Well-designed, well-equipped laboratory space is a basic need for the bench scientist. That’s a fact newspaper salesman Campbell Rhea took note of 52 years ago when he visited schools and discovered the need for better student labs. Today, the company that bears his name is known as a premier supplier of high-quality case goods, countertops and hardware for science environments.
The three major markets for Campbell- Rhea’s products are schools (grades kindergarten through 12), colleges and universities, and research facilities, which may integrate high-profile teaching labs. The company’s program for reaching those markets relies on a nationwide system of dealers who work with architects and end-users. “We have a great network of 35 dealers across the country, and we provide them with a turnkey product that includes everything – the cabinets, countertops, hardware and accessories,” says Larry B. Miller, executive vice president of sales and marketing. “And our turnaround is just 60 to 75 days after customer approval of the final plan and specs.”
“Our company has always offered oak cabinets, and we started offering maple about six years ago,” Miller adds. “The wood cabinets are given a chemical-resistant finish and are colored and stained to customer specifications. We also offer a variety of countertops. The most popular are epoxy resins, but we’ve just recently introduced granite tops, which are also resistant to chemicals and acids.”
Miller says that the wood cabinets are the company’s top sellers, far surpassing plastic laminates. Although laminates are not chemical resistant, they do have wipe-clean surfaces that work well in certain healthcare settings such as hospitals and clinics.
A Proven Formula
Even with more than five decades in the business, the Tennessee-based company still has its products tested by independent laboratories before they are offered in the field.
“The best things about our company are its longevity, dependability, and ability to provide package deals to the distributors,” Miller says. “And quality is a given. It’s always there.”
CampbellRhea’s manufacturing operations are housed in a 135,000-square-foot plant at the company’s headquarters in Paris, Tenn. About 200 of the company’s 300 employees are involved in manufacturing the product lines: CampbellRhea(r) and TaylorLab(r) wood case goods, DŽcor(r) plastic laminate products, Metalist cabinets and LabShield(r) fume hoods. High-grade laboratory quality, Water Saver or Broen fixtures are integrated into the designs.
Among the many custom features available on CampbellRhea products are wood finishes that range from deep shades such as “Briar” and “Baron” and lighter finishes such as “Wheat” and “Tawny.” The impressive palette for metal and hood finishes runs the gamut from “Off White” through “Sea Blue.”
Similarly, a dozen door and draw styles with coordinating hardware vary from sleek designs named “Elite” and “Spectrum” to more traditional styles named “Empire” and “Heritage.” The durable and attractive granite countertops come in five shades: black, white, gray, parchment and rose.
Miller says that CampbellRhea is also marketing several new products to the laboratory market. A wood storage cabinet that has a UL listing for flammability, making it useful in chemical labs, was recently introduced. A line of adjustable-height tables, for flexibility and ADA compliance, is another recent product innovation.
In other areas, the company’s TaylorLab line was designed to meet market demand for more economically priced goods. Products in the new case-goods line are made with a particleboard core, and that makes them less costly than the name-branded line, which is made with a hardwood veneer core. “We saw the market becoming very price conscious, and this is a very price-conscious line,” Miller says. “It was developed in response to markets that are under stress. It is also our response to the competition in those markets.”
Miller says that as of the close of its fiscal year in March 2003, CampbellRhea, which is now part of the Sagus International, was a $45 million company. “We’re looking to grow to be a $62 million to $65 million company in three to four years,” he adds.
Plans for market expansion are already in motion, says Miller. “We see our growth in the expanded markets for our new products and in taking market share from the competition. In fact, we had a thorough marketing strategy study done to discover more about new markets and where our growth potential will be.”
The roster of large, high-profile laboratory designs recently completed or in process by the Tennessee manufacturer is an indication of the company’s framework for continued growth. These projects include laboratory furnishings for Pennsylvania State University, University of California, Davis, University of Missouri, University of San Diego, University of Texas Southwest Medical School, and Vanderbilt University. Miller also says that additional large installations are in the final bidding stages. These projects validate that CampbellRhea as a leading company, always testing new markets in laboratories.