2023’s International Tour featured two destinations and tours of three companies which manufacture radiators and various other heat exchangers. 

The tour was split into two parts: Jordan and Dubai. The first part included Siyam Radiators in Jordan and touring of three historical sites (Wadi Rum, Petra, and the Dead Sea). The second part included tours of Dolphin Group’s radiator manufacturing and service operations in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Then, the group visited Serck Global, also in Dubai.

Ron and Donna Dowler of Southwest Radiator in Arkansas have attended every one of NARSA’s International Tours. “All of the International tours have been excellent! Visiting these three manufacturing plants and the hospitality of the three businesses was phenomenal,” said Donna Dowler. “ We learned about the manufacturing processes of each company, and we were able to experience new cultures.”

Not only was this his first International Tour, but this was the first time Marcos Manrique of Iglu Radiadores got to meet NARSA members face-to-face. “At our company, I usually do online research about radiators companies around the world to check what they are doing. Meeting the people responsible for doing the amazing jobs I saw on their social media, websites, and the NARSA magazine was absolutely thrilling!”

“All 3 host companies showed a knack for diversification–something that has served our members very well over the years,” said Aaron Morrow of Johnson Manufacturing. “This quite possibly was the best international tour yet. Having 3 member companies so excited to host us and share their facilities, practices, and culture was amazing. The networking and friendships formed over the week and a half of travel and touring was some of the strongest I’ve seen in my time with NARSA.”

“While all NIT events are unique and special in their own right, this NIT was among the best NARSA events that I have ever attended,” said Bobby Duran of Cooling Systems Caribe. “The clean and well thought out operation at Siyam was extremely impressive. The breadth of capabilities of Dolphin was truly amazing. And Serck showed how having a quality team with lots of tenure with the company allows you to produce a high quality product consistently.”

Siyam Radiator & Jordan

The first leg of the International Tour started on March 3 in Jordan. This group consisted of 23 individuals from 5 different countries.

“We believe the NARSA/IDEA members were able to see how our products exceed expectations,” said Walid Siyam of Siyam Radiators. “We have state-of-the art facilities, and we were proud to exhibit just how we deliver on our promise of providing the best quality cooling products in the industry. We not only showcased our machinery and capabilities, but also had the chance to show them some of the most sophisticated fully automatic machinery in building radiators as part of our OEM and aftermarket lines. This all builds bigger trust in us and our products.”

“Radiator people all over the world are awesome,” said Donna Dowler. “We traveled with a group from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, and Iceland. We caught up with NARSA members that we first met in Nashville 21 years ago. The host companies went above and beyond on being super hosts.”

On Friday evening, the group started by sharing a meal provided by Ibraham Siyam at his home in Amman. Representatives from the U.S. Embassy and the Jordanian Chamber of Commerce were also invited to join. As the United States values their relationship with Jordan, the representatives were present to reinforce the positive aspects of doing business with Jordan. 

On Saturday morning, the group toured the copper/brass and aluminum radiator manufacturing operations of Siyam Radiator. Siyam displayed flags of the countries who were present for the tour outside of their copper/brass facility.

“What stood out to me were the automation systems that Siyam Radiator had in place, which in turn theoretically drops the human error factor significantly in manufacturing their product,” said Adam Lindner of Radiator Supply House in Oregon. “I have attended 2 NITs including last year’s trip to Scotland. Although I enjoyed every bit of last year’s trip and learned a lot from the experience. This year’s trip to Jordan and Dubai was an experience that will be hard to beat! Not to mention all of the amazing sites and cuisine we experienced. It was by far a life-changing experience that will be talked about for a long, long time.”

This was also the first International Tour for Ryan Garrett of Radiator Supply House. “At the end of each day on the trip, I asked myself if this is worth it? And as each day went on, I felt better and better that this investment was well worth it. The relationships we built between those of us on the trip was great, plus seeing Siyam’s factory I hadn’t known much about and learning a few things from each factory that we could implement to make our process here more streamlined was also great. I was especially impressed with their painting methods and use of overhead cranes.”                           

Margrét Ingibergsdóttir of Grettir Vatnskassar in Iceland was very impressed by Siyam Radiator’s operations and equipment. “It was so great to get to meet so many people from other countries that you would probably not meet otherwise. Because of NARSA, we got the opportunity to see these factories up close, and we got to know other members of NARSA better.”

