Local refrigeration industry finds a united voice at AIRAH’s record-breaking conference

Friday, April 5, 2019

On March 25–26 in Melbourne, a record crowd of 170 refrigeration professionals came together to discuss the future of the industry at AIRAH’s Refrigeration 2019 conference. Despite a diverse audience, there was concensus on three key needs: better training, stronger regulations, and greater industry recognition.

Refrigeration 2019 featured more than 30 expert speakers and four international keynotes spread across two days and two conference rooms. Stakeholders were from all parts of the industry, often representing rival approaches and solutions.

Prof. Dr Michael Kauffeld from the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences (Germany) opened proceedings by speaking about the HFC phase-down and the role of natural refrigerants. Andrew Pansulla from Chemours (US) also explored the phase-down, but explored how synthetic HFO refrigerants could play a part.

“AIRAH’s objective in organising our annual refrigeration conference is simply to assemble the best minds of the industry, regardless of the specific product or solution they offer,” says AIRAH CEO Tony Gleeson, M.AIRAH. “It’s only by sharing our knowledge and considering all the alternatives that we can arrive at the best result, not just for the sector, but for Australia and indeed the global environment.”

Presentations focused on cutting-edge technology and innovation, as well as future trends for the Australian industry. There were also practical sessions that looked at current real-world issues. Despite often rigorous conversation around the issues of training, regulations and recognition there was largely consensus. 

“What I heard people saying is that the skills of the refrigeration fitters, or fridgies as you call them, are not as good as they used to be,” says Kauffeld. He believes the biggest need of the Australian industry is clear: “Training, training and training. Not only on hydrocarbons, but also ammonia and CO2.”

The contractor panel was one of the conference highlights. It revealed a strong desire for better regulations to guarantee that professionals have the right skills.

“Every person in the industry should have some sort of recognition that they have been trained properly,” says panel participant Mike Baker, M.AIRAH. “An accountant has to have accreditation. The people who are actually building and maintaining the systems should have some sort of accreditation too.”

These two concerns fed into the wider issue of how to attract talent and move government to act when the industry still suffers from a low profile.

“More promotion of the industry and issues surrounding it is required,” says Elizabeth Paparo, Affil.AIRAH, who attended the conference and represented major sponsor Heatcraft. “Many keep referring to making the industry sexy. It’s a great industry already – we don’t need to make it anything other than what it is. We just need to showcase it by promoting the people, projects, diversity and career possibilities.”

During the conference, the dates for Refrigeration 2020 were confirmed. It will be held in Melbourne from March 23–24, and will be a special version of the event linked with AIRAH’s centenary celebrations.

“AIRAH is committed to providing this forum for the refrigeration industry,” says Gleeson, “and a platform from which all of our professionals can speak with a combined voice to achieve vital changes.”

AIRAH thanks major event sponsor Heatcraft and supporting sponsor A-Gas.