Kewaunee Scientific Corporation

Kewaunee Scientific Corporation
Written by Pauline Muller

It only takes a brief look to discover that very little of what we consume daily did not travel through a lab at some point in its lifecycle. Kewaunee Scientific Corporation designs and manufactures scientific furniture and equipment with care, to not only make laboratories beautiful and functional, but to make them comfortable and safe places to work.

Thanks to its solid reputation in the industry, many market leaders trust Kewaunee to create their laboratories. “Because of our heritage scale, we do it right. We’ve already figured it out. We know all the certifications you need to follow. We know all the pitfalls. We’ve done most of the labs in America,” says Chris Willetts, Marketing Director. Willetts also points out that the company’s scale and that of its processes “lead to quality and reassurance.”

To achieve optimum laboratory ergonomics and aesthetics, Kewaunee Scientific Corporation provides custom solutions tailored for clients in markets such as higher education, healthcare centers, pharmaceutical research outfits, forensic crime labs, industrial chemical fabricators, and research and development labs.

Achieving top-quality equipment, safety, and modernity through development, technology, and design, this niche laboratory specialist offers innovative fume hoods, casework, workstations, surfaces, workbenches, and more with full-service manufacturing and installation.

“At Kewaunee, we pride ourselves on quality and design. The way that we build our products meets a tough specification of the Scientific Equipment and Furniture Association (SEFA), [which] is a unique specification to the laboratory world,” says Willetts. This involves testing furniture performance while loaded with weights to simulate use. Quality control is performed randomly in batches, ensuring consistency throughout the process.

Based in Statesville, North Carolina, the company has a phenomenal reach, serving customers across the globe from its facilities here and in Bangalore, India. Since research demands and protocols are always evolving, the company prides itself on its speed and skill in adapting to international markets and industry needs. Clients benefit from a close relationship where every detail is seen to and they are supported every step of the way.

The company is especially well-known for combining exquisite wood and alternative, less common materials such as aluminum and specialized resin with familiar laboratory elements such as stainless steel. In addition, its powder coating system contains no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to ensure the safety of both people and products.

“The beauty of Kewaunee is that we’re the only place that [combines] wood, metal, and resin manufacturing on one site. That allows us to combine those materials with accuracy and reliability,” Willetts adds. “This reliability doesn’t only mean the reliability of the product, but also reliability of delivery.”

Tracking the origins and quality of the wood it uses is a priority. The richness of its grain and its strength primary factors, but the warm earthiness it lends to these traditionally spartan workspaces is desirable, especially considering the number of hours people work in them.

After more than a century in the laboratory business, Kewaunee knew to embrace the restrictions that came with COVID-19 regulations, turning it into an opportunity for growth and improvements. One such development included introducing new software that handles product configurations. It also renders complete elevations and drawings as well as three-dimensional files that enable automatic fabrication by way of computer numerical controlled manufacturing.

“We have a team of engineers who can customize elements of standard products to fit [clients’ needs]. With architects’ styling and design, we build a lot of custom elements, so that it fits what clients need,” says Willetts.

The company’s energy-efficient, proprietary Venturi port technology also allows air that typically tends to sit in the corners of fume hoods to move upward and outward with the central air, resulting in improved extraction power over workstations. Some of its most popular products include its range of inventive fume hoods.

To adhere to disability regulations, these hoods have to be in line with eye level. Instead of lowering the unit, as is sometimes standard practice elsewhere, Kewaunee’s ADA hood is on par with the standard hood level but is elongated to look good and balance visually within the greater design. For ease of use, these hoods have handles rather than knobs, while control buttons are positioned lower than those of other hoods.

Extending this flair for design and customization further, the company has created a lookbook with examples of its offerings, technology, and details of its design elements. “Here, clients can read about projects, understand about different product types, colors, and possibilities. We created it so that architects and [other] clients can finger through it and choose elements,” Willetts tells us.

Moreover, Kewaunee offers three dynamic furniture systems that can stand alone or be combined with other fixed systems. These systems adhere closely to SEFA’s strict standards governing the safety of these modular units. An interesting trend that Willetts points out is that more former office spaces are being converted into research laboratories. The current approach is to kit such spaces out with appropriate furniture around the periphery. Then, modular, mobile units are installed in the center to where gas and electricity are supplied through cables via the ceiling. This allows technicians to adapt the space to suit their needs, something at which Kewaunee’s design teams excel.

Its distribution warehouses allow it to store furniture and equipment over short periods for clients that are in the process of constructing labs to allow them to furnish according to their unique schedules. “The idea is that when a lab is getting built, [the client] might want the top floor’s [furniture] this week, and then maybe the bottom floor in three weeks. We can do that rather than having to purely rely on manufacturing to get that done for them,” Willetts says. The service also results in less risk of damage to furniture standing around on unfinished sites awaiting installation.

One recent project was completed for the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Charlotte. The building, built in an L shape, has complex demands over several floors. Ensuring continuity, the same high-end wood features throughout the building, including the research laboratories and classrooms.

“Because of Kewaunee’s size and our eye for wood—which is handpicked—we have a lot of consistency in how we construct,” says Willetts. The company was able to procure large batches of the same color and quality of wood for the entire and sizeable UNC project. The resulting uniformity is breathtaking, and, as the company belongs to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), its wood is traceable to the trees of origin.

Kewaunee Scientific Corporation especially values its teams. “We build the foundation for scientists that create breakthroughs that push the human race forward. [Our people] know the purpose of what they do,” Willetts says. This purpose-based approach to fulfilling customers’ needs has allowed the company to deliver excellence where others were not always able to.

To meet healthcare needs with the increased demands of dealing with COVID, the company has created a new brand as part of its existing menu of products. The Everhutch healthcare furniture and equipment line focuses specifically on the needs of this sector, with products like procedure carts and cabinets. These drug cabinets come on wheels, complete with a range of helpful accessories. “We have looked at all the different problems that customers have. It follows the same quality of our lab casework, so now labs can benefit from [those stringent standards],” says Willetts.

“There is a strong focus on durability and infection control,” he adds, also highlighting the fact that these products are not “a whole bunch of imported elements that are assembled”. Instead, they are locally produced from quality engineered, rolled steel, fabricated and assembled at its facilities.

“Your healthcare cabinet should be loaded and then physically tested. [It should] have this specification. Labs have to meet chemical resistance, load [requirements], and things like that. We’re bringing scientific-grade quality into the healthcare environment,” Willetts says.

Inspired by a strong leadership team with the will to drive the company forward, Kewaunee Scientific Corporation is set to increasingly embrace virtual and augmented reality. It will also continuously advance computer-automated manufacturing. At the base of this is the understanding that collaborative laboratory workspaces are the key to meaningful development.

With its mixture of seasoned and skilled craftsmanship and young up-and-coming talent, the company is perfectly positioned for this. It will, therefore, by solving laboratory problems one design at a time, continue to be a foundation builder for scientists who create the future.

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