Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fred M. Jones

Unlike another Fred of transportation fame, Fred Jones wasn't born into an easy or comfortable life. His mother died when he was a child; his father dropped him off with a Cincinnati priest not long thereafter. Before he became a teenager, Jones ran away from the Church and began a life of learning-by-doing, seemingly using every odd job he held to master a new skill and solve problems. His most notable achievement, refrigeration units for trucks and trailers, led to dramatic changes in the way we shop, eat, and trade.

Jones got his start, fittingly, in a garage. Hired to clean the shop, he paid attention to the mechanics and became adept at rebuilding and enhancing autos himself. In his early life he would invent a snowmobile, a mobile x-ray machine, and an automated ticket dispenser. He mustered over 60 patents in his lifetime, but the majority of them had to do with refrigeration for transportation. With a business partner he co-founded Thermo King to market his invention. To this day the company is a major name in refrigerated vans and trucks.

In Jones' time refrigeration wasn't new and neither was the desire for refrigerated shipping. Refrigerator units had been placed in trucks and trailers before to no avail; vibration and inefficiency did them in. Legend has it that Jones' partner, Joe Numero, put him up to this task after a golf match in which refrigerated trucking was mentioned as desirable by one friend (in the trucking business) and unfeasible by another (in the refrigeration business). Numero had recalled an earlier discussion where Jones had mentioned his desire to invent air conditioning for cars. What Jones and Numero accomplished highlights the fact that successful entrepreneurism isn't the product of good ideas alone. It comes from an alignment of those ideas with tangible needs and many intangibles, including luck.

Fred Jones Wiki
Background on Refrigeration
Background on Thermo King Bio
Patent 2,303,847 - "Air Conditioner for Vehicles"
Iconic "Reefer"

No comments: