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Monday, Jan 30, 2023
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Father, Son Say They Have Responsibility to Stay

The name Utility may not ring a bell but the red diamond-shaped logo is familiar to anyone who has ever seen the large, industrial refrigerators and freezers in that can be found in schools, restaurants, grocery stores and other such settings. For more than 70 years the company has manufactured its products in the United States and continues to do so at its San Fernando Valley facility which has been under the ownership of a father and son for the past six years. The homepage of the company’s website displays a graphic of the stars and stripes and the tagline “Proudly Made in the USA.” The same flag logo and slogan can be found in every catalogue and brochure Utility releases. “My father and I believe we have the responsibility to this country and to make our products here,” Michael Michrowski said. “If we don’t do it nobody else will do it.” Utility Refrigerator is a small operation with 20 employees working out of a single-story brick building in Pacoima. The Michrowskis moved to the east Valley from Chatsworth in late 2006 when they needed room to expand. They considered Oxnard and Valencia until choosing Pacoima because it is inside an enterprise zone offering tax and fee incentives. Unlike larger manufacturers of fridges, freezers and hot-food cabinets, Utility produces its units in low volume. Those other companies look at a refrigerator as a commodity to sell to a buyer and are not particular about what the product does, Michrowski said, adding that Utility, on the other hand, sells with the customer in mind and considers the specific use of the refrigerator or freezer,. Ninety-five percent of the parts in a Utility unit are made in Pacoima, with the only some parts, like compressors, coming from outside vendors. But even those parts need to be made in the U.S. Designing, making and assembling the parts in-house gives control over the quality of the equipment sold under the Utility brand and is a cost-effective way to be flexible with customized orders. It also cuts lead and delivery times. As the units do use common components outsourcing, Michrowski could outsource portions of the manufacturing and has been approached many times about doing just that. Before the move to Pacoima, Utility used an outside metal fabricator but then in-sourced that function when space allowed. There is a protection issue as well in the decision to manufacture in one place. Michrowski doesn’t want to send major parts outside the state let alone outside the country. As the company innovates to add the latest technology to its units, that protection becomes more important. For instance, at a trade show in February, Utility introduced a refrigerator that records the interior temperature and keeps that information for a year.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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