Local firm looking for help for hand sanitizer production

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell




The new 40,000-square-foot Peak Processing Solutions plant in Oldcastle was built to produce consumable cannabis goods, but the first product out its doors will be hand sanitizer.

After receiving government approval to make hand sanitizer, the company is retrofitting its pristine facility to accommodate the new product.

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“Since the COVID-19 outbreak we’ve been looking at what could we do with this facility to help,” said company president Greg Battersby, who expects to get government clearance to produce cannabis products in June.

“Our facility is built to produce liquids. The governments are saying hand sanitizer is in short supply.

“They’ve told us, ‘Start making it and keep on making it.’ They haven’t given us a top number of what they want.”

Helping hands. Justin Binder, left, Mary Jo Camboia and Greg Battersby of Peak Processing Solutions in Oldcastle are shown at the business, April 8, 2020. The company will be producing hand sanitizer to help in the fight against COVID-19. DAN JANISSE/Windsor Star
Battersby said the plant requires a little retooling and new piping, but that will be completed in one to two weeks.

The most important retrofit is having proper storage tanks for the ethanol used in sanitizer.

“The local trades and general contractors, along with so many area businesses and suppliers, have donated their time or resources to help get this done,” Battersby said.

The biggest challenge now facing Peak is sourcing a regular supply of ethanol.

The sudden shift of companies retooling to make hand sanitizer has substantially increased demand for food-grade ethanol.

He urged anyone with an ethanol supply to contact Peak Processing Solutions.

“Ethanol is our biggest obstacle right now,” Battersby said. “We’re working with a few different partners on some possibilities. We need food-grade ethanol to ensure consumer safety.”

Battersby said the company has the ability to upgrade lower grade ethanol to reach the required accreditation.

“I’m optimistic we’ll be able to source a supply,” Battersby said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has produced a lot of unintended consequences in the supply chain.”

Once processed, the hand sanitizer undergoes a week of testing before being ready to ship.

Battersby said the company could produce 1,500 litres per day on a one-shift schedule.

The hand sanitizer will be bottled in half-gallon and 2.5-gallon containers that can be re-used.

“If we’re producing 1,500 litres per day, I’m really encouraging the federal and provincial governments make sure they assist with the distribution. We couldn’t distribute that all over southwestern Ontario.

“We really need help from government and private distributors to carry that on.”

A willingness to help is the one thing that isn’t in short supply during the pandemic.

Windsor-based Aalstec Data Corporation, which is one of the largest suppliers of bar codes and parts labels in the automotive industry, is also lending a hand in rectifying the hand sanitizer shortage.

The company supplied JP Wiser’s with over 7,000 labels so the distiller could get its own hand sanitizer out quickly.

“We do the labels for tracking the whisky barrels for them, so we had a relationship,” said company founder Mark Lamon.

“They reached out to us and sent us the artwork. We had to do something to help out, so we made the labels and donated them.”

Aalstec quickly changed the setup on their machines from shipping labels for car parts, such as Mustang motors, to water bottle-sized labels and five-gallon pails.

Eventually, the company that regularly labels JP Wiser products will take over.

“They needed 5,000 labels now, not in a week,” said Lamon, a Windsor native. “We had the materials available and we dedicate one guy to do the job.

“We have good clients like JP Wiser, doing something to support the community. It was something we could do to help.

“These are real scary times. Let’s all do the right thing.”