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Published in Small Business
GP Reeves Inc.’s new line of hand sanitizer dispensers comes in a variety of models. GP Reeves Inc.’s new line of hand sanitizer dispensers comes in a variety of models. COURTESY PHOTO

Collaboration of Holland businesses yields innovation in hand sanitizer dispensers

BY Sunday, August 16, 2020 05:40pm

HOLLAND — GP Reeves Inc. put to use its nearly 50-year history and expertise in precision dispensing to make innovations to what has become a staple of the COVID-19 pandemic era.

The Holland-based manufacturer recently unveiled Defense Dispense, a line of hand sanitizer dispensers that was created out of a collaboration with a few other local businesses. The product was not a hard pivot for the company, which designs and builds a complete line of ambient applied and heated material dispensing equipment and dispense automation.

“Some of this stuff we had experience in, so we created a product that we feel has some differentiating factors about it and that helps out the community in ways that (other dispensers can’t),” said Eric Stoike, marketing manager at GP Reeves, which hired around 30 employees as part of the project.

Up until the hand sanitizer product, GP Reeves had specialized in dispensing grease, oils, adhesives and sealants while serving the automotive, life sciences, aerospace, furniture, consumer goods, electronics, industrial manufacturing and other industries.

At first blush, Defense Dispense might seem like the run-of-the-mill touchless hand sanitizer dispenser that has popped up seemingly everywhere during the pandemic.

However, GP Reeves has introduced a few innovative wrinkles to the product, namely the fact that it uses a bulk supply of hand sanitizer rather than refillable bags or cartridges that all but disappeared when the pandemic descended on America.

Defense Dispense also comes in a variety of models to fit the needs of wide-ranging clientele. These products range from free-standing models like the Fortress and Fortress XL to tabletop or customer mounted versions.

While Defense Dispense has a solution for essentially any need, the company is targeting clients with large properties and heavy foot traffic such as universities and manufacturing facilities, which is where the bulk supply of hand sanitizer truly comes in handy, Stoike said.

“We do target a larger, high-volume kind of area that your average competitor (might not),” he said. “Our standard one-gallon container is about three times the size of most competitors out there.”

The Defense Dispense line of dispensers can hold a supply of sanitizer ranging from eight ounces all the way up to five gallons. Defense Dispense also is equipped with measures to secure the supply of liquid or gel sanitizer.

On top of those design and performance features, Defense Dispense provides custom branding for its machines. For instance, GP Reeves recently shipped off units to Wayne State University that featured the school’s colors and logo.

For bulk sanitizer, GP Reeves turned to New Holland Brewery Co. LLC, which made a pivot of its own to start producing the coveted substance.

“I think it’s kind of a cool story because it’s two West Michigan-based companies that are partnering up and adapting their business strategies to meet the needs of consumers during COVID-19,” said Layne Hayes, manager of e-commerce and fulfillment for New Holland Brewery, who also spearheaded the company’s hand sanitizer efforts. “We were both switching up, doing things differently. We thought: ‘How can we partner up and make the most of it?’”

New Holland, which also operates a distillery, utilized its existing infrastructure to produce hand sanitizer when it was forced to shut down its restaurants. The move was not intended to be a long-term play, but has been thanks to the lingering pandemic.

“We just thought this is an opportunity where we can step in and really help our community,” Hayes said. “We never thought we’d be this far along and still be producing hand sanitizer.”

New Holland Brewery wasn’t the only Holland-based collaborator on the product. GP Reeves also tapped Cusack Music LLC, a company that specializes in developing and manufacturing guitar effects pedals. GP Reeves worked with the company’s Cusack Manufacturing division to program the circuit board to make Defense Dispense more sophisticated than traditional dispensers.

Jon Cusack, owner and chief technology officer of Cusack Music, said at the time he was approached with the opportunity, his business was half staffed and backlogged with work.

“Under normal circumstances, I would have turned this project down,” Cusack said. “But because it was related to COVID, it was like ‘OK, here’s a local company doing something that has to do with what the entire world is dealing with right now. We’ll figure out how to squeeze this thing into our schedule.’”

GP Reeves also worked with Primera Plastics Inc. of Zeeland to produce the plastic housing for the units.

Stoike said that initial interest in Defense Dispense has been positive, whether through the company’s sales channels in Holland, Flint, Columbus, Ohio and Toronto, or through its website. GP Reeves has shipped units to Florida, Texas, California and other states.

GP Reeves also looks to add both a weather-resistant and solar-powered model to its arsenal in the future, according to Stoike.

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