After touring the factories, the group ate lunch at a local Chamber of Commerce building. After lunch, NARSA/IDEA members boarded the bus and spent two days sightseeing. The group traveled to Wadi Rum where the accommodations for sleeping in the desert were yurts. Wadi Rum is close to the Jordanian and Saudi Arabia border, and the location was in the middle of the desert with a beautiful evening filled full of stars. 

“When we woke up in the morning, we were whisked away to a place where we could watch a beautiful sunrise and were shown beautiful views of the surrounding desert,” said Mark Taylor, NARSA/IDEA’s Executive Director.

After breakfast, the group left Wadi Rum and traveled to Petra. “Petra is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World and was an ancient city most famous for the treasury building,” said Taylor. “The treasury building appeared in Indiana Jones’ movie where Dr. Jones was trying to discover the Holy Grail, the chalice Christ drank from at the Last Supper. There is much more to Petra than just the treasury building, all of which the group was able to see!”

After touring Petra and having lunch, the group boarded the bus for the trip to the Dead Sea where they spent the night at the Movenpick hotel. 

“On the final morning in Jordan several of our group, who were very enthusiastic, ventured down to the shore of the Dead Sea to lather up with the therapeutic Dead Sea mud,” said Taylor. “With mud spread from head to toe the group was quite the sight!”

“Having the opportunity to host NARSA in the Siyam Radiator factories was an absolute honor,” said Walid Siyam of Siyam Radiators. “We were delighted to welcome the most prestigious members of this industry into our manufacturing plant and showcase what we have to offer to this cooling industry. Welcoming numerous companies allowed us to not only display how our products are made and meet the top-quality standards, but we were able to learn from our colleagues and hear their input. We thank NARSA for this invaluable opportunity and we look forward to a prosperous future.”

After checking out of the Dead Sea hotel, Ibraham Siyam and his son Walid hosted the group for lunch at the family’s farm. The entire group enjoyed a very traditional food dish for lunch and then departed for the Amman airport.

Dolphin Group & Dubai

By Monday, March 6, 12 more people joined the tour, growing the NARSA/IDEA group to include 35 people.

On Tuesday, March 7, the group visited the Dolphin Group’s headquarters in Ajman. They were split into three smaller groups and led on a tour of Dolphin’s radiator manufacturing facilities including the copper/ brass production, aluminum production, and copper tube coil production. After going through the main facility, the group was escorted to another building where the fin tube coolers are fabricated. “Dolphin’s capacity for being self-sufficient was evident as they have the equipment and expertise to manufacture almost all of their own components,” said Taylor. 

“It was great to see different businesses who traveled all the way to the UAE and took part in this tour,” said Riddhish Kapadia, Dolphin Heat Exchanger USA President. “Having different members and questions asked during the tour on our processes, methods, etc. was a learning experience even for our team in Ajman. The majority of the visitors were surprised to see how big and how much Dolphin manufactures when it comes to cooling systems. I think the different product lines, niche engineering packages that we can design, and manufacturing caught everyone by surprise.”

Thomas Hart of Don Hart’s Radiator in Texas said he was blown away by both Dolphin and Serck. “So, I originally went on this trip thinking I’m going to visit some cool manufacturing facilities and get a glimpse of how they operate,” said Hart. “Well, I vastly underestimated their capabilities. As a service shop and trying to grow our field service, I saw both companies have excelled in this area for their region. We’ve tackled some rather unique and what I thought were pretty big on-site jobs, but I see we’ve only scratched the surface and have something to aspire toward. It is very exciting to see a radiator shop handle these large-scale jobs and to try and join them on this level is a new obtainable goal.”

“I was unaware of all of the Dolphin’s diverse capabilities,” said Wayne Feeleus of West End Radiators in Canada. “Their mechanically bonded process was very interesting among others. Serck’s willingness to help and share time and cost saving information that I could take home and apply to our facilities is sincerely appreciated. This was my second NIT, and I learned a lot and met some great people at last year’s event, but this event in Dubai was hard to beat.”

Douglass Nelson and his daughter Kristi of JD Nelson Radiator in Canada joined the group on the Dubai portion of the tour. “Both operations were so sophisticated, and their tools were innovative,” said Nelson. “This was a great opportunity for me, because I got to see the making and repairing of Oil Coolers and Heat Exchangers and helped me to understand how to do my own repairs  on them.

