For more than a century, Lodge Manufacturing has been making cast-iron cookware at its facility in South Pittsburg, Tenn. In the past, it took generations of cooking countless batches of fried chicken, catfish and crispy-crusted cornbread to leave a cast-iron skillet burnished to a treasured black patina. Today, Lodge produces a line of seasoned ready-to-use cast-iron cookware.

Workers coat the cookware's entire surface with a vegetable oil formula, baking it onto the utensil in ovens at more than 600oF (316oC), which causes the oil to penetrate into the cast-iron surface, creating the heirloom finish. However, if the hot skillets are packaged too soon, condensation causes them to rust.

Lodge's project engineer, Keith Nunley, while looking for a solution in the post-production stage, contacted several vendors. He received a recommendation for the Larkin product line from Heatcraft Refrigeration Products in Stone Montain, Ga.

In a collaboration of vendors, a new production line was designed for Lodge Manufacturing. The facility's horseshoe-shaped monorail now runs through a cooling system. Near the end of the monorail, just before packaging, the system's evaporator coils and fans blast cold air on the product. The hot skillets emerge from the four- to six-minute cooling cycle at a safe-to-handle 85oF (29oC).

The cooling system includes a Heatcraft/Larkin evaporator and condensing unit. To free up interior space, the condensing unit was placed on the building's exterior.

“The Larkin system has improved safety and productivity substantially,” Nunley said. “Before the system was installed, our product had to be picked off of the monorail at 140oF [60oC]. Now products are handled well within the safety factor at approximately 85oF.”