OKLAHOMA CITY – Cosmetic Specialty Labs manufactures products sold throughout the world, and received a contract recently to make large quantities of hand sanitizer.
The Lawton company is a “private-label, turnkey manufacturer of hair care, skin care, anti-aging products and dandruff shampoos, and over-the-counter drugs such as acne products,” said Jennifer Ellis, the president and chief executive officer.
With the global advance of the coronavirus, demand for hand sanitizer grew exponentially and the federal and state governments began seeking ways to stimulate an economy staggered by the disease.
That led to the Oklahoma Manufacturing Reboot Program, which was created “to address the negative effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Oklahoma businesses,” said Brent Kisling, executive director of the state Commerce Department.
The program utilizes the Governor’s “Quick Action Closing Fund” to assist Oklahoma manufacturers “as they retool to develop new products and/or expand current capabilities,” he said.
“Hand sanitizer was a small part of my operation,” Ms. Ellis said. But when the coronavirus began to spread, “a huge demand arose” for the product “and we began retooling.”
However, she quickly realized that “some of my pumps and mixing vessels weren’t suited for this production,” she said.
Orders were placed for equipment to retool her lab’s 500-gallon mixing vessels and tube machines, acquire several pumps, line tables and labeling machines, plus a viscometer and a forklift.
“We are going to add multiple filling lines” where hand sanitizer will be poured into containers of various sizes, Ms. Ellis said. “We have already started rearranging our filling department.”
When the rework is complete and fully operational, she expects her lab to produce at least 2,500 gallons of hand sanitizer daily “and we’ll have four times our current filling capability.” In addition, “We will be able to speed up our line capability, which will pump up our productivity and diversify our operations.”
Her contract requires Ms. Ellis to invest at least $300,000 on “the purchase and installation of all equipment and machinery” itemized in the contract and employ at least 59 full-time workers until next Jan. 1. In exchange, the Commerce Department will reimburse her $130,000.
Ms. Ellis not only intends to retain 59 employees, she’s already increasing her workforce. “We added 12 employees in the last two to three weeks – people who had been displaced – and I expect to hire another 10 to 15 employees over the next six weeks.”
The cosmetics lab has been open throughout the pandemic. “We are a health and hygiene manufacturer deemed to be critical to the supply chain,” she explained.
“We began escalating our sanitary and hygiene procedures more than a month ago,” in the office and in the production areas, Ms. Ellis said recently.
The company’s employees all wear protective face masks while at work. Each employee’s temperature is checked upon his/her arrival at the lab. And a “smell” check has been added, since one of the symptoms among some coronavirus patients is temporary loss of smell.
If an employee has a fever or exhibits any symptoms of a coronavirus infection, the worker is “sent home immediately, with pay, and either their fever goes away or they go for testing,” Ms. Ellis said.
Cosmetic Specialty Labs was founded in 1973 by Ms. Ellis’s grandmother, the late Edna Hennessee.
The company makes lip balms, anti-aging creams, moisturizers, body treatments, nail treatments, skin conditioners, makeup-dissolving cleansers, sea mineral moisturizer, body butter, foot creams, various lotions, shaving scrub, bath balms, bronzer artificial tanning product. The list goes on and on. And the products come in myriad fragrances, too.
“We export to 45 countries, including China, Kuwait, Europe, South America and India,” and the company is “heavily into the Middle East,” Ms. Ellis said.
The company operates in a building that encompasses almost 300,000 square feet under roof.