If presented with the task of identifying the most appropriate setting in which to base a history of innovation and entrepreneurship in the United States in the 20th century, it would be hard to make a better choice than the garage. As legend has it, such well-known visionaries as the Wright Brothers, Walt Disney, William Hewlett and David Packard, and Jeff Bezos (all of whom were glorified in a recent Cadillac commercial) began developing and nurturing their seminal ideas in a humble garage.
If a chemical-industry version of that commercial were being produced, an obvious choice for one of the garages to highlight would be found in suburban Chicago, IL, USA. For it was in his garage in 1971 that Edward Polen, a former pharmaceutical and chemical salesman, realized his dream and incorporated the E-M Co. as its one-man President and CEO and began filling orders for blended and packaged chemicals.
However, E-M Co.—which Polen renamed EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc., in 1985—rapidly outgrew that garage. Since relocating to a nearby warehousing facility Polen’s dream in the ensuing four decades has grown to become one of the top 10 largest privately owned distributors, blenders and custom packagers of industrial chemicals, specialty chemicals and fine ingredients in the United States, and the 44th largest in the world, with more than $300 million in annual sales.
After those four decades of continuous growth, EMCO finally ran out of expansion room at its North Chicago location. So, in 2010, plans were unveiled to create a new corporate headquarters and distribution facility at an old resin and ink factory in Pleasant Prairie, WI, located just across the Illinois-Wisconsin border near the city of Kenosha.
EMCO’s expansion plans were fully realized on Aug. 6, 2013, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, was held at the new site.
Putting The Team Together
The new facility is not only a tribute to Polen’s vision, but also to the ambition and abilities of B.J. Korman, Stuart Levy and Mark Serdar, who are, respectively, EMCO’s Vice President of Engineering; Vice President, Maintenance; and Facilities Maintenance Manager. That trio was tasked with designing and engineering the layout of the new facility. They benefited from the fact that the building was vacant, which presented them with a blank canvas on which to locate the various warehousing, blending, packaging, liquid-storage, test-lab and operations areas.
“When we were finished, we moved our entire industrial-chemical division to Pleasant Prairie,” said Korman. “At heart, we’re a just-in-time distributor. We make a blend, make a tote and get it out to the customer the next day. We can create bulk quantities of chemicals from 11,000 gallons, on down to five-gallon containers.”
The complexity of the project, specifically identifying the types of pumps that would be needed to ensure that the plant would operate at its most efficient and cost-effective best, forced Korman, Levy and Serdar to expand their team. They did not hesitate to include Joe Cervantes, Pump Sales Engineer for Brookfield, WI-based Anderson Pump & Process, EMCO’s long-time pump supplier.
“When EMCO wanted to expand, they knew us and came to me to ask my thoughts on what pumping technologies to use,” said Cervantes. “In addition to the main storage and packaging areas, they were planning on adding a couple of unique operations that were better suited to diaphragm-pump technologies. They had been using some old air-diaphragm technologies in the North Chicago plant, but we knew there were some newer diaphragm-pump technologies available that could aid in the efficiency of their operations.”
A Perfect “FIT”
The design team’s unique ideas for the plant included a “warm room,” where raw liquids that require a higher ambient temperature would be stored in 17 tanks, and a “clean room,” where EMCO can blend and package food-and pharmaceutical-grade products. For these areas, Cervantes recommended various models of Air-Operated Double-Diaphragm (AODD) Pumps from Wilden®, Grand Terrace, CA, USA. Since 2008, Wilden has been a member of the Dover Corporation’s Pump Solutions Group (PSG®), Oakbrook Terrace, IL, USA.
The warm room features 17 storage tanks that contain a “menagerie” of different chemicals, from hazardous to viscous, the loading and unloading of which are accomplished with Wilden Advanced™ Series FIT AODD Pumps. After originally choosing clamped AODD pumps for the operation, Serdar, who personally designed the layout and installed the equipment in the warm room, determined that a higher level of product containment was needed so he upgraded to 2-inch bolted stainless- steel PS800 Advanced Series FIT models, which have been designed by Wilden to “drop in” to existing AODD-pump piping configurations. The Advanced AODD pumps also improved the warm room’s operational efficiency and cost-effectiveness because they feature Wilden’s innovative new Pro-Flo® SHIFT Air Distribution System (ADS), which can deliver as much as 60% savings in air consumption when compared to competitive brands.
In addition, the Advanced FIT pumps offer higher flow rates and pumping efficiency, which will further enhance the air-consumption performance of the Pro-Flo SHIFT, or any ADS the pump may be outfitted with. Finally, the optimized wetted path of the FIT pumps reduce fluid pressure drop during the pumping process, giving the pump the ability to produce higher flow rates in relation to energy consumption.
“We wanted better product containment and the Advanced Series Pro-Flo SHIFT pump has been a fool-proof pump that has given us great performance with no worries,” said Serdar. “We chose these Wilden SHIFT pumps because we wanted an economical fit for this application and they were the most cost-effective because of the energy savings.”
EMCO’s decision to construct a clean room at the new facility was a type of “pre-emptive strike” that will better position the company as a hygienic manufacturer when expected modifications to U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations go into effect in 2015. EMCO is using two Wilden Hygienic™ Series (HS) AODD models in the clean room.
“We decided to build the clean room to ISO-certification standards, and not many manufacturers even have a true clean room right now,” said Korman. “When the new rules arrive we will be positioned where no one else will have what we have, and the Wilden pumps meet our needs wonderfully.”
The new EMCO plant in Pleasant Prairie is the result of equal parts vision, ambition, talent and teamwork, as all of the parts came together to create a truly first-class facility. The glue that holds it together is the relationships that have been formed by the EMCO design team, Anderson Pump & Process and Wilden. Their ability to work together and meet each other’s needs has resulted in a facility that sets a new standard in chemical packaging and blending in the United States.
“The moral of the story is that if you team up with the right people and design systems per the requirements, you’re going to get a great result,” said Korman. “The reason we went with Wilden was our partnership with Anderson, and it was a collaborative effort to help in the design of the piping and instrumentation of the pumping systems. Another reason for choosing Wilden was the way they have handled and stood behind their products. That has made them a partner forever.”
About the Author:
Jack Pitts is a Regional Manager – Great Lakes for Wilden® and Pump Solutions Group (PSG®). He can be reached at Jack.Pitts@psgdover.com. Based in Grand Terrace, CA, USA, Wilden Pump & Engineering, LLC, is the global leader in air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps. For more information on Wilden AODD pumps, please go to www.wildenpump.com. Wilden is a member of Dover Corporation’s Pump Solutions Group (PSG®), Oakbrook Terrace, IL, USA. PSG is comprised of several leading pump brands, including Abaque®, Almatec®, Blackmer®, Ebsray®, Finder, Griswold™, Maag, Mouvex®, Neptune™, Quattroflow™ and Wilden®. You can find more information on PSG at www.psgdover.com.