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Innovators in the News
9/27/10 - Spill Free Oil Drainage LLC's specialized fleet technology spurs growth
(reprint from MaineBiz)
A small family company based in Hermon that develops maintenance technology for vehicles and heavy equipment has netted work from some big-name companies as it looks to expand its presence.
Representatives of Spill Free Oil Drainage LLC say the company's simple yet innovative closed system for changing vehicle oil is helping businesses save money through increased productivity and reduced waste and health risks. And fewer oil leaks mean less hazardous material entering the environment. Two large customers, Bangor Hydro Electric and Maine School Administrative District 1 in Presque Isle, signed on this year to use the system for its vehicle fleets.
With the economy seemingly on the mend and environmental concerns heightened following the Gulf Coast oil spill, company President Priscilla Morin says it's a fitting time to increase her company's name recognition.
"The whole country is looking to make a change and become more environmentally conscious and we feel we are right in the center," she says from the company office she shares with her husband, Claude, who designed the system and does most of the production and assembly.
The company currently has more than three dozen clients, including municipal airports in Bangor and Portland, and trucking and logging companies across Maine and along the East Coast. The company has been around for a decade and enjoyed steady growth through much of that time, but, like many businesses, suffered when the economy began tanking.
These days, however, business is up about 80%, although it has not returned to levels seen in pre-recession times. Still, the Morins are optimistic. Starting this spring, calls inquiring about the system have been up 60% to 70% from previous levels.
"I'm very encouraged by the momentum and the way it is picking up," says Priscilla Morin, who for much of the company's history has focused on developing and promoting its business model and marketing its products.
The underpinnings of the system stem in some part from the couple's 18 years working a certified seed potato and vegetable farm in Fort Kent, where keeping costs low and productivity high, and maintaining healthy farm lands were important.
Through the patented system, a specially designed drain valve is affixed to the vehicle's oil pan and connected through tubing to a pump that in turn is connected to a tank or other receptacle. The used oil is pumped from vehicle to tank and the process can be reversed to fill the vehicle with new oil.
The system can remove10 gallons of oil from a large truck in less than three minutes, about one-fifth the time it would take traditionally, and without spilling the oil, Morin says.
The system can cost from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending how many vehicles and how much of the system the customer uses. Morin estimates that a company with 25 vehicles and using the $2,000 pump system will get a return on investment within 18 months.
Bangor Hydro has used the system since June on the 128 trucks it has on the road and about a dozen other vehicles. Jeremy Williams, Bangor Hydro's supervisor of fleet services, says that the system has already paid for itself. The company saved money by shaving the time it takes for the oil changes -- done every 250 hours of use -- and the annual hydraulic fuel changes, not to mention cleanup of oil spills.
Sean Fogg, shop supervisor at H. O. Bouchard, a trucking and forestry service company in Hampden, estimates that using the system saves the company about $500 to $600 a month and substantially reduces the risk of oil contamination in the Maine woods.
Whether it is a small garage handling a few vehicles to larger ones handing hundreds, reducing contaminants that get into the environment provides more than a bottom-line benefit, says the Morins' daughter-in-law, Clare Morin, who is heading up Spill Free's marketing and communications.
"Make a very simple change and you can have quite profound results," she says.
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