Nebraska Engineering Fall, 2006
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Room to Breath
The U.S. Constitution doesn’t say explicitly that people have a right to breathe clean air, but Industrial Maid LLC wants to bestow such a right on industrial workers and others.

Jeff Zvolanek and Todd Adam designed this air filtration device for a commercial printing building.
Jeff Zvolanek and Todd Adam designed this air filtration device for a commercial printing building.

The company makes packaged air filtration equipment used to clear air in manufacturing plants and other industrial operations of everything from wood dust to welding smoke and solvent fumes.

Industrial Maid sells its systems throughout North America through a network of about 30 distributors. A Miami distributor has gotten the company some attention and sales in Asia and South America.

Co-owners Jeff Zvolanek ’86, BSIE, and Todd Adam, ’97, BSCM, were working together at an equipment distributor. Inspired by clean-air legislation, the pair decided to begin their own business.

“We talked each other into doing this,” Adam said.

Customers, for the most part, are manufacturers.

The company does provide some air cleaners to bars and other establishments seeking to reduce cigarette smoke in their spaces, Adam said, but that’s a small part of its business and not one the company is actively looking to expand.

As clean air legislation has meant more business in other areas, Adam said, smoking bans nationwide have made outfitting bars and restaurants seem less attractive.

Industrial Maid’s selling point, Zvolanek said, is the company’s flexibility in making air-cleaning systems.

Most of the air cleaners are either ceiling-hung or wall-mounted, but some are portable. Zvolanek said one use for a portable air cleaner would be next to an ambulatory welder to suck smoke and gasses away from the air the worker breathes.

Among features that set Industrial Maid apart, Zvolanek said, are cabinets made of high-density polyethylene versus the steel most competitors use. Industrial Maid uses recycled milk jugs and soda bottles as part of its plastic mix.

“This helps make our product line lighter, quieter, less expensive and more environmentally friendly than steel cabinets frequently used in the industry today,” Zvolanek said.

Industrial Maid still makes some steel cabinets for high-temperature applications, Zvolanek said.

All are made from the same cabinet architecture, Zvolanek said, with Industrial Maid adding filters and blower motors as needed to suit a client. “We rarely get a standard sale,” Adam said. “The customer usually wants something tweaked.”

When the time to expand the business came, the pair chose Cortland in part, Zvolanek said, because of the price savings it found versus staying in Lincoln, where the company began. The company has a 9,200-square-foot shop in the Tower Industrial Park and plans eventually to add at least one more building on the six acres it owns.

The shop is within sprinting distance of U.S. 77, meaning it has comparable access to what Industrial Maid would have in Lincoln, Zvolanek said. Also, he said, the location occasionally gives Industrial Maid a break on shipping costs, as some trucks go to or from Beatrice without full loads, and those shippers like having the company around to take up capacity that otherwise would be unused.

The company’s workload is heaviest in the fall and winter, Zvolanek said. When the weather is nice, companies tend to leave their doors open, he said.

The company has thrived thus far because of employees such as accountant Jo Pflanz, who Zvolanek said has extensive business skills from running a family retail store and other endeavors. Zvolanek said the company expects to double its sales in each of the next few years.

SourceOne of Lincoln has several Industrial Maid air cleaners, general manager Ivan Reed said.

The metal-products manufacturer is satisfied with the performance of the units, he said.

“They absolutely do what Industrial Maid says they’ll do,” Reed said. In particular, that means taking oil mist out of the air and gathering some coolants for reuse. “We have cleaner air and are really saving on coolant,” Reed said.