Rockwell Labs may be a small company by professional pest management industry manufacturer standards, but it has a surprising amount of complexity: It produces nearly 50 products, all of which involve many different types of formulations and manufacturing technology. Since 1998, Founder and CEO Dr. Cisse Spragins has overseen the managed growth of Rockwell’s offerings. She ensures every product it offers pest management professionals (PMPs) has been extensively tested in both the lab and in the field.
“Making our InTice and InVict gel, liquid and granular baits is kind of like making food or animal feed. But we also produce and bottle liquids – both our EcoVia botanicals and our InVade bio sanitation products. And then we have the powders: BorActin, CimeXa and EcoVia WD,” explains Dr. Spragins, who also is a Pest Management Professional (PMP) Hall of Famer (Class of 2018). “Throw in some extruded blocks and botanical granules — that, of course, cannot be made on the same equipment as our popular granular baits, because we never mix repellents and non-repellents on the same equipment — and well, that’s a whole lot under one roof.”
Speaking of roofs, Dr. Spragins admits the company has been “rather tight on space” in recent years. When the team moved into a 50,000-square-foot facility in 2011, in North Kansas City, Mo., they had room to grow. But as new manufacturing equipment is added, Rockwell is looking at costs-vs.-benefits for expanding its headquarters, too. Construction materials are at a premium in this economy, Dr. Spragins points out, so in the meantime, the company is in the process of purchasing an additional building.
“It’s nearby, was built in the 1960s and has 50,000 square feet of space,” she says, but notes that while it’s sturdily constructed and will fit Rockwell’s needs, it’s not the prettiest place in town. “The first time I walked through the front door, I was greeted by ‘Rockwell purple’ linoleum in the office foyer. I had to laugh, because I guess it was destiny!”
Not only is the facility’s ability to offer extra warehouse space beneficial, but it also enables the Rockwell team to add some key additional manufacturing capabilities, Dr. Spragins says. She intends to keep the manufacturing process in-house, especially with the current supply chain issues going on.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, but I’m pretty sure there will remain a place for companies that can make products reliably in America,” she says.
2021 has been a very busy year for the Rockwell team. Product demand has been strong throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which Dr. Spragins points out is a “testament to our industry’s resilience in uncertain times. We can’t sell unless PMPs do.”
Internal operations have been an intense focus for the company, she reports, adding, “Supply chain management and logistics have both required far more attention than in ‘normal’ times, which is of course brought on by upstream producers dealing with the same struggles of shutdowns and labor shortages. I’m really proud of what our internal team has been able to accomplish.”
In 2019, the team had begun the process of choosing and implementing a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Rockwell had been using a more basic system since 2000, and more capabilities were needed, Dr. Spragins explains.
“The preparation and transition of our data was kind of like cleaning all the junk out of a house you’ve been living in for 20 years when you move,” she quips. “COVID-19 delayed us a bit, but we ‘went live’ on the new system on Feb. 1.”
The rollout went fairly smoothly, she says, “and the new capabilities are really helping us improve operational processes. We have two more phases to complete for full functionality.”
This quarter, Rockwell Labs plans to introduce an upgraded version of its popular InVade Hot Spot bio sanitation aerosol foam.
“Hot Spot was the first product of its kind available to the industry when it was introduced in 2007,” Dr. Spragins points out. “It was a logical extension of our InVade Bio Foam concentrate, but with added efficiency for small jobs. Since that time, it’s become an indispensable part of the PMP’s toolbox for quickly treating drains and other scummy areas — from food establishments to residential garbage disposals.”
The upgraded product launch will be joined by other new products and improvements in the works for Rockwell. “We will continue to leverage our core competencies to help our customers build their reputations on technical success,” she says.