Next to western shore of Lake Ontario, in a region known for both its manufacturing and farming, OPHARDT Hygiene’s Canadian headquarters houses teams that design, engineer, and produce custom products for companies around the world. It is here that the technologies and designs that can be found in the majority of commercial dispensers in North America are created.
In a bright, elongated open office—a part of a newly built addition—engineers and designs work alongside each other. These teams create the technology and products that can be found in a majority of commercial dispensers in North America. Surrounded by clean, white walls and copious windows that fill the space with natural light, desks are often filled with dispensers, pumps, electronic components, and the devices used to test them. This room is a reflection of the spirit of OPHARDT: hygienic and professional, but still possessing that creative—and sometimes messy—drive that could be found in the garage where the company began.
The Dispensing Experts™
The design of our pumps and dispensers has always set OPHARDT apart. When our ingo-man® dispensers were introduced in the 1960s, they were one of the first dispensers to reliably dispense alcohol-based sanitizers without leaking. The decision of founder-engineer Hermann Ophardt to focus on creating dispensers and pumps without becoming a manufacturer of soaps and sanitizers had long-term repercussions. It led us to becoming experts in the hygiene industry.
OPHARDT has always investing heavily in R&D and focussed on the tougher engineering challenges in the hygiene industry. “Designing and producing products that meet specific customer needs has been essential to our business from the very start,” Hendrik Ophardt, who leads the design team in Canada, shares, ”whether that involves creating products for new chemical formulations or ensuring products align with certain branding.” It was not long until leading companies started calling on OPHARDT to help solve their thorniest dispensing challenges. For over half-a-century, OPHARDT has been doing this custom work, using our experience, patented technology, and manufacturing know-how to help push the hygiene industry forward.
Pumping out pumps
One area of focus for our Beamsville, Ontario site is the design and manufacturing of pumps—for ourselves and others. Andrew Jones, known to his colleagues as AJ, leads the team that designs and tests pumps for our own dispensers and for our partners. When asked how he would describe our reputation in the industry, AJ chooses the words, “well respected.” Listing some of the biggest companies in the industry, he shares that, “all have been very impressed with our design ability and our ability to think around problems and solve their issues.”
And the problems can be extremely challenging. When designing a counter-mount pump for another company, AJ and his team had to create a design which avoided over 100 patent items. All the obvious solutions were accounted for. With creative thinking, OPHARDT’s own patent portfolio, and the team’s deep knowledge, they pulled off this seemingly impossible task. Nor was the pump an inferior product. AJ notes that it “performs better than the competitors with better output, battery life.” Not only did this pump not infringe on the minefield of patents in its way, but it ended up being patented itself.
This custom pump shares many characteristics with other OPHARDT designed pumps. It is made with fewer parts and uses a lot less plastic than many of its competitors. No metal springs or balls are used in the pump, a design choice that the pump teams makes whenever possible to create a much more recyclable product.
Making it by making it
The help we offer companies is not limited to engineering a solution. We make these product, too, with the same precision with which we designed them. Unlike some companies, where engineering and production teams are separated by oceans, OPHARDT places our teams steps away from each other in Canada, Germany, Ireland, and Switzerland. This, AJ tells us, leads to a level of speed and efficiency that is not otherwise possible. “You can review a design with the guy who will maintain and run the mold in a few steps in real time. We can (and do) shoot a mold, review the part, make a change, modify a mold, reshoot and look at new parts in the same day.” For most companies, these changes would take at least a week or two.
The advantages of this tight-knit relationship between the different teams is not limited to efficiency. As Hendrik points out, it gives us a completely different mentality. “We’re not a design consultancy—we are a manufacturing firm. We can immediately walk downstairs to the manufacturing floor and see how things are made. This intimate interface between idea and execution affords our product development with a healthy dose of pragmatism that, in turn, informs our design.”
Knowing our manufacturing processes limit our imagination. “We want to completely understand our manufacturing constraints because ultimately those constraints allow us to be much more creative.” OPHARDT’s approach takes us far beyond the tired of paradigm of “form vs. function.” For Hendrik and the designers at OPHARDT, this means embracing a more holistic vision. “We embrace a larger definition, where good design includes the right engineering, the right manufacturing, and the right aesthetics. Design is good when it does what it needs to, when it can be made efficiently, and when the final customer reacts correctly to it.”
The winding road to a solution that feel obvious
While using a broader definition of design, the design team relies on limitations to produce better results. This requires a tenacious inquisitiveness. This leads to a front-heavy process, according to Hendrik. “Understanding and setting the correct constraints is what takes up the vast majority of our time. If this is setup properly, the design is the easy part.” If they find themselves in the dual traps of either a blank slate or a dead end, the team reviews their limitations. “We either need to re-examine our requirements in a way that shines a big bright light on the way forward, or we need to add new constraints that can build a road for us to run down.”
Building trust by being trustworthy builders
Trust is essential for this process—between the various teams within OPHARDT and between OPHARDT and the partners we are creating for. Trust is needed on the journey, but it is the ultimate destination. Hendrik explains, “Whereas luxury products are trying elicit pleasure, we’re often trying to elicit feelings of trust. Since we create functional products that work hard, trust is absolutely paramount. We’re proud of the quality of our products and the aesthetic choices we make attempt to reinforce that message.”
It is this desire—to build trust—that leads companies to partner with OPHARDT. “Since good brands are also inextricably linked with trust,” Hendrik summarizes, “it makes sense for many of our customers to reinforce their brands with custom designs.” In turn, we build trust by consistently delivering the right engineering, the right manufacturing, and the right aesthetics.