Pain Enterprises' Success Stems From Building on Company Roots

PAIN Enterprises Inc has been distributing carbon dioxide and dry ice since 1957. In those four-plus decades, the Bloomington, Indiana, company has successfully grown by utilizing expertise gained over the years. Today, the business serves a large range of customers — from restaurants to hospitals to industrial and chemical manufacturers, bringing in $40 million in annual revenue.

Despite the growth, however, the company remains close to its roots by remaining in the original niche.

“We think doing a good job with carbon dioxide and being able to be competitive have served us well,” says Matt Pain, vice-president, operations. “To stay competitive, we have acquired several companies in order to expand our avenue of growth.”

An overview of the company reveals a transportation fleet of 21 tractors, six tank trailers for carbon dioxide transport, and 32 mini-bulk trucks for carbon dioxide delivery. Other vehicles in the fleet include 88 van box trucks and 25 van trailers used for delivering dry ice and carbon dioxide cylinders.

The latest addition to the company is a commercial tank truck assembly and repair facility. The commercial assembly operation is an offshoot of the company's in-house operation in Marion, Indiana, and will specialize in what it knows best — compressed gas vehicles.

Pain Enterprises was established by Matt Pain's father, John “Jack” Pain Sr, as a welding supply business in Marion. Welding supply naturally led to compressed gases, and the company had found its niche.

“If we go back over the years, we see that the major industrial gas companies were doing the distribution,” says Matt Pain. “Then they made an effort to divest themselves of the distributorships. Jack Pain was one of those who decided to buy out the guys that were out there.”

Eventually, John Sr retired, leaving the management in the hands of his eight children. The three sons, Matt Pain, John Pain Jr, and Mark Pain, direct the operations. John Pain Jr is vice-president of production, while Mark Pain directs the vehicle assembly and maintenance facility. The company moved to new headquarters in Bloomington in mid-2000.

About 60% of the business comes from dry ice production and about 40% from liquefied carbon dioxide distribution. “That is soon going to be about 50/50,” says John Pain Jr.

He notes that in the company's early days, about 5,000 pounds of carbon dioxide were handled annually. A yearly amount today tops the scales at about 100,000 tons.

Restaurants are a major customer for carbon dioxide used in the carbonation of soft drinks, and the growth in fast foods and franchised restaurants has been a boon for the company.

In addition to carbonation in drinks, carbon dioxide is used in welding, water treatment, fire extinguishers, inert packaging for increasing shelf life of product, greenhouses, and oil or water wells, says Gil D'Arcy, president.

Other customers include wine and beer makers. Product also is supplied to sports stadiums in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cincinnati, Ohio, and Columbus, Ohio. Other customers are located in theme parks, movie theaters, and hotels.

To keep products flowing, Pain Enterprises has distribution centers in Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

For many years, Pain Enterprises delivered carbon dioxide in cylinders, but in the late 1980s began to persuade customers to store the product in mini-bulk tanks. Persuading the customers wasn't too difficult because of the safety and convenience factor. Working pressure in cylinders is about 700-800 pounds per square inch (psi), while in the mini-bulk tanks it is reduced to about 125 psi.

An added asset to the safety factor is the convenience that comes from bulk tank use. Eight cylinders would be required to hold a comparable amount of product in one mini-bulk tank. Customers don't have to change high-pressure cylinders when product gets low. Because there is an uninterrupted flow of carbon dioxide, beverages don't become flat. The tanks of choice are about 300 to 400 pounds, but the tanks range in size from 200 to 600 pounds. Pain Enterprises purchases mini-bulk tank containers from Minnesota Valley Equipment (MVE) and Taylor Wharton (HARSCO).

Product can be delivered to the storage tank inside the customer location through a small outlet in the outside wall. A locked cover protects the connection area when it is not in use. Where possible, deliveries are scheduled at the customer's slow time so that the truck will not interfere with traffic.

“It makes the customer's access to the product just like a utility,” says John Pain Jr.

Customer usage is monitored and tanks are refilled when needed, generally on a route cycle. Usage is calculated with a Unix software program designed for Pain Enterprises. The company serves about 15,000 restaurant customers.

The company also blends nitrogen with carbon dioxide for customers and supplies other gases as needed. One example is the helium that is used by some fast food restaurants for filling balloons.

“In addition to distribution, a major part of the company's business is its mini-bulk tank leasing service,” D'Arcy points out.

Along with the growth in carbon dioxide customers, the company has experienced an acceleration in dry ice production and distribution. The product was added to the company's services in 1977. Dry ice applications include refrigeration for perishable products on trucks, railcars, airliners, and recreational vehicles. Dry ice is used in food packing, processing, grinding, and blending. Industrial uses include low-temperature testing, shrink fitting, deflashing molded rubber, rapid cooling, and purging flammable vapors. The product has medical applications in preserving laboratory specimens, blood products, drugs, and chemicals. In some instances, dry ice replaces sand for blasting purposes.

Pain Enterprises' plants produce dry ice in blocks, custom cut slices, pellets, and nuggets. It can also be provided crushed and pulverized. Plants are located in Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Muscatine and Creston, Iowa; and Lima, Ohio.

In addition to supplying carbon dioxide, Pain provides and services cylinders, tanks, and fiberglass and polyboxes used to ship dry ice.

Soon after the company began distributing carbon dioxide in bulk, it began assembling its own trucks. Becoming aware of industry demand for the service, the Pains, this year, settled on the idea to manufacture trucks for sale.

Their own fleet includes Kleespie tanks with about four-ton capacity mounted on Mitsubishi chassis. The Mitsubishi 6D16-3AT3 in-line six-cylinder engine with 300 horsepower at 2600 rpm is standard on the newest trucks. Six-speed manual transmissions are specified.

“We have been pleased with the Mitsubishi performance,” says John Pain. “The truck's durability is good. We get more miles between service, and there are fewer breakdowns.”

The assembly facility applies foam insulation and installs piping, valves, and other components on the tanks. Among the tank components are Magnetel float gauges, MVE Flow Com meters, Apollo ball valves, RegO and Anderson Greenwood pressure-relief valves, and Hannay reels.

Pain Enterprises builds its own vaporizer to convert liquid to gas in order to flow the product at 300 psi working pressure. The system is tied into the truck's cooling system. “It doesn't add much weight, eliminates the use of a pump, and the cost is relatively low,” says Matt Pain.

A lift system is installed on one side of the truck and is used to lift cylinders that also are carried on the mini-bulk truck.

Matt Pain agrees the finished product is a specialized and dedicated delivery truck. “It's meant to supply the restaurant industry,” he adds.

The tractor fleet includes Kenworths and Peterbilts. Typically, the company buys two-year-old vehicles, overhauls them at 200,000 miles, and sells them at 500,000 miles. At the same time, managers know the importance of providing as much truck and tractor comfort as possible. All tractors are specified with sleepers, and all vehicles are equipped with air-conditioning, AM and FM radios, and cassette players.

Tank trailers typically are purchased used, and most were built by Lubbock Tank and Trailer. With a payload of about 20 tons, they weigh in at 42,000 pounds.

Drum hydraulic systems are mounted on the tractors where they power Blackmer pumps mounted on the trailer.

Tractors and trailers are sent to outside vendors for repairs. They receive oil and filter changes at 12,000 miles. Tank truck service is handled at the Pain Enterprises shop in Marion.

Vehicle condition also is emphasized with the company's 29 mini-bulk truck drivers, who are trained to watch for mechanical problems in an effort to enhance preventive maintenance.

Larry Petoskey, distribution manager, oversees transport driver training. Training for all drivers includes company orientation and policies, Department of Transportation regulations, defensive driving, and hazardous materials handling. An annual safety award is presented to drivers who qualify each year. The criteria include no accidents and the cleanliness of the driver's vehicle. Drivers are provided with polish for wheels and required to wash the vehicles as necessary.

“We prefer to hire experienced drivers with tank trailer training,” says John Pain.

As for the future, Dave Forgash, vice-president of sales, points out that there are 800,000 potential customers for mini-bulk delivery of carbon dioxide — and that number is growing. Added to that prospect are growth applications, such as carbon dioxide in the dry-cleaning process to replace chemicals. Substituting dry ice as a blasting material for sand eliminates residue and reduces disposal costs.

Pain Enterprises has been successful by building on a firm foundation established when the company was formed and staying within a very specialized niche composed of carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide products. As that niche grows, the company is well-positioned to take advantage of future opportunities.

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