After the tour, Dolphin’s team joined the group for lunch at a beautiful seaside hotel in Ajman. Later that evening, Dolphin arranged dinner for the NARSA/IDEA group at the Armani hotel, which is located in the Burj Khalifa tower, the tallest building in the world. 

“Our dinner was on a terrace several floors above the ground where we could view the spectacular water fountain show at the Dubai Mall Plaza,” said Taylor. “This evening was very special as we were joined by Mr. Nooruddin, his sons Moiz and Abdul Jetpalawa, along with members of Dolphin’s management team.”

The tours continued on Wednesday at Dolphin’s service facility. There, attendees saw the machine shop, radiator service department, and tube/ shell heat exchanger repair. The service facility is where Dolphin started some 37 years ago. From this facility, Mr. Nooruddin had a vision to build one of the largest radiator companies in the Middle East. Starting with a staff of just three people, the company has now grown to 1,600 employees who work in the various divisions of Dolphin. 

Late on Wednesday afternoon, the group was picked up in 8 4-wheel drive SUVs and taken to watch a spectacular sunset in the desert. After the sunset, they continued to the desert safari camp for camel rides, sand dune surfing, dinner, and a show.

Serck & Dubai

On March 9, the group visited Serck Global in Sharjah. After Jitesh Kapadia, Serck’s managing Director, gave an overview of their company in the UAE, members were split up into smaller groups. They got to see various operations which included copper coil manufacturing, tube and shell heat exchanger manufacturing, radiator/ heat exchanger repair services, and the copper/ brass radiator manufacturing.

“It was amazing how at the Serck production line I could see with my own eyes the exact kind of core with rounded expanded tube and louvered fins that we will start to produce later this year,” said Marcos Manrique of Iglu Radiadores. “It is a technology that we don’t have in Brazil yet, so I could see and talk with their production team and other members about it. Also, I could witness that this kind of core can be applied to another area that I was not considered before. I can say that was a milestone in my career. Being the only NARSA member from Brazil and bringing all this network and knowledge back to my country was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This was the first NARSA event I attended, and it exceeded my expectations in any possible way.”

“Even before we started with the factory tour there were well-founded questions that led to engaging conversations with each of the teams about how our products are made, processes involved in production, sharing of best practices and many other facets of the business,” said Kapadia. “There were new relationships forged and lasting relationships strengthened. We are sure the NARSA/IDEA teams found as much value in their visit to Serck’ Facility as we did in hosting them. Getting to know the members of NARSA/IDEA throughout the event was a particularly significant experience for us in understanding our circles better and expanding them. It was also great that they got to meet the people and experience behind the work they know.”

“Innovation and teamwork are both values that we recognize at West End Radiators,” said Jaye Jackson. “I really appreciated the innovation that I saw at Dolphin and Serck. Dolphin has a ‘Never say no’ attitude which I could really relate to. Serck has ‘OCC’ as part of their business philosophy. That stands for Our Contribution Counts, and they ask all employees to bring forward their ideas for improving the company. They then track those improvements. Although I have been in this industry a long time, I have never really had a chance to talk with and learn from other manufacturers. It was extremely rewarding for me to see how other manufacturers do things and how we compare to them. I believe that no matter how good you may feel your processes are, there is ALWAYS room for improvement!”

Chuck Braswell of Rocky Mount Radiator called this tour “eye-opening.” “Both Dolphin and Serck showcased confidence in the people that work for them, to participate in the implementation of new ideas and in-house development, which improve workflow, production, and safety,” said Braswell. “Dolphin absolutely showed the ability to produce everything they do in house, adding techniques as needed to produce the many different items they sell. Serck had a constant commitment to process improvements, which makes the workplace safer and streamline operations. This was a great opportunity to see quality manufacturing processes up close, to ask questions, and learn from those who are doing the work, not just those who are selling the product. It’s also a great reset for me, to examine my own business processes and practices, and to interact with other shop owners who share the same challenges and opportunities.”

“I was impressed with the variety of industries that both Dolphin and Serck serve outside of our traditional cooling industry,” said Hope Thompson of Northern Radiator. “To know they have the expertise to provide the heat exchangers for so many other industrial applications is great. We have some exceptional people working in our industry and when you get some time to spend with them talking about issues faced and ways to overcome them you realize that we are all in this together. It’s great to know there are others in the industry we can call on when a cooling problem stumps us. Someone else has likely seen it.”

