If you have ever had to move houses, rooms, or even desks in your office you know how much of a pain it can be. Now imagine having to move and create an entirely new work place for the whole company. It’s no cakewalk for any type of company. But when you couple the usual relocation challenges with a focus on manufacturing a product that involves critical chemical reactions inside a small diameter, fragile glass coil, things can get interesting. These are the challenges that Phenomenex faced when we recently set out to expand our Zebron™ GC manufacturing capabilities in a new facility.
“Demand for our GC columns has been steadily growing in recent years,” explains Emmet Welch, senior manager of product development. “In addition to increasing our column output, we wanted to improve our manufacturing workflow and make operations more efficient.” Phenomenex is currently expanding sales internationally, particularly to China, as demand for GC columns grows in North America and Europe as well as in India and China, particularly in food testing applications. Production output at the new location will more than double, and the expanded facility enables direct shipping to customers and global partners to maximize delivery speeds and service satisfaction.
GC column manufacturing is tricky, and there are a lot of human factors involved. The glass coil capillaries are very delicate and the chemical reactions within the columns must be carefully set up. It’s a process with high labor requirements and it is not easy to automate. “Basically, you have to assemble the columns one by one,” says Welch. Yet the workflow efficiencies at the new facility have enabled us to increase our output by more than 40 percent without adding employees.
“Detailed and exhaustive planning went into creating an efficient production floor with an innovative design approach that maximizes the use of space while minimizing the movement of people and materials. We have also included a centralized process piping system that reduces the cost and movement of process gasses,” continued Welch. “With advanced, automated workflows, this new facility will be capable of supporting significant growth in Phenomenex GC manufacturing and new product development for many years.”
The new facility includes an organic synthesis lab, a product R&D, and testing lab. We are staffed with scientists and production experts with decades of leadership in every aspect of GC column technology and manufacturing. In fact, our current staff has an average of more than 25 years’ experience in column technology development.
The facility’s work environment for employees features a bright, colorful and open design, complete with inspiring, art-filled spaces and an outside athletic center. Phenomenex founder, Fasha Mahjoor, remarked, “Phenomenex is known for the vibrant colors and pleasing architectural spaces that are the hallmarks of our corporate headquarters. Our people are the reason for our success, and it’s our goal and responsibility to give them an environment that inspires teamwork and camaraderie and promotes their health and well-being.”
The 15,000-square-foot facility, which was planned by and built specifically for Phenomenex, is located in El Dorado Hills, the suburbs of Sacramento, California. Prior to the expansion, GC products were manufactured in Sutter Creek, Calif. The new location moves the facility about 30 miles further west and closer to UC Davis and Sacramento State University, which will better enable us to recruit interns and staff.
A behind-the-scenes requirement of changing manufacturing facilities is the complex testing of new equipment. We were able to accomplish all of this prior to the move so that it all transitioned over seamlessly. The move to the new facility was orchestrated to minimize manufacturing downtime, and the team accomplished that with flying colors, with only one-week of shutdown. The move was truly a family affair, with our entire staff helping to facilitate the shift and pitching in when needed. We have officially made El Dorado Hills our new GC home, and we can’t wait to make memories and columns.