ViewPlus leaders say consolidation creates efficiency

Sometimes small changes can have a big impact.

When ViewPlus Technologies consolidated its operations last month from two buildings to one, the only outward sign was a new address — 1965 S.W. Airport Ave., right next door to the old one at the Corvallis Airport Industrial Park.

But company officials say that minor change is already paying major dividends for the firm, which makes embossing computer printers that make graphical information accessible to blind people.

At 15,000 square feet the new building gives the company about 25 percent more room, and for the first time in years all its employees are under one roof. That saves a lot of time and aggravation for colleagues who need to talk to each other during the working day.

“It’s just a lot easier now,” CEO Jeff Gardner said. “You’re definitely a more cohesive company if you can communicate better.”

ViewPlus had already been leasing a corner of the building for manufacturing, but part of the inducement to move the rest of the operation over was the landlord’s offer to do significant renovations. The result is 5,200 square feet of open-plan manufacturing and shipping space with a polished concrete floor.

“The old space had this old nylon carpet, so we had to constantly treat it with chemicals to keep the static down,” said Jeff Howell, the company’s manufacturing director. “Static is your enemy in an electronic manufacturing environment.”

The static charge that built up from working on the carpeted floor could ruin a circuit board, Howell explained. Or, worse yet, it could damage it so that it would break down six months after a printer sale, resulting in a dissatisfied customer.

On Monday, Howell’s crew was working on an order of 60 embossing printers destined for a Russian call center that uses blind employees. The shipment is supposed to go out Wednesday, but Howell wasn’t worried. In the redesigned work space, everything was proceeding smoothly.

“We took out seven or eight walls, put the new floor down, and we were able to get a nice flow to it,” he said. “And if we’ve got a problem now, engineering is right across the hall.”

Those new efficiencies will come in handy when the company ramps up production on its new high-end product line, a $40,000 model called the EmFuse.

The hybrid device combines a high-volume color laser printer with a raised-dot embosser that can produce not only Braille characters but also variable-height tactile graphics.

“It’s better than anything on the market because it embosses and prints on both sides of the paper,” boasted Chief Technology Officer John Gardner, Jeff’s father, who founded the company in 1996 after losing his own eyesight following complications from glaucoma surgery.

ViewPlus rolled out the EmFuse earlier this year. So far, the elder Gardner said, the company has only sold a few units, but he expects that to change in the near future.

“Whenever you put a new product on the market, people have to see it running and see how it works. Then they can start putting it in their budgets and getting quotes,” he said.

“We’ve got lots and lots of quotes out, and most quotes turn into orders.”

Contact Bennett Hall at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@gazettetimes.com.

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald

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