Purolator, a respected brand name since 1923, has produced high-quality HVAC products for more than 40 years. During the last decades of the 20th century, the firm experienced a series of affiliations as it grew in stature until, in 1999, it was acquired by CLARCOR Inc. of Rockford, Ill., in a $136 million transaction with Mark IV Industries that also included Facet International and Purolator-Facet Filter Products Inc. Mark IV had sold its Purolator Products Automotive filter business, another entity, to Arvin Industries earlier in 1999.CLARCOR Inc. manufactures filtration products for the engine, industrial and environmental markets, and packaging products for domestic and international customers. Founded in 1904, CLARCOR embodies nine operating companies with annual sales of $625 million.
Serving more than 1,500 customers from its corporate headquarters in Henderson, N.C., Purolator Air Filtration, with more than 700 employees, has manufacturing plants in Henderson and Kenly, N.C., Davenport, Iowa, and Sacramento, Calif. Warehouses, service centers and sales offices in Virginia, New Jersey, California, Washington and Nevada bring the firm’s production and storage space to more than 700,000 square feet.
The company’s strategy is based upon a division of the filtration market into three segments: retail, wholesale and commercial, and industrial distribution. Each business segment has its own sales manager and geographically dispersed regional sales managers to assist all customer groups in providing a full line of basic, medium- and high-efficiency HVAC products. In addition, Purolator obtains a portion of its annual sales directly from sources such as federal and state government agencies, original-equipment manufacturers and select national accounts.
The company’s association with groups such as the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Institute of Environmental Sciences (IES) has kept Purolator’s sales and service personnel well acquainted with industry and government guidelines and standards. As a member of the National Air Filtration Association (NAFA), Purolator has technicians who meet the rigorous requirements of the association’s air filtration specialist certification. The firm also adheres to NAFA’s code of ethics, which calls for a high level of ethical behavior and professional performance. The code is voluntary but serves as a basis for disciplinary action when the conduct of a member firm falls below the required standards.
The Good Gets Better
In 1997 Purolator hired consultant Tompkins Associates Inc. to help improve cost efficiency, service levels and inventory control at its Henderson distribution facility, in order to solidify its already competitive market position and to alleviate problems with large swings in demand. The 12-month upgrading program changed the way the company inventories and handles its products by introducing customized software, high-bay storage and modern forward pick lines. It also brought in new equipment including squeeze trucks, automated order pickers, radio communication apparatus and bar-code scanners. “To help link the plant floor automation with the enterprise-business systems, Purolator uses an AS400 computer system,” says Pete Richardson, vice president of information technology. “This system is supported by a frame relay network, which synchronizes all of the manufacturing facilities within the company.”
“The modernization of the distribution facility lets us handle customer orders in an even more efficient manner,” says Purolator President Alan Spicer. “That means we can be even more responsive to our customers’ needs.”
Tom Justice, Purolator’s vice president of operations, credits the upgrade with cutting an already low number of shipping errors by 67 percent and decreasing order-filling time by 31 percent. In addition, he says, the superior organization provided by the installation of a real-time warehouse control system has reduced labor costs and prevents duplication of orders. In the last couple of years, Purolator has completed a similar modernization project at its distribution centers in Kenly, N.C., Sacramento, Calif., Davenport, Iowa, and Metuchen, N.J., to improve storage, retrieval, packing, shipping and tracking operations by making them less space- and labor-intensive.
Clearing the Air
“Today’s indoor-air-quality (IAQ) issues are bringing more awareness to the consumer, and they are looking to upgrade their filtration requirements,” says John Hanna, vice president of marketing, customer service and retail sales. “We are finding that more and more of our customers are looking for medium- and high-efficiency filters. They are learning that the pleated filters are available, and trap more airborne contaminants. We are also finding that the consumer, as well as the contractor, is fast becoming educated on the importance of changing their HVAC filters at the recommended intervals. In fact, more consumers are purchasing a multiple pack of filters when available, or purchasing two or three filters at a time where they picked up one on their last purchase.”
In response to this market demand, Purolator has developed a new line of air filter media, which it calls “Defiant.” The material is the product of a unique patented, non-woven process that controls pore structure with electrostatic-enhancement technology and continuous fiber structure for an overall increase in efficiency.
According to Purolator’s specifications, Defiant consists of continuous fibers, which will not shed, and hydrophobic fibers, which will not absorb moisture. It is thermally bonded, eliminating the need for chemical-containing binders, which can break down to produce by-products that may promote microbial growth or generate volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Besides providing increased initial efficiency, Defiant products produce a lower initial pressure drop and have greater dust-retention capacity than most other types of filters on the market.
Additionally, Purolator describes the new media as possessing a dual-stage, electrostatic enhancement and continuous fiber structure that permits filters to capture an increased amount of smaller particulates and also surpass the performance of conventional media by improving particle size efficiency.
Citing an important practical advantage, Purolator literature states, “There is a known health risk with respirable particles under 2.5 microns. Defiant is effective in capturing these particles in 65, 85 and 95 percent efficiency products, thereby reducing associated health risks.”
As it enters the 21st century, Purolator continues to lead the way in air filtration technology. Purolator strives daily to meet the continuing demands of the filtration industry and to stay ahead of the competition. From the company’s knowledgeable customer service representatives to its on-time delivery, Purolator continues to be “Your First Name in Filters.”