Ask application engineer Tim Cass about his career at L&M Radiator and he will tell you about the people first culture, the company parties and the names of his coworkers who are family to him. Cass has the shop floor outlined by memory and knows the history of how radiator production has changed since he first stepped into L&M Radiators’ Hibbing facility in July of 1981.
This July, Cass will retire after working 41 years with L&M Radiator. And, while that number might seem like a record, Cass’ career with L&M has also led him to set foot on six of the seven continents, (although he admits he has no desire to go to Antarctica).
“Let’s just say I know airports very well,” Cass joked. “The longest work trip I took for L&M was a sales engineer job in the early 90s to South Africa. I was 36 at the time and I was gone for 333 days.”
Cass added that his career at L&M has brought him to places throughout the world that he never thought he would get to see.
“South Africa was probably the neatest place I have traveled to because I was there for so long and I got to see so much of it,” Cass said. “I saw diamond mines, gold mines, iron mines and copper mines. Security at the diamond mines was strict. You pretty much could only bring a pen in with you — not even a camera or anything you could potentially smuggle diamonds out in. On the way out, they would X-Ray me sometimes or search my clothes.”
As an applications engineer, Cass visited plants and mines around the world to consult with L&M customers and watch Mesabi radiators on heavy equipment perform work on site.
Cass traveled to countless mines and even toured underground mines in South Africa, Australia, Canada, Poland, Sweden and the U.S.
“The deepest I’ve traveled within a mine is nearly 4,000 feet down at the Mount Isa Mine in Australia,” Cass said. “Our products don’t go much deeper than that because they sit on diesel powered equipment and ventilation becomes a concern.”
L&M and the Iron Range are Home to Cass
Traveling to mines around the world wasn’t intimidating to Cass. In fact, the experience made the Taconite, Minnesota, native feel right at home.
“I graduated from the University of North Dakota in 1981 and moved to Detroit for my first job with General Motors,” Cass said. “I got to a point where I wanted to get out of the city and the large corporate feel wasn’t for me. Believe it or not, I saw an ad that L&M Radiator was hiring in the Detroit Free Press, and I gave them a call to interview.”
Cass reflects on how the family-owned company was significantly smaller in the 1980s than it is today.
“At that time, our L&M plants only had one shift, but it was exactly what I was looking for,” Cass said. “Each employee was treated like a person, not just a number under a manager with a budget.”
Oil and Gas Industries Evolve and Cass watches F Tubes become S-Fins
Over the years, L&M Radiator has become known for its legendary innovation in designing and manufacturing radiators and heat exchangers to fit specific client needs in a variety of industries – mining, oil and gas, waste management, and more.
“We have come a long way. When I started, we had the old F Tube, and then came the H Tube,” Cass said. “Now look at us, 20 years later we came up with the M tube and the V tube. The number of designs and customizability of products has increased a lot. With the aluminum S-fin and AAM tubes now, L&M continues to be a standout in innovation — there’s a whole smorgasbord of products.”
For Cass, the greatest change in the workplace has been the introduction and popularity of the computer and 3D modeling.
“When I started with L&M, we did a lot of calculations by hand with pencils and rulers,” Cass said. “Now it’s all 3D. I remember the first CAD System design I saw in Finland. I was shocked. This technology allows us to do so much.”
Catering to Clients All Over the World
After years of engineering and selling heat exchangers and radiators, Cass leaves L&M confident the company is a well-adjusted leader in the market, poised for expansion and ready to tackle new industry challenges. As for his role in it all, Cass leaves behind a legacy at L&M for which he is proud.
“When it comes to Komatsu Peoria (formerly Wabco), I designed the cooling systems for all of those 50-ton-and-up Peoria built trucks, although Peoria no longer makes the mechanical drive trucks, only the large electric drive now,” Cass said. “Chris Domogalla supports Komatsu Peoria, Brian Pierzina and Kenta Noma support Komatsu Japan. The WA1200 is still in production in Japan, the cooling system I designed in the late 90s and it’s still used around the world.”
L&M’s industry expansion into charge-air coolers and high-pressure oil cooler products reminds Cass of how the industry has continued to evolve since he was a point person for the Sandvik underground equipment when the company was first switching to water-cooled systems and engines in the late 80s.
“L&M continues to improve cooling and cost efficiency for its customers,” Cass said. “Looking to the future the engineering load is certain to increase with more complicated battery-powered vehicles and hydrogen fuel cell-powered equipment. I know the R&D and applications teams are up to the task.”
Cass’ Industry Insight
“The best insight I can give to someone in a customer-facing role at L&M is you have to do your research and get to know your customer. And be intentional about it,” Cass said. “Keep good records and up-to-date files on your contacts and I try to never appear to be in a hurry to leave a meeting – you need to give the customer all the time they need.”
“Face-to-face meetings are the best,” Cass added. “Take your time with customers and be eager to learn more about all the moving parts in this industry – not just the cooling system. The more you learn about how the equipment is built and used, the more effective you will be.”
Reflecting on his time at L&M: Cass’ career brings him joy
“People hear 41 years, and they roll their eyes and go, I could never stay in one place for that long,” Cass said. “If your horizons are steadily expanding, why leave? I love working with big equipment, the big trucks, shovels, loaders, and systems. Running a successful cooling test on a system that you have designed from the start is really rewarding. Over the years I have done 171 cooling tests, mostly on mobile equipment, trucks, shovels and loaders.
“I guess I’ve always liked mining, growing up on the Iron Range,” added Cass. “When I was a kid, I would wake up to the sounds of the air starters in the mine starting the trucks at the shop for the day shift. In my career, I have been lucky to have seen mines all over the world and all the different equipment and methods they use. Turns out the international mining community isn’t that big and it allows you to develop great partnerships and friendships.”
With more than 1,700 travel days logged overseas and another 1,000 days spent traveling the United States, Cass will miss the customers and coworkers whom he now views as friends.
“I guess I have a lot of friends everywhere,” Cass said. “People I’ve worked with for years; many are retiring but we keep in touch and my coworkers in Hibbing – they are my family.”
Cass said he will spend retirement with Lynda, his wife of 23-years. He looks forward to shooting, hunting, fishing and maybe taking a break on traveling for a while to enjoy time in Northern Minnesota.
True to his engineering background, Cass is already finding new projects to tackle.
“I like to work on guns and I’m trying to make my reloading more accurate so I can get the smallest possible groups out of individual gun with different loads,” Cass said. “I have all the tools necessary for accurate load development, but when I retire, I’ll have the time to get serious about it.”
An L&M Secret: Alex Chisholm’s Birthday and Being “Fired” Twice
Cass spent a lot of his time traveling with Alex Chisholm on sales trips in Europe and South Africa.
“I guess I can talk about this now that I’m retiring,” Cass joked. “I was ‘fired’ twice by Alex Chisholm during my time with L&M because I accidentally disclosed his birthday to everyone in the office and I didn’t know it was a secret.”
Cass laughed and added, “I will always remember I said ‘Hey, Happy Birthday, Alex!’ and he turned around and muttered, ‘You’re fired’ and walked back to his office.
Years later, L&M Radiator brought in a cake to celebrate Chisholm’s 80th birthday.
“Even though I had nothing to do with it, he told me I was ‘still fired’,” Cass said. “It’s a good thing I kept showing up to work!”