Many of the world’s greatest innovations have started with one thing: the desperate need to solve a problem.
A persistent refusal to accept the inferior limits of unreliable equipment and costly downtime is exactly what has driven L&M Radiator for 65 years in developing the toughest, most reliable, easy to maintain heat exchangers, radiators and coolers in the world.
If you haven’t heard of L&M Radiator, based in Hibbing, Minnesota, Dan Chisholm, the company’s president, wouldn’t be surprised. But within the mining, oil and gas, waste management and a handful of other industries, L&M Radiator’s Mesabi® heat exchangers are legendary for outlasting multiple engines that power some of the largest heavy-duty hauling trucks, bulldozers, and other industrial equipment on the planet. From underground mines to the highest mines in the world, from mines operating in subzero temperatures above the Arctic Circle to some of the hottest, most humid places on Earth, Mesabi® heat exchangers have gained the reputation as critical equipment worth its weight in gold.
The introduction of L&M Radiator’s ground-breaking Mesabi® heat exchangers in 1957 ignited a new age of reliability, customization and previously unheard-of savings in time and money for mining, oil and gas operations. From day one L&M Radiator has sought to deliver the highest levels of performance and cement its role as the industry standard for heat exchangers. If it’s not a Mesabi® heat exchanger, everything else is second best, by a long shot.
Making the world’s best heat exchangers is at the heart of L&M Radiator, which is guided by
the Mesabi® Difference. It’s this same mission statement that is guiding L&M Radiator as it looks toward its next 65 years. Because the fact is there’s nothing static about mining, oil and gas industries, or other industries served by L&M Radiator. As the world transitions to new technologies such as renewable energy, electric vehicles, the Internet of Things, hydrogen power, utility scale batteries, etc. – the need will be greater than ever to develop new cooling solutions for heavy-duty equipment such as automated mining trucks and engines powered by hydrogen fuel cell or batteries.
The celebration of L&M Radiator’s 65th anniversary offers Chisholm an opportunity to reflect on the decisions that have solidified L&M Radiator’s role as an integral driving force of the mining, oil and gas industries for 65 years, and what problems are going to inspire new advancements in the years ahead.
Q: 65 years is an exciting milestone. Why is this a great time to celebrate L&M Radiator?
Chisholm: First and foremost, we have been here for 65 years because of the people that work here. Our team is passionate about L&M Radiator’s success and has the drive to go out there and make that happen. But we’re only as good as the people that we work with. I truly believe that.
Secondly, we know who we are and we don’t try to be something else. Anything that we’ve done, we’ve stuck with our core competencies. It’s never been our philosophy to build another widget, just to have another widget out there. If we are going to sell something, we need to assess: What is the advantage of this product? How will it fill a need that is not being met? That mentality has sustained us for 65 years. We will absolutely continue with that mindset, and I can’t wait to see us continue to grow from here.
Q: How has L&M Radiator grown in recent years?
Chisholm: We have begun to diversify into other markets outside of the mining and the oil and gas industries. We’ve seen the need for Mesabi® heat exchangers for other industries such as waste management, public transportation, stationary generator sets, feed lots, processing plant gear boxes and more. Because at our core we are problem solvers.
If somebody is having a problem with a cooling system, we approach that as an opportunity for us to show them the capabilities and value of our product. We are at our best when we can help people who are having problems – whether their radiator is not cooling, it’s not staying clean, or it’s not staying together – that’s where we can leverage our product to make someone’s life easier.
Q: Mesabi® heat exchangers are on some of the biggest equipment on the planet, such as ginormous mining haul trucks. How do you see that equipment evolving in the coming years? And how do you see the mining industry changing as a whole?
Chisholm: I believe mining will become a means to achieve the goal of green energy. The need for materials is not going to go away overnight and right now, the demand far outweighs the current capacity. There are not enough established mines to produce the minerals that are needed to meet the goals of green energy.
How we go about mining underground will absolutely change with the rise of autonomous, electric, remote vehicles. I could very easily see within the near future that underground mines will be entirely operated above ground from a central control center. This would mean that there would be no people physically in an underground mine. It could be much safer and a way to reduce emissions due to exhaust, while still achieving the goal of recovering minerals that are necessary for new technology, such as battery-powered electric vehicles. Regardless, we will still need to excavate all these minerals – copper and nickel and lithium – out of the ground so that we can make green energy and build utility-scale batteries to store energy generated by solar and wind power. Everything builds from each other, and it is all cyclical.
Q: How do you envision the future of L&M Radiator?
Chisholm: The big change for us now as we celebrate our 65th year is focusing on green energy. When some people think of green energy, they assume that people will not need radiators anymore. That’s not true. Fuel cells and electrical-powered engines are affected by heat. So you need to get rid of heat so these green power trains can operate more efficiently. That’s where L&M Radiator comes into the picture. So how do we fit in that niche? We know how to build a product that will last in that environment.
How mining operations go about retrieving ore is going to change, but mining roads are not going to get smoother and the conditions are not going to become less severe. The advantage that L&M Radiator has in those markets is that we know the mining industry and the ruggedness you need to survive in that application. We bring that expertise to this new form of powering mining equipment. There’s still going to be that need and that gives us every reason to expect to have a seat at that conversation. That’s where we thrive and why I want us to be a leader in that industry.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned throughout your 30 years with L&M Radiator?
Chisholm: My father, Alex Chisholm, the former president of L&M Radiator, was a great sounding board and a mentor. His philosophy was always, “Do something.” He believed even if your decision or action didn’t work out, you learned from it. He also said: “You can’t be afraid to make mistakes.” He realized that trying something new or different will always be necessary to move the company forward.
That mindset has translated to our whole team. I don’t want anybody on my team to be afraid to do something because it might be wrong. When you are truly trying to pave the way for an industry and make something that has never been done before, people are going to make mistakes. It’s only natural. As a team, we are going to support each other 100%, but then we are going to learn from it and move on. I’m so fortunate that we have such a great team. They are the most unselfish group of people that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. We have so much talent and drive to push forward, and I can’t wait to see where that will take us next.
Celebrating 65 Years of the Mesabi® Difference
Since 1957, L&M Radiator has pushed the mining, oil and gas industries to new heights. Learn more about the Mesabi® Difference, here.