It sits on a shelf in one of our conference rooms, and is often overlooked, but this Kirkpatrick award from 1981 is significant to our company history. At the time, our membranes group was a part of the Monsanto Company when we were credited for developing membranes to recover industrial gases. Membrane separation is more common now, but the concept was foreign and perplexing at the time. And as our development experts continue to master membrane manufacturing, we keep this chemical engineering award in mind to remind us of our beginnings.
On our websites and documents, you may notice that we talk a lot about PA4050s or PE3030s. What do these model numbers mean? There’s actually a method to the madness.
The first two figures indicate the product family. PA refers to air separation while PE refers to air dehydration. The next four digits are informative as well. The “4050” part of PA4050 means that the fiber bundle is approximately four inches in diameter by five feet long. Therefor the PE3030 means that the product is used for air dehydration and is approximately three inches in diameter by three feet long.
To get even more specific, the remaining sequential 6 digits identify fiber type, cap or shell variations and even manufacturing processes. So here’s a pop quiz. What do these 3 model numbers tell you? The answers are in the data sheets linked below.
Every year, we survey a handful of our membrane customers to learn about their levels of satisfaction with our prices, delivery time, ordering process, technical assistance and so on. It’s a requirement of ours to stay compliant with our quality standards, but in reality, it’s just a really good thing to be doing each year. Then we process the data and figure out where we can improve. One year, we learned that we were slacking in the timeliness of processing warranty claims and membrane returns. I’m not embarrassed to say that, because we learned a really good lesson and put some great effort towards improving that process. We really value the suggestions our customers give us…although you don’t have to tell us that the carpet in our plant looks like it’s 100 years old… we already know that 🙂
Somehow, after nearly twenty years, we are still having an identity crisis. The name of our business unit used to be Permea, but in 1991, we were acquired by Air Products and eventually changed our name to Air Products PRISM Membranes…or APPM for short. Yet, we are still commonly referred to as Permea, and I think there are two reasons for that. One, we actually do have a small sales and engineering branch in Yantai, China that goes by the name of Permea China Limited (or PCL). The Yantai branch chose to stick with the Permea name even after the acquisition due to its longstanding brand traction and reputation in China. The second reason, I think, is that we are a small business unit within Air Products, so there are probably not many conversational chances for people to say “hey, those folks in Saint Louis are actually called PRISM Membranes, not Permea.” And probably a third reason, I know I only said I had two, but really a third reason is this…we probably won’t correct you. Regardless of our name, we’re still the same group of folks who’ve been bringing you long lasting, reliable membrane separators since the early 1980s.
At Air Products, our fiscal year ends on the 30th of September and a new year begins on October first. Here in the membranes division, we throw an annual site celebration to wrap up the year’s accomplishments. Of course, the best way to celebrate anything is with cake and games, so our employees enjoyed some well-deserved play time at a local arcade. We celebrated big wins of the past 12 months like breaking ground on our new OBIGGS manufacturing area, receiving PED certification on our Biogas membrane, and establishing this fantastic blog- the first WordPress blog companywide. Big things are in store for next year too, new membrane product ideas, partnerships, and leadership. So here’s a goodbye toast to fiscal year 2015, and a warm welcome to fiscal year 2016!
The employees in our manufacturing plant build our PRISM membrane separators by hand. We don’t have assembly lines or robots, and we don’t produce batches in multiples of 12. Each separator is delicately made by hand with precision and care, which means that our people are by far, our most important assets.
Just before the Fourth of July holiday, our plant employees enjoyed a quick little event that brought out some friendly competition. After enjoying a tasty meal of summer-time grilled favorites, the employees were challenged with a group bridge building competition. Printer paper and standard glue sticks were the only materials permitted to build a bridge capable of withstanding the weight of a toy truck. We saw creative ideas and big smiles which confirmed that taking a quick break from manufacturing membrane separators to laugh and strengthen teamwork was totally worth it!