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Editorials

Local companies race to build virus test kit machine

by Robert Lowell, American Journal
Lanco Integrated

Lanco Integrated in Westbrook and ODAT Machine in Gorham worked around the clock to produce the machine in a fraction of the time such projects usually take.

WESTBROOK — Two local companies went up against the clock to meet a customer’s request to build a machine that produces coronavirus test kits.

Lanco Integrated in Colonel Westbrook Park built the machine and ODAT Machine in Gorham Industrial Park  supplied more than 100 different kinds of custom-made parts.

Lanco designed and assembled the machine in six weeks. Projects like that usually take up to 30 weeks, according to engineer Jake Rollins, the project manager.

“It’s been crazy,” he said.

The machine, 60 feet long and weighing about 8 tons, is capable of producing 125,000 test kits per day in three shifts. It will be trucked June 29 to the Germantown, Maryland, location of Qiagen, an international diagnostic supply firm.

Lanco received the order April 6. Qiagen asked for the machine to be delivered eight weeks later, Rollins said.

“We have since added some validation services to ensure a smooth rollout at their facility that will push the eight weeks out to 10,” Rollins said.

Validation is required for medical equipment. Following strict process guidelines, it entails checking to ensure the machine matches the design and function as formally specified.

The validation process typically take four to six weeks, and sometimes longer, to complete, but “we are completing it in under two weeks, with collaboration with the customer,” Rollins said.

Lanco has a location in Germany and two in Asia. The Westbrook facility serves as its headquarters with 190 employees. It manufactures assembly systems and is heavily involved in the medical and automotive industries.

ODAT Machine has customers in multiple fields, including defense, semiconductors and aerospace, and it serves the U.S. Navy.

ODAT manufactured more than 100 different components for Lanco’s machine, with quantities of each ranging from one to 1,200 pieces, said Andrew Pratt, vice president of operations.

The machine last week was functioning on the floor at Lanco, producing test kits in de-bugging runs, according to Renee Tercsak, Lanco spokesperson. Four-hour production test runs were scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday this week at Lanco.

Upon receiving the order from Qiagen, headquartered in Germany, 25 Lanco employees worked two shifts, 22 hours a day, on the assembly floor at Lanco.

“They were building before all the parts arrived,” said Rollins, who logged 12 to 15 hours daily.

Rollins said ODAT turned around orders for the parts in short order.

“They did an excellent job,” he said. “They wanted to be part of the solution.”

Fifteen of ODAT’s 38 employees worked across multiple shifts and weekends to provide the needed parts.

“Absolutely, time (aside from quality) was the No. 1 concern. We dedicated every available resource to support this effort and drastically changed our normal business process to meet Lanco’s delivery requirements,”  Pratt said.

The machine will be dismantled and trucked to the Qiagen facility in Maryland. Rollins and a Lanco team will re-assemble the machine there beginning July 1.

“We are all very excited to see this project come to life, and are all very anxious to get it installed and start producing test kits,” Rollins said.

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