At EMCO, air diaphragm pumps help optimize warm-, clean-room operations

Nov. 1, 2014

It’s said the Wright Brothers, Walt Disney, William Hewlett & David Packard and Jeff Bezos all started developing their ideas in a garage.

By Jack Pitts

When VP of engineering B.J. Korman, left, and facilities maintenance manager Mark Serdar decided to install a "warm room" at EMCO’s new facility, they confidently chose from an advanced series of air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps.

It’s said the Wright Brothers, Walt Disney, William Hewlett & David Packard and Jeff Bezos all started developing their ideas in a garage.

Less well-known perhaps is that at least one chemical-industry innovator also got his start this way. In suburban Chicago in 1971, Edward Polen, a former pharmaceutical and chemical salesman, incorporated the E-M Co. As its one-man President and CEO he began filling orders for blended and packaged chemicals.

However, E-M Co. — which Polen renamed EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc., in 1985 — rapidly outgrew that garage. Since relocating to a nearby warehouse facility, EMCO, in the ensuing four decades, grew to become one of the top 10 largest privately owned distributors, blenders and custom packagers of industrial chemicals, specialty chemicals and fine ingredients in the United States, and the 44th largest in the world, with more than $300 million in annual sales.

After four decades, EMCO finally ran out of expansion room at its North Chicago location. In 2013, the company opened a new corporate headquarters and distribution facility at an old resin and ink factory in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, located just across the Illinois-Wisconsin border near the city of Kenosha.

"When we were finished, we had moved our entire industrial-chemical division to Pleasant Prairie," says B.J. Korman, VP of engineering. "At heart, we’re a just-in-time distributor. We make a blend, make a tote and get it out to the customer the next day. We can create bulk quantities of chemicals, from 11,000 gallons on down to five-gallon containers."

Pump-specific data

Brought in to consult as to the pumps used in the facility was Joe Cervantes, pump sales engineer for Brookfield, Wisconsin-based Anderson Pump & Process.

"In addition to main storage and packaging, EMCO was planning to add a couple of unique operations better suited to diaphragm-pump technologies," Cervantes says. "They had used some old air-diaphragm technologies in North Chicago, but we knew some newer diaphragm-pump technologies that could aid in the efficiency of their operations."

Ideas for the plant included a "warm" room, where raw liquids that require a higher ambient temperature would be stored, and a "clean" room, where EMCO can blend and package food-and pharmaceutical-grade products.

Cervantes recommended air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) Pumps from Wilden, Grand Terrace, California, a member of the Dover Corp.’s Pump Solutions Group, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois.

The warm room has 17 storage tanks holding a "menagerie" of different chemicals, from hazardous to viscous. Loading and unloading are accomplished with Wilden Advanced Series FIT AODD pumps.

After originally choosing clamped AODD pumps, Serdar determined that a higher level of product containment was needed. The upgrade was to two-inch bolted stainless-steel PS800 models, which "drop in" to existing AODD-pump piping configurations.

Give me air

The pumps improved warm-room operations efficiency and cost-effectiveness because its air- distribution system delivers as much as 60 percent savings in air consumption compared to competitive brands (see Sidebar).

In addition, the pumps offer higher flow rates and pumping efficiency

The optimized wetted path of the FIT pumps reduces fluid pressure drop during pumping. The pump thereby delivers higher flow rates in relation to energy consumption.

"We wanted better product containment and the Advanced Series Pro-Flo SHIFT pump has been a fool-proof pump that has given us great performance with no worries," says Serdar. "We chose these pumps because they were the most cost-effective because of the energy savings."

Building a clean room is a kind of "pre-emptive strike" that better positions the company as a hygienic manufacturer when expected modifications to U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) and U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) regulations go into effect in 2015. EMCO is using two Wilden Hygienic Series (HS) AODD models in the clean room.

"We decided to build the clean room to ISO-certification standards, and not many manufacturers even have a true clean room right now," says Korman. "When the new rules arrive we will be positioned where no one else will have what we have, and the Wilden pumps meet our needs wonderfully."

Final words

The new EMCO plant in Pleasant Prairie is the result of equal parts vision, ambition, talent and teamwork, as all of the parts came together to create a truly first-class facility. The glue that holds it together is the relationships that have been formed by the EMCO design team, Anderson Pump & Process and Wilden.

"The moral of the story is that if you team up with the right people and design systems per the requirements, you’re going to get a great result," Korman says. "The reason we went with Wilden was our partnership with Anderson, and it was a collaborative effort to specify and furnish the pumping system piping and instrumentation. As a good partner, Wilden stood behind its products."

Jack Pitts is Great Lakes regional manager for Wilden and Pump Solutions Group (PSG). He can be reached at [email protected].

Based in Grand Terrace, California, Wilden Pump & Engineering, LLC, is a leader in air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pumps. For more information, please go to

Wilden is a member of Dover Corporation’s Pump Solutions Group, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Find more information on PSG at



Optimizing air consumption In AODD pumps

Air-operated double-diaphragm (AODD) pump manufacturers have worked to find a reliable solution to the technology’s one short fall: air chamber "overfilling" during the period from the end of each stroke to the completed shift of the valve, without any corresponding displacement of fluid.

As part of these efforts, Wilden Pump & Engineering Co., Grand Terrace, California developed its Turbo-Flo, Pro-Flo and Pro-Flo X air distribution systems.

In 2013, Wilden completed development of the Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS. The mechanically actuated Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS restricts air flow into the air chamber near the end of each pump stroke through the incorporation of an air -ontrol spool that automatically meters the air to prevent overfilling, with no corresponding reduction in product yield.

An AODD pump outfitted with the Pro-Flo SHIFT ADS — available on both clamped and bolted Series AODD Pumps — can achieve up to 60 percent savings in air consumption while costing 50 percent less to operate than pumps that feature an electronically actuated ADS.

EMCO Chemical Distributors has installed a number of Advanced Series PS800 (2-inch) FIT (Drop-In) Pro-Flo SHIFT AODD Pumps in the warm room at its new facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.

"These pumps are the most cost-effective choice for use in our warm room," says Mark Serdar, facilities maintenance manager, EMCO. "We went with air-diaphragm pumps, and we went with the best because it consumes less air."

[Photo captions]


When VP of engineering B.J. Korman, left, and facilities maintenance manager Mark Serdar decided to install a "warm room" at EMCO’s new facility, they confidently chose from an advanced series of air-operated, double-diaphragm pumps.


Pumps enable transfer, blend and package pharmaceutical-and food-grade products that meet USP and FDA requirements.


EMCO Chemical Distributors features acres of storage space at its new facility.


Pump delivers the level of product containment required for EMCO’s warm-room operations.