By Chris Meehan | May 20, 2014
Equipment for bioscience, medical device, and beverage companies
With a new headquarters and state-of-the-art automated, 75,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Denver, as well as a new line of beverage-specific products Eldon James is on a prolific upswing with sales in more than 40 countries.
Eldon James, named after president and co-founder Marcia Coulson’s little brothers by her and her sister, isn't a household name but you’ve likely benefitted from its products. Its tubing and fittings are designed to meet the needs of a diverse set of industries -- from automotive (including a line of products designed specifically for U.S.-made biofuels) to medical, food and beverage, and industrial sectors.
Its newest line of tubing is Flexelene, an antimicrobial, BPA and PVC-free tubing line designed for beverage makers. “In the last couple of months we launched our EJ beverage division,” Coulson says. “What we found is that our antimicrobial tubing that has been accepted very well in medical…is very effective at inhibiting bacteria that spoils beer, and also wine spoiling bacteria.
“We had all of our testing done in Germany where they take beer very, very seriously,” Coulson says. The testing was conducted at Research Center Weihenstephan. “They were thrilled when they did the testing.” The center determined PVC was the weakest link in beverage dispensing, according to Coulson. Eldon James’ PVC-free and antimicrobial tubing offered an ideal alternative that could also cut down on some cleaning and replacement needs. It’s already proving popular locally. New Belgium Brewing Co.—makers of Fat Tire and other beers—replaced all of its tasting room lines with the antimicrobial tubing and some other Colorado craft brewers have followed suit.
The company has been innovative since day one, using automation in manufacturing, CAD and 3D printing to speed prototyping, recycling more than 175,00 pounds of plastic into its own tubing last year alone. Without the highly automated approach to manufacturing, Coulson estimates the company would need at least 20 more employees.
The company also pioneered new, safer materials. “When we launched our tubing line we didn’t want to be a ‘me-too’ type of tubing company,” Coulson says. “We never, in 27 years of business, made PVC molded products or PVC fittings,” she contends.
“That allowed us to really explore all of the PVC-free options that all these chemical companies were coming up with,” Coulson says. “They started reaching out to us almost immediately and we were able to do a lot of tubing trials and got a first look at a lot of the new innovative materials. From those trials we then…created product lines and lines of tubing.”
The company also eliminated BPA from its tubing. “It’s been quite successful to have a material that moves and acts like polycarbonate but doesn’t have the BPA,” Coulson says. BPA is a harmful material that leaked out of water bottles and has now been eliminated from many consumer products—it was also used in some medical products.
As the company has grown so have its needs. “We were in four different facilities in Northern Colorado,” Coulson says. “We combined all those facilities into our new Denver facility. It’s very nice to have everyone under one roof now. We’ve gained some efficiencies by bringing it all together under one roof.”
“We’ve been really blessed with the: ‘If you build it they will come’ type of situation,” Coulson says. “We’re looking to expand beyond Colorado,” she says. That could include a facility in Europe in the future she says. “We would still maintain this facility in Denver. We’d just duplicate it in another location.”
Challenges: “Surrounding ourselves with the best team,” Coulson says. In moving to Denver some former employees chose not to commute from Northern Colorado.
Opportunities: Coulson says the food and beverage products are a key opportunity. “We’ve got distributors all over the world that we’re sending the beverage tubing too,” she says.
Needs: “To continue to find the best people to work with. Your company is only as good as your team,” Coulson says.