfax documented efficiency gains from air-conditioning by noting that "in one study of bank clerks it was found that they made 50-percent more errors when the temperature was 90¡F than they did when it was 68¡F. This is because at the surrounding temperature at about 90¡F, the body starts using more of its blood supply for cooling and less for the brain."

You did not have to be a brain surgeon in those days to understand that the heating, ventilation, air-conditioning, and refrigeration (HVAC/R) industry was about to make a major change for the better in the way people live, work, and play.

With help from ARI through its standards and certification programs, the industry is now a key part of the economy, employing more than 175,000 workers in manufacturing and hundreds of thousands as installers, technicians, and building engineers. Thanks to strong export markets, the industry contributes positively to the nation's balance of payments and can look forward to ever expanding markets as billions more people enjoy refrigeration and air-conditioning.

It has been a personally rewarding experience for me over a 27-year-career to realize how much has been done to improve worker productivity and residential living comfort. In addition, our equipment made possible the information age with humidity and temperature control for clean rooms for computer chip fabrication and to operate computers and telecommunications equipment that require controlled conditions.

With leadership from ARI through its standards and certification programs, the HVAC/R industry has progressed into a major force in the U.S. economy. The ARI "pretzel" has found its way onto more than 100 million pieces of equipment. And, because of voluntary self-regulation, equipment owners have the assurance of quality and manufacturers have a level playing field on which to compete.

ARI's history of providing the forum for developing programs of mutual benefit to its members is brought home by a reading of old issues of Koldfax. In October 1953, for example, there is a progress report that details activities on development of a standard by the "Year-Round Residential Section," which served as the predecessor to today's very active Unitary Product Sections.

Other issues of the day included an Excise Profits Tax Committee whose chairman, Rudy Berg, summed up the essence of what ARI is about in comments he made about his committee's activities.

"We want to help every company with its problems and secure the enlightenment which many minds afford rather than a few," he said. "No one of us wants to have a tax advantage over our competitors. We want to work to the end that we all enjoy the same tax status. Our competition can remain in the scope of ingenuity of design, production techniques, merchandising skill, etc."

Other issues of the day included the Office of Price Stabilization, which was supposed to be the answer to the threat of inflation following the outbreak of the Korean War. By late 1953, its tent was being folded in the wake of a hodgepodge of rules and orders. As Koldfax put it: "We can't say that we are sorry to see the Agency go. It allows business men to breathe freely once more, and it is hoped that a rebirth will never be necessary."

In Washington, D.C., however, nothing ever really goes away and ARI was there to represent the industry when price stabilization efforts reappeared in later years, first as controls enacted by President Nixon during the early 1970s and voluntary efforts under president's Ford and Carter.

Steel was an issue back in 1953 when the Office of Defense Mobilization decided allotments as it is today when tariffs negatively impact our industry by driving up costs. Once again, ARI is serving as a forum to help educate the U.S. federal government about how the tariffs impact consumers, threaten loss of jobs, and drive companies abroad.

Over the past 50 years, ARI has been well served by many thousands of volunteers who worked on product sections, committees and the Board of Directors. We have made a powerful statement by launching 25 certification programs and developing more than 80 standards and with a commitment to strive for excellence.

With the world finding new uses for our products, the next 50 years will bring new opportunities to improve the quality of life for people around the globe.

David R. Pannier is president of Trane Residential Systems business. In 2003, he was vice chairman of the Board of Directors and chairman of the ARI Budget Committee. He has served as vice chairman of the North American Technician Excellence (NATE) from 1998 through 2002.


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