If you have ever worried that the coffee world might someday run out of its supply of Cafiza, fear no more.
Last year, Urnex underwent the largest single physical growth in company history by doubling the amount of space of its manufacturing, quality control and R&D facilities in Elmsford, New York, which has boosted our ability to produce the highest quality cleaning products for our customers.
The expansion process began in December 2017, when Urnex acquired an adjacent building with an additional 45,000 square feet of space. And throughout 2018, we assumed the role of a homeowner undertaking a huge home renovation project: moving into our new space, rearranging our departments, equipment and operators, and overseeing the massive construction effort occurring in our facility. All while continuing to manufacture and deliver our products to our customers without missing a beat.
Like with any significant renovation, the company endured a few literal growing pains during the expansion process. But we have emerged stronger than ever by improving the quality of our products, efficiency of our production processes, and safety of our employees, providing ample space for both short-term success and long-term growth of the company.
The expansion efforts progressed in distinct phases throughout 2018. After a long year of hard work, we are proud to share the improvements we have made to each aspect of our New York facilities.
Phase I: Blending & Compression
After acquiring the additional space, the first phase of construction was building brand-new blending and compression areas. Blending is the process of mixing of chemicals to create our powder products, and compression is the process of creating our tablet-based products.
These new processing areas take advantage of the larger space, and specifically, of having two floors. With the mezzanine level directly above the first floor, the operators and machinery can leverage gravity-feed systems to increase the efficiency of production.
In the old blending department, a chain conveyor was used to collect the powder chemicals with individual buckets, lifting the powder upwards, and dropping it into a tank, which could take up to 45 minutes with a 2,000-pound load. To unload the same amount with the new system, which allows operators to position the load of powder on top of the tank and simply untie the load, takes about 10 seconds.
The previous compression area used a similar method of transferring chemicals. It employed a vacuum conveyor that used suction to lift loads of powder, which would later be compressed into tablet products, above the tanks to be unloaded. This process now utilizes gravity as well, staging four totes on the mezzanine level containing the powder, and is easily and continuously unloaded into the tanks by simply opening a valve.
Urnex acquired two new tablet presses during the facility expansion process.
The new gravity-feed systems in the blending and compression area also limits the potential effects of air moisture. Especially during the hot summer months, humidity in these areas can cause the powder chemicals to become sticky and more difficult to lift upward. But storing the chemicals on the second floor enables operators to simply drop the loads of powder into the first-floor blending tanks.
There are also more effective safety precautions in place than before. Dust collecting and containment equipment was redesigned to target specific workplaces areas, which enables it to more efficiently filter the air from dust and other airborne particles. The dust collector was also strategically relocated within the space to operate more effectively. These adjustments improve the safety and air quality inside the facility for both our operators and equipment.
Another key safety measure taken was the installation of an H4 chemical storage room. This is a room dedicated for certain chemicals that can be environmentally sensitive, requiring temperature and other adjustments periodically. Outfitted with fire-rated walls, fire doors, epoxy flooring and chemical separations, this room helps us follow chemical storage regulations and improve the safety of our employees.
Our H4 chemical storage room maintains precise air conditions to stabilize certain chemicals.
The location of the H4 room also optimizes the entire chemical staging process. H4 is strategically located next to the blending and compression area, so operators can now organize the proper chemicals in four or five consecutive product batches, something that couldn’t be done without the additional space. This new ability to anticipate chemical batches has increased our efficiency by about 50 percent.
Phase II: Quality Control and R&D Lab
The additional space that the company took over allowed for a significant expansion of both the Quality Control and R&D laboratories. The new Quality Control lab was built so the team could have its own dedicated space to test products. The Quality Control team now has its own equipment with which to evaluate the products, including mixing instruments, deionized water filters and hot water heaters. Additionally, the location of the new lab reduces the physical travel distance for testing incoming materials.
A new lab for the Research & Development team was built as well, doubling the space and adding new equipment. Most significantly, a state-of-the-art stability chamber was purchased, allowing R&D to evaluate how products react in a wide array of extreme conditions, controlling the temperature, humidity level, timing, and other factors that affect the efficacy of our products. This new stability chamber allows for incredibly accurate testing of products, speeding up product development timelines and improving performance in the field.
Our new stability chamber allows our R&D team to test products in extreme conditions with high accuracy.
The new R&D lab is located in the former employee breakroom space, which provided the perfect opportunity to expand the breakroom as well. Employees can now enjoy their meals in a more comfortable setting, with additional space and a view looking out onto the production floor.
Investing in Our Facilities and Our People
The expansion of the Urnex facility has created enormous benefits across many aspects of the company. Most clearly, the additional space gave us room to breathe in creating, manufacturing and testing our products, and the ability to provide more products to our customers.
But through the facility expansion, we have invested in the people that make this company succeed. We invested in a physical space to create better and safer working conditions for our employees. And we invested in the tools and equipment to excel in their jobs and create better products.
The facility expansion took great effort from everyone at Urnex, from our operations team, to the finance department, to the employees on the factory floor. But that effort will allow the company to grow, provide a better experience for our employees, and to deliver more quality cleaning products to our customers and partners around the world.