IEA cashes in on the cloud

Kenosha-based IEA Inc. has taken advantage of the cloud computing trend to create a new product division. In 2009, near the end of the Great Recession, IEA established its Silver Linings division to make cloud server enclosures, which are used in data centers to cool down computer products.

The 250-employee company, which has a second facility in Menomonee Falls, began by fabricating radiators to cool the large diesel engines that power generators used for backup power at hospitals, universities and data centers.

In many cases, those engines are in enclosures, so the company has a history of engineering cooling solutions for heat loads inside steel boxes, said Jim Kettinger, president and chief executive officer.

Since computers also are enclosed in metal boxes, it made sense to get into cloud server cooling, he said.

“In the middle of the recession we were interested in actively pursuing a whole new industry and really investing in the next wave of the future of IEA, and that was to start Silver Linings,” Kettinger said.

Silver Linings cloud server enclosures offer an inexpensive cooling solution for data facilities, which generate a lot of heat.

“The data center industry just can’t really keep up with the demand for their growth,” Kettinger said. “The cloud is one of the reasons why the industry is growing so rapidly.”

IEA hopes to provide a solution and share in that growth as more and more data centers are built.

The radiator fabrication division is now called ArcRon and has 50 production employees at the 45,000-square-foot Menomonee Falls location. Employees there bend, cut and weld heavy gauge sheet steel for the products.

IEA expanded to its 175,000-square-foot Kenosha facility in 2007. Engineering, assembly and final shipping are completed there.

While IEA had to make significant layoffs during the recession, the leaner staff helped the company improve its efficiencies and has increased output now that lost positions have been added back, Kettinger said.

“Our output with 250 people is dramatically better than it was when we had 240 (before the recession),” he said. “We’ve had growing customer demand, and while it dropped off during the recession, we still managed to get through it.”

There are enough orders to keep the company busy through at least first quarter 2012, and Kettinger expects Silver Linings to see growing success. He said the company plans to hire more employees soon.

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