Lou-Rich expands

Published 10:01 am Monday, May 16, 2011

Two Lou-Rich employees use powdered paint to coat metal pieces coming through the company’s new advanced paint line on April 29. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Lou-Rich is in a years-long process of improving efficiency at its manufacturing plant in Albert Lea.

Larson Contracting employees work April 29 on the new expansion at Lou-Rich. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

A new and energy-saving paint system was installed last year. This year, a new warehouse and shipping building is being built. Many people have noticed the work as they drive past on Front Street.

Mike Larson, president and CEO of Innovance, the holding company for Lou-Rich, said there will be more remodeling next year as well.

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“We’re improving the flow and efficiency of production space to grow business,” Larson said.

The current project of building a new warehouse and shipping dock is just one step in completing the goal of having more efficiency. Larson said currently products are delivered to the south end of the plant and then make their way north through production. Products then sit in different holding areas on the production floor and have to be brought back south to be shipped.

Mike Larson, president and CEO of Innovance, points at one of the processes in Lou-Rich’s new computerized paint line. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

The new 17,000-square-foot building will have room to hold all the products, which will free up space in the production area. Shipping products from the north end of the building off Front Street will also prevent them from bringing them back to the south end of the building for shipping.

Basically, instead of having shipping and receiving at the same end of the building, they will now be at separate ends.

“We’re also building a company-vehicle garage,” Larson said.

The company had bought lots adjacent to its building over the last 10 years. Larson said having a finished-goods warehouse has been in the company’s long-term plans. The project is expected to cost about $1.3 million and will have four loading docks for semi trailers and one drive-in door.

Shown is the area near the north end of Lou-Rich, off Front Street. A 17,000 square foot building will be finished around September that will be used for storage and shipping. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune

Last fall Lou-Rich finished a high-tech painting system that cost the company more than $1 million. Larson said it has modern controls and more automation for the long process. He also said it conserves more water and energy than their previous painting process.

“We’re conserving a high percentage of water,” Larson said.

Previously the company used primarily liquid paints, but with the new system they use a power paint, which gives a sheen like most new vehicles have. In 2012 Larson said the company plans to build a “super highway” for forklifts through the plant. In the same effort to bring efficiency and better flow through the plant, he said they’d like to build a two-lane route through the entire plant.

Manufactured parts go through a chemical wash before they’ll be painted in Lou-Rich’s new state-of-the-art paint line. More energy and water are conserved with the new technology. -- Kelli Lageson/Albert Lea Tribune