“It was an honor for Serck to host and have 35 NARSA Members and fellow Industry professionals from five different countries tour our facilities here in the UAE,” said Billy Tyrrell, Operations Director for Serck Services Gulf Ltd. “Having the opportunity to share and showcase our three separate Serck Divisions capabilities, processes and staff’s technical abilities across our one location in Sharjah was very exciting and enjoyable for everyone involved in the NARSA visit to Serck. It was very rewarding for all of our staff to be able to answer the many questions that NARSA tour members had during the factory tour and be able to demonstrate and share their industry knowledge with others who are also as passionate about our industry as they are!”    

After a full week of factory tours and social events, the crew had a few hours of downtime before enjoying a great dinner at a local Indian restaurant on a private terrace with a view of Dubai. “Serck hosted NARSA Members at my own favorite Indian Restaurant – Asha’s in Dubai,” said Tyrell. “Dinner was a risk, given that some might not have ever experienced this cuisine before. However, from the happy faces I saw during this event, I believe it was very well received and enjoyed by all.” 

The final day of the tour was spent sightseeing in Dubai, compliments of Serck. “Hassan, our tour guide, was very knowledgeable about all things in the Middle East,” said Taylor. “He was exceptional with our group and had a great sense of humor. After the Blue Mosque, we were driven to the Burj Al Arab hotel, which is supposed to be the most expensive hotel in the world. It is the building where Tiger Woods hit a golf ball off of the helipad.”

From there, the group went to the Palm. The Palm are the man-made islands that were created to look like a palm tree in the sea. “Some of our group had never been in an ocean or sea so they removed their shoes and socks and waded into the Persian Gulf (Arabian sea),” said Taylor. “From the Palm we went to the old town of Dubai where the souk market is located. Everyone was given ample time to explore the spice, gold and silk markets. Our tour guide Hassan explained to everyone what they should expect to pay for certain items and stressed that haggling over price was a part of Arabic culture.” 

After a lively shopping experience, members boarded water taxis and crossed the Dubai creek in order to get to their lunch destination. “On the way down the creek, the tour guide Hassan gave the boat operator a few extra Dirhams to outrun the other group’s boat. After all that, the association’s Executive Director was the first to arrive at the destination!”

Lunch was provided at a restaurant that was similar to an adobe structure you might find in the American southwest, but this was in Dubai. The building reminded members of a scene in the old Humphrey Bogart movie Casablanca. The cuisine was very traditional Arabic food and was a nice finale to the worldwide tour. With the late afternoon remaining, some of the crew took advantage of the time to tour the tallest building in the world, others relaxed, and some spent the time shopping in one of the world’s largest malls. For many of the attendees, connecting with other industry professionals was one of the highlights of the trip. 

“While this was my first taste of an International Tour, I can say it will not be my last,” said Thomas Hart. “I find it absolutely amazing for an organization such as ours to have the ability to offer this to its members. Add the benefit of building relationships with fellow members attending and the host facilities, there’s very little to equal the opportunity granted for attending. Spending time on the way to and from locations, sharing stories or current day to day activities back at home, brings an unsolicited brainstorming session along with problem solving, since someone has probably been in those tough positions before. These conversations are so hard to get going while in the daily grind, trying to make a quick call to someone, but so constructive in the atmosphere among peers. Even while walking through the facilities, we all saw something different and could openly discuss what we saw and were able to take away from the visit. Having these discussions throughout the week is what really made the trip special for me.”

“This was a once in a lifetime trip,” said Mark Arbeau of Hunter Radiators in Canada. “Besides the tours of the plants, the site seeing trips that all 3 companies arranged were fantastic. It was great to see all the members and spend time with so many that friendships were formed.”

“Whether you are a manufacturer, radiator shop or distributor, each of us face similar challenges in the industry,” said Tracy Payne of Northern Radiator. “Getting the opportunity to visit with people and learn more about the history of their companies was great. As industry leaders we strive to gain knowledge in the industries we serve, so we can better service our customers. Service is not just about providing a product. Developing friendships with fellow members and understanding the needs of our customers is equally important.”

“NARSA/IDEA cannot express the amount of gratitude we have for the companies who hosted us,” said Executive Director Mark Taylor. “A huge thank you to Siyam Radiators, Dolphin Group and Serck Global for extending an overwhelming amount of hospitality. We are forever grateful to you and for your participation in the 2023 NARSA International Tour.”

This article was previously published in the March/April 2023 issue of The Cooling Journal.