When you walk into the Rohde Brothers main offices and then into the manufacturing plant just outside Plymouth, Wisconsin, you might think, “What the heck are they building in here?” From the outside, you’d never know. Inside, it’s what the mechanical engineers, designers, and technicians are creating every year for large or small industrial businesses that earned Rohde Brothers a 2022 Energy Efficiency Trade Ally Excellence Award: designing innovative products and fabricating award-winning mechanical infrastructure systems as well as progressive waste recovery solutions.
“I really have to say thanks to two specific groups for this,” Rohde Brothers, Inc. President & CEO Mike Rohde said. “One, our customers. When we come up with crazy ideas that they’re willing to listen and work with us on it. And, of course, the group of people that work with us. I put something on a napkin, but they make it a reality.”
Dedicated to improving industrial and business energy efficiency, Rohde Brothers is one of the few mechanical contractors that have incorporated LEAN Manufacturing Principles into all aspects of the construction phase. These principles reduce operational costs while preserving energy.
“There’s always innovative ideas,” Focus on Energy Advisor Richard Feustal said. “I always appreciate that because I know I’ll get another perspective on how to do a project.”
“The ideas now, a lot of them are their (Rohde Brothers, Inc. employees) ideas. I sit in the background now,” Rohde said. “It’s the team, the foreman, the field guys that need to make sure the products work, the control technicians who make it all hum, the service technicians who have to make it work after it breaks. Really, it’s those guys who made it all happen. I opened the door, and they ran through it.”
Rohde Brothers completed 22 projects for Mercury Marine from 2019-2021. Those projects have saved over 2.1 million kilowatt hours and 145,235 therms. What does that mean to you and me? Mercury Marine saved enough energy to drive a standard passenger car 953 times around the world or, saved enough energy to power 1,094 homes per year. That’s about 50% of the homes in Plymouth.
“Rhode is clearly an environmentally conscious leader in the state of Wisconsin,” Feustal said.
Mercury Marine and Rohde Brothers are working to implement 7 custom energy efficiency projects in 2022. These multiple multi-million-dollar projects will save enough energy equivalent to electrically powering 767 more homes in Plymouth every year.
When it came time to build a new facility in Oostburg, Wisconsin, Masters Gallery Foods elected to partner with Rohde Brothers, Inc., Engineering Manager Mark Wirtz, reached out to Mike Rohde early in the facility planning process to discuss how they could eliminate the use of ammonia from the plant refrigeration systems without sacrificing energy efficiency and performance. That partnership allowed Rohde to provide a synergistic approach for HVAC and refrigeration systems which helped Masters Gallery Foods achieve its goals of efficient product flow, ease of maintenance, and ground-breaking technology.
The Rohde Brothers evaluation showed creative use of thermal storage and variable speed drives would make the proposed hydrofluorocarbon refrigerant systems as efficient as an ammonia system. The implemented system utilizing chilled water and ice storage. It provides comparable energy efficiency without the long-term costs associated with process safety management and specialized operator training required when ammonia is used as the refrigerant.
Rohde Brothers also does a lot of work for Kohler Company including the Kohler pottery heat recovery project, Gold N Plump heat recovery heat pump, Grande ammonia system, many geothermal projects, and the conversion of steam boilers to hot water for Richelieu Foods.
In addition to these major customers and projects, Rohde also routinely recommends upgrading equipment to high energy efficiency upon replacement. A recent example is three rooftop HVAC units Rohde Brothers replaced for Fiberesin Industries, Inc. in 2022 saving 15,000 kilowatt hours and 500 therms or the equivalent amount of energy three houses in Plymouth use in one year.
“It’s a privilege to see the growth of a company of this size and magnitude that the community,” Plymouth Mayor Don Pohlman said. “As the cheese capitol of the world, we pride ourselves on being efficient and seeing the growth of Rohde Brothers through the years is something we can all be proud of. And it certainly is a testament to the ability of their staff and how they look to the future of things.”