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Dee Heffernan said Royal Labs was in a “unique position” when the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Royal Labs, located on Johns Island, has been manufacturing cosmetic products for over 35 years, with the expertise and supplier relationships that come with that. When demand rose for hand sanitizer and soap, Heffernan said Royal Labs started preparing to ramp up its production of those items.
“Fortunately we have a very large production capability already in place,” said Heffernan, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We’re not like a distillery that is taking one of our kettles and … making hand sanitizer because we have some alcohol and now we can do that.”
One of the initial problems, she said, was that the world is currently experiencing a shortage of ethanol from corn. The company found a supply of ethanol from sugar cane, though, which allowed it to continue producing the hand sanitizer.
“It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but just finding enough raw materials to fulfill a consistent supply of high volume needs … everything hinges on that,” Heffernan said.
Royal Labs’ manufacturing facility is certified by the Food and Drug Administration, so the company already had protocols in place to keep things sterile, including employees wearing protective gear.
“Honestly, not a whole lot of disruption’s happened within our plants because we’ve always had standards of cleanliness that are tailored to our type of business,” Heffernan said.
Royal Labs also gave its employees letters that certify that they’re essential employees in case any of them are stopped by authorities.
The company has been prioritizing higher-volume customers and extending its lead time on new customers who are not coming to Royal Labs with an urgent need for sanitizer or soaps.
“We’re not looking to provide hand sanitizer for every single market for every single customer,” she said. “We’re really trying to focus on those that need it most.”
Heffernan said the company is still producing its other cosmetic products, as well.
“We have very large customers that require us to continue production,” she said. “Bath and beauty care … we’re not seeing a drop-off in that demand.”n