Modern Pumping Today

Engineering a Partnership (Part 1 of 2)

EMCO Chemical Distributors realizes the goal of opening a new manufacturing facility

In 1967, after relocating to Chicago from Boston, Edward Polen was working as a salesman for the Big Ben Chemical and Solution Co. Polen worked for Big Ben until the company was sold in 1971, at which time he decided it was time for another change. This one, however, required a bit more work than just finding a new home.

Partnership 1

With more than one million gallons of on-site liquid storage and the ability to handle various types of chemicals simultaneously at its new facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc., needed to identify and implement pumping technology that could satisfy a wide array of operational parameters. The solution was acquiring 74 GX Series Sliding Vane Pumps from Blackmer®.


Now, having moved to the suburbs, and using his garage as a base of operations, Polen incorporated E-M Co. and began filling chemical orders while packaging chemicals into small containers. From those modest beginnings, E-M Co.—which Polen renamed EMCO Chemical Distributors, Inc., in 1985—has grown into of the top-ten largest privately owned distributors, blenders and custom packagers of industrial chemicals, specialty chemicals and fine ingredients in the United States, and the forty-fourth largest in the world, with more than $300 million in annual sales.

By the end of its first year of operation, Polen had relocated his nascent company to a small manufacturing plant in North Chicago. After four decades of continuous growth, which included the creation of three additional processing facilities in the Midwest, four new warehouses, a Canadian distribution hub and a network of satellite sales offices, EMCO had finally run out of room. So, in 2010, plans were unveiled to outfit a new corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The site was located 14 miles north of North Chicago, just across the Illinois-Wisconsin border near the city of Kenosha.

To house its new facility, EMCO acquired a former resin and ink plant that had been used to produce materials for the printing industry. EMCO’s expansion plans were fully realized on August 6, 2013, when a ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, was held at the new site.

“We are thrilled to be expanding our company by opening this new facility in Pleasant Prairie,” said Polen at the dedication event. “Although we have been doing business in Wisconsin since 1971, we are excited to have a physical presence with the opening of our state-of-the-art manufacturing/distribution facility and corporate headquarters…This expansion allows great opportunity for EMCO to grow.”

Partnership 2

Tasked with designing and equipping EMCO’s new facility were, from left, Stuart Levy, vice president, maintenance; B.J. Korman, vice president of engineering; and Mark Serdar, facilities maintenance manager.


Traveling from the Point A of project conception in 2010 to the Point Z of a finished facility in 2013 took large doses of vision, cooperation, communication, patience, and hard work. Tasked with designing the layout of the new facility from the EMCO perspective were B.J. Korman, vice president of engineering; Stuart Levy, vice president, maintenance; and Mark Serdar, facilities maintenance manager. The trio benefited from the fact that the structure was vacant. This meant they were able to work with a blank slate when it came to determining the overall layout, from the location of the tank farms and loading bays to the storage areas and computer rooms.

“We bought a shell building and put everything in ourselves, more than 10 miles of stainless-steel pipe, 64 miles of wire, in an area approximately 300,000 square feet,” explains Korman. “When it was finished we moved our industrial chemical division to Pleasant Prairie and kept our custom-packaging operation in North Chicago. We get orders in Pleasant Prairie and create bulk quantities of chemicals, 11,100 gallons on down to five-gallon containers.”

A pivotal section of the new facility is its delivery area complete with 25-car railroad siding and side-by-side transport-truck and railcar loading/unloading docks. There, a steady stream of railcars and tank trucks deliver the raw materials that are necessary for EMCO to blend and package finished end-products. To handle the large quantities of materials that are arriving daily, the facility features two bulk-storage areas, one with fifty tanks and 850,000 gallons of storage and a second with 17 tanks and 250,000 gallons of storage.

Because of the critical nature of these storage areas, it was imperative for EMCO to identify the right brand and style of pump that would be used to unload railcars of raw materials and load totes, drums and IBCs with finished products. For the answer, EMCO turned to its long-time distributor partner, Anderson Pump and Process. Headquartered in Brookfield, Wisconsin, since 1958 Anderson has been an industrial pump and hose distributor that provides practical and cost-effective solutions for its customers.

“When EMCO wanted to expand, they knew us and came to me to ask my thoughts on what pumping technologies to use,” says Joe Cervantes, pump sales engineer for Anderson Pump and Process. “They could have used gear pumps, but, historically, gear pumps are just metal on metal. It’s just one of those things where sliding vane has always been the pump style of choice for the solvent industry or when pumping very thin liquids.”

Partnership 3

EMCO designed its facility so that tank trucks and railcars could be loaded and unloaded side-by-side. Adding to the efficiency of this design are a series of Blackmer® GX Series Sliding Vane Pumps.


More specifically, Cervantes recommended the GX Series Sliding Vane Pump from Blackmer®, Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is a product brand of PSG®, a Dover company, Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. Besides the operational benefits of the GX pumps—cast-iron construction, compact design, excellent self-priming and dry-run capabilities, adjustable relief valves, and easy maintenance and vane replacement—they had two other important advantages going for them: they had previously been used in EMCO’s North Chicago facility and they are proudly “made in the USA.” In next month’s conclusion, we’ll discover the advantages the GX Series Sliding Vane Pump brought to this application.

Jack Pitts is a regional manager—Great Lakes for PSG®, a Dover company. He can be reached at 616.475.9342 or Blackmer® is a leading brand of rotary vane and centrifugal pump and reciprocating compressor technologies from PSG. PSG is comprised of several leading pump brands, including Abaque®, Almatec®, Blackmer®, Ebsray®, EnviroGear®, Griswold™, Mouvex®, Neptune™, Quattroflow™, RedScrew™ and Wilden®. For more information, visit or