CPS Abides: Embracing Constraints to Adapt and Thrive in this Ever-Changing World

In nearly every way, it was an F-A-T like any other… we demonstrated the functionality of the new, custom, dry material handling blender as the client looked on. We walked them through every step of its operation and answered their question, and the meeting ended with a successful test.

Except… in one major way, it was nothing like the hundreds of tests we’ve performed for clients around the world over the last fifteen years.

The clients were 1,968 miles (3,167 kilometers) away. It took place online.

The client was in Oregon, connected via Microsoft’s Teams application, and Rodney Boyer (any resemblance to Jeff Lebowski is purely coincidental), Senior Automation Engineer for CPS was leading the client through the F-A-T while his Vanna White assisted. In this case, the role of Vanna was played by CPS’ own Bob Luebbe, Senior VP of Sales, who manned a camera phone also connected to Teams.

“In many ways, it’s the same as it ever was,” said Boyer. “We’re able to send the documentation ahead of time then securely walk them through the functionality as if they were in the room with us.”

Boyer, Luebbe, and the team at Custom Powder have been embracing constraints since the conception of the company in June of 2005.

“Everyone on the team enjoys the brainstorming part of this,” says Luebbe. “We love it when companies come to us unsure of how something can be done. For us, virtual FATs were just a natural result of our culture of brainstorming around obstacles.”

With so many of their colleagues and peers headquartered overseas facing strict travel restrictions, Custom Powder’s ability to travel easily anywhere in the United States combined with their unique ability to consider—and even invent—alternative solutions has made their team indispensable to their clients.

I’d argue there’s really no such thing as business-to-business. It’s all people doing business with other people.

Denise McIntosh, CEO, Custom Powder Systems

“Yes, of course we are in the dry material handling business, but more than that, we’re in the relationship business,” says Denise McIntosh, CEO of Custom Powder Systems. “In fact, I’d argue there’s really