A laboratory in a circa-1900 brick building in downtown Mankato, Minnesota may conjure up images of old-fashioned cozy charm but, for the 34 employees of Wornson-Polzin Dental Lab, the space felt anything but cozy.
"We were on the third floor and, in a Minnesota winter when the winds were whipping, you could stand by the window and feel cold air coming in," recalls William Homer, the lab's removables manager.
And the problems didn't end there.
The layout and workflow of the 4,000-sq-ft operation was abysmal. "Shipping and receiving was crammed into a narrow, closet-like room; case pans were piled everywhere; and people were constantly running into each other," says Ernie Pettengill, president of the National Dentex-member laboratory. The building's electrical capacity was also maxed out, so the lab couldn't install one more piece of equipment without blowing circuits. And, since on-street parking was scarce, employees had to pay almost $300 per year to park in a city-owned lot behind the building.
So, in 2007, the laboratory began looking for a new home. It settled on building a 13,000-sq-ft facility in an industrial development in North Mankato, just four miles from its existing location. Working with a design that National Dentex labs have used before, the laboratory was able to customize certain aspects of the floor plan such as where offices would be located and bench arrangements for the various departments.
Eighteen months later--after spending nearly half a century in the downtown location--the laboratory moved into its new state-of-the-art home. Soon after, the laboratory held a catered grand opening party where 50 clients were treated to laboratory tours, door prizes and a catered reception. "It was a wonderful opportunity to show off the lab and the work we do," says Pettengill. "We have the 'wow' factor now, and our clients just keep commenting about how impressed they are--the look on their faces when they see our building is priceless."
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