How Does Chem-Dry Stay Ahead? A Visit With R&D Director Chris Smith
The quest for new and improved cleaning products, along with top-notch quality control, drives operations every day at Chem-Dry’s research facilities
When a new product or piece of equipment is rolled out to Chem-Dry carpet cleaning franchise owners and techs, it’s the end of a long process that includes everything from chemistry to manufacturing. Thanks to the research and development team, it’s also a process that never really ends.
“We are always looking at chemicals and compounds that would be beneficial to our product line, whether in an existing service or something that we’re looking to develop,” says Chris Smith, Director of Research and Development. “Sometimes that means working on a formula in-house, or it might be evaluating something that’s already in the market and seeing how it performs so we can create a better, more improved version.”
Deep bench of R&D experience pays off
Chris leads a team that includes several full-time employees and consultants with doctorates in chemistry with years of experience in the cleaning industry, as well as background and experience engineering. There also is a quality-control technician who’s been on staff for more than 20 years, so the team offers both expertise and a long history of excellence.
“We’ve got a lot of equipment-development experience, as well, because we develop and modify equipment to make it fit our brand,” he adds. “We don’t really reverse-engineer what’s out there in terms of competition, but we set targets and then create the products and equipment that will outperform them. That’s how we maintain the best industry performance and stay so much better than everything else that’s out there.”
Ongoing evaluation leads to continued excellence
The R&D facility is a constant beehive of activity, as lab work on new and existing products is happening alongside equipment development, as well as quality control for everything that enters and leaves the adjoining manufacturing facility.
“There are technologies and ways we discover to leverage even our best-in-class products to make them even better,” Chris says. “So we are always reformulating and staying ahead of the game. And when we develop something like our granite renewal product, we’re able to test it here, roll it out in limited availability to see how it performs in the marketplace, and then give it a nationwide footprint. That way we’re never getting ahead of ourselves.”
Ease of use and simplicity are always top of mind for the R&D team, because a product or piece of equipment isn’t very valuable to a Chem-Dry cleaning franchise if nobody can make it work. The same goes for quality control, which is a door-to-door process every day.
“We often start with the end result that we want and then break out the steps we have to undergo in development to get there,” Chris explains. “If something looks really cumbersome, then we’re not going to move ahead on it. We don’t want franchise owners spending a ton of time training themselves and their technicians, so every solution we create here has to be user-friendly.”
That means at any given time there are at least a half dozen new projects on the burner. At the same time, existing things are coming back for retooling.
“We may be working on the tail end of one thing and the beginning of another, while also touching up details on a third,” Chris says. “And at the same time, we’re assessing all the raw goods to make sure they are meeting our standards and specifications. We manufacture everything here, so we’re not just working on new products, but also making sure that everything’s OK before it’s packaged and sent out to the shipping floor. We’re a pretty busy place.”