"I always knew I'd work for my dad," says Christian Saurman, who co-owns 28-person New England Orthodontic Laboratory and Pediatric Appliance Laboratory in Wilmington, Massachusetts, with his father, Bill Saurman.
Christian was involved in the laboratory at an early age--he remembers bagging plaster for study models with his three sisters at the age of five--but Bill encouraged him to earn his degree and work for other companies before coming on board. In 2001, after graduating college, Christian officially joined the laboratory and, since then, has used his energy to turn some of his father's ideas into reality. One of his biggest accomplishments so far: overseeing the $450,000 renovation project for a new 7,000-sq-ft facility.
In the laboratory's former 4,000-sq-ft building, there was no logical flow between departments, parking was a "nightmare" and the lab had simply maxed out the available space. After a two-year search, the Saurmans found what they had been looking for: a 7,000-sq-ft building on one acre of land with 50 parking spots just eight miles north of their current location.
There was one problem: the building was fairly dilapidated and the inside needed to be completely gutted and rebuilt from the ground up. "We decided it didn't matter how bad it was because we could see the potential," recalls Christian, who acted as the general contractor. So the Saurmans made the leap and bought the $750,000 building.
Over the next seven months, floors, walls and ceilings were all ripped out--the entire building was stripped down to the studs--and new energy-efficient lighting, HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems went in. The back of the building was opened up to create space for the acrylic, finishing and study model departments--which are arranged in a circle that follows the flow of production--and the front of the building was configured to house offices, the reception area, shipping and receiving, quality control, and conference and lunchrooms.
The Saurmans also implemented some unique features, including:
Kill switches. One of the lab's most convenient new features are two "kill" switches by the back door. One switch shuts off the lighting throughout the entire lab and the other shuts off every piece of equipment. "Before I left at night I used to walk around the building four times to be sure everything that could cause a fire was off," says Christian. "Now we can safely and easily shut down the entire lab with the flip of a switch."
Camera system. Another unique feature the lab implemented in order to lower its insurance rates: a camera system throughout the interior and exterior of the entire building. "If an employee is injured on the job, we're able to show our insurance company the footage of exactly what happened," says Christian. Although the system cost $7,000, the lab saves annually in insurance costs.
Since moving into the new building, production is up 10% which the Saurmans attribute to the new streamlined workflow and a happier staff. "If your employees are happy and comfortable, they're going to produce," says Bill. "What's that old saying? 'Happy wife, happy life'? Here, it's 'happy technicians, happy laboratory.' "