Specialized Procedures Hallmark For Allied Universal Corporation

July 1, 2001
SPECIALIZED, specialized, specialized that's the definition for Allied Universal Corp. The Miami, Florida, chemical manufacturer and distributor not only

SPECIALIZED, specialized, specialized — that's the definition for Allied Universal Corp. The Miami, Florida, chemical manufacturer and distributor not only handles specialized products, the family-owned company operates its own in-house trucking, maintains a transloading facility, and designs and constructs equipment at its sites and those of its customers.

The majority of the business consists of four products: chlorine, sodium hydroxide, sulfur dioxide, and sodium hypochlorite (bleach). The rest of the lineup includes various chemical products used in water treatment. Among its services are the manufacture of chlorine bleach and packaging of chlorine gas. About 100 million gallons of bleach are distributed annually throughout Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas. For the last 30 years, the company has provided service to Central America and the Caribbean.

“Chlorine is a commodity product, but the government has made it a specialty product because of the rules that govern its handling,” says Robert Namoff, chief executive officer. “At the same time, there is always a demand for this product.”

Namoff has capitalized on expertise required to supply chemicals that are used primarily in the treatment of drinking water and wastewater to maintain standards that keep the public safe from disease. Municipalities are a major customer. Because water treatment is directly related to public health, Allied Universal has to focus on specific services of timely supply and delivery.

Health concerns are a factor in water treatment for swimming pools. This recreational aspect of the market has been a major part of the company's growth in Florida and continues to boost sales throughout the Southeast. Allied Universal supplies product to pool maintenance companies, providing storage tank technology, secondary containment installation, tank monitoring services, and product delivery. Among the company's products that have been successful is AquaGuard Pool Acid, a non-fuming acid used to adjust the pH in swimming pool water.

The company also supplies the paper mill and textile industries, which use the products in the manufacturing process.

Raw Materials Control

To meet the demands of the specialty market and control acquisition of raw materials, Allied Universal operates its own transportation division and transloading facilities.

“We continually strive to improve efficiency and contain costs,” says Namoff. “This gives us an edge in what is a very competitive business. We also believe that building stable and long-term relationships with our customers and suppliers helps us all to grow our businesses.”

Namoff points out that many chemical distributors are more diversified than Allied Universal, but he believes the decision to specialize has paid off by allowing the company to excel in the business that it knows best. The company has a 46-year history in specialization, begun in 1955 by Namoff's father, Leon Namoff, who founded the company in Miami. His son assumed the reins in 1983 and began to expand the business throughout the Southeast.

Today, there are manufacturing and distribution centers in Miami, Fort Pierce, and Tampa, Florida; Brunswick and Ranger, Georgia; and West Memphis, Arkansas. The newest facility opened in the middle of 2000 in Ellisville, Mississippi. Vapor scrubbers designed and constructed by the company have been installed at all seven plants to protect the environment against accidental product leakage.

The company is divided into three segments, Allied Universal and two subsidiaries: Transportation Services Unlimited and Chemical Formulators. Transportation Services, as its name indicates, directs all trucking operations. Chemical Formulators operates the transloading facility in Tampa, which handles caustic coming in by ship, transferring it to rail and trucks. Dave McCutcheon oversees the operation as branch manager. The transloading facility has 21 railcar spots on site that are served by CSX Transportation. Four loading racks are available for tank trailers. In addition, about 2,500 railcars are moved throughout the company's system each year.

Namoff focuses on company development and delegates other parts of the operation to staff specialists. Jim Palmer, a chemist, is chief operating officer. Mike Koven, chief financial officer, concentrates on economics. There are chemical engineers on staff, as well as compliance and environmental specialists. Leading the transportation team is Don Conord.

“I knew we needed specialized executives to bring a small company up to a professional corporation,” says Namoff. At the same time, he points to the importance of the other employees that enhance operations, and that list includes the 96 dedicated drivers who are considered product handling specialists. The company also has employees who are trained for, and members of, Allied Universal's hazardous materials (hazmat) emergency response team.

Because of its location in the coastal Southeast, the company is particularly vulnerable to violent thunderstorms and hurricanes. Employees serve on the company's hurricane committee and are prepared to respond to weather disasters. As Namoff points out, a hurricane aftermath, and the subsequent contamination of drinking water, often causes greater demand for water treatment products. With employees poised to act, and with backup generators to kick in should a power outage occur, the company is prepared for about any eventuality.

Not satisfied with just keeping employees trained for disasters, Namoff encourages community participation in emergency programs. Some of the employees teach at a local emergency response training school, and the company participates in hazmat drills for local fire departments and rescue units.

In addition, Namoff and Palmer are active members of the Chlorine Institute. Namoff serves as chairman of a committee organized to establish a Windows-based software bar code program for gas cylinders. Namoff has recently been named to the Board of Directors of the association. The chlorine industry is moving toward establishing standards to insure cylinders are properly maintained, used, and returned appropriately, and tracking them eases that task.

“We hope to continue this,” says Namoff. “While it is mainly to improve safety, it will also enhance cost control.”

Evidence of the company's dedication to safety and community volunteerism is indicated by certificates of appreciation from the Metro Dade Fire Department and The Chlorine Institute. Allied Universal is also a member of the National Association of Chemical Distributors (NACD) and takes part in that organization's Responsible Distribution Process.

As part of its emphasis on hazmat safety, the company requires prospective drivers to have hazmat and tank endorsements on their commercial driver license before they can apply for a job. Drivers who are employed receive job-specific training, including instruction on tank trailer plumbing, product chemistry and safety, company orientation and policies, Department of Transportation regulations, and defensive driving. Typically, new hires spend about two weeks in on-the-road training under the eye of a veteran driver, says Palmer.

Drivers typically cover local territory at the individual terminals. Dispatchers at each terminal coordinate deliveries. “We have very few drivers over-the-road,” says Namoff.

Drivers receive quarterly bonuses for safe and efficient performance. The criteria for receiving the bonus include no reportable accidents, proper use of equipment, and maintaining truck and trailer cleanliness.

Company Fleet

Backing up the company's commitment to its drivers, as well as to its customers, is the fleet of 78 tractors and 58 tank trailers. Fifty of the trailers are used to transport bleach. Six haul caustic soda, one transports sulfuric acid, and another is used for hydrofluorosilicic acid. There are also 34 flatbed trailers and three vans in the fleet. The company uses six crane trucks to lift chlorine and sulfur dioxide ton containers.

Allied Universal prefers pneumatic loading and unloading from trailers because of the corrosive nature of the products. Product is air offloaded, using the tractor compressor.

The newest 5,000-gallon DOT412 Polar carbon steel tank trailer is typical of others in the fleet. It can be used for acids and corrosives. Components include Ultraflo butterfly valves. The trailers are piped for top loading and unloading.

The majority of the tank trailers in the fleet are equipped with Girard vents, Reyco spring suspensions, Meritor axles, MeritorWABCO brakes, Truck-Lite lighting and wiring, and Goodyear tires.

Tankcon FRP Inc of Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada, and Comptank Corp of Bothwell, Ontario, Canada, built the six fiberglass tank trailers in the fleet. They are used to haul sodium hypochlorite.

“We chose the fiberglass trailers because there is no need to repair liners and more product can be delivered per shipment,” says Palmer.

Tankcon supplied five DOT412 5,400-gallon tank trailers equipped with Asahi valves and a Tankcon manway. The chassis includes Hayes-Dana axles, and wheels and hubs from Gunite. Midland Grau provides the antilock braking system. The fiberglass reinforced plastic vessels have a balsa core shell. The newest Tankcon vehicles are specified with air-ride equipment.

The Comptank 5,500-gallon filament wound tank trailer is optimized for transporting sodium hypochlorite and capable of transporting other corrosives. Top loading and unloading piping comes with Chemline/Asahi butterfly valves. Other components include Comptank manways.

Allied Universal's newest tractors are the Sterling AT9500. There are Fords remaining in the fleet from before Sterling acquired the Ford tractor division. Palmetto Ford Truck Sales in Miami supplies the vehicles.

The newest Sterling is equipped with a 370-horsepower Cummins N14 engine and 10-speed Eaton Fuller RTX-1471OB transmission. Meritor supplies front and rear axles, the latter with a 3.90 ratio. The antilock braking is from Bendix.

Other components include a Fontaine fifthwheel, Hayes-Lemmerz hubs, Accuride wheels, and Truck-Lite lamps. Michelin tires are specified.

Equipment Maintenance

To maintain the equipment, Allied Universal operates two shops, one in Brunswick and the other in Miami, where vehicles are routinely serviced and repaired. Major trailer repairs are handled by code shops. Because all the carbon steel tank trailers are lined with chlorobutyl rubber, and because the heat and ultraviolet light in the Southeast cause the product to degrade the lining, preventive maintenance has a top priority.

“When the tanks are not full of product, you get a greenhouse effect,” says Palmer. “Maintaining those linings is very labor intensive.”

At a cost of $18,000 per lining, it is essential to stay on top of the tank's interior condition. Spark tests are scheduled every quarter to detect problems early.

Preventive maintenance is another way the company can assure its vehicles will be ready to serve companies.

As for the future, Namoff is studying the population growth that is occurring throughout the Southeast. He stays in touch with real estate agents in the region who keep him abreast of the latest statistics, and looks for locations that might be suitable for Allied Universal expansion. At the top of the list are sites with rail sidings that are near highways and will accept products the company handles.

“We are considering acquisitions and joint ventures that will take the company nationwide,” he says. “We are moving into a new 11,000-square-foot corporate headquarters here in Miami. We have a staff in place that can handle at least 50% more growth. We've made a promise to ourselves, and to our customers, that we would always be committed to searching out and developing an innovative business model that would enable us to provide our customer the best quality, priced product available in the market.”

About the Author

Mary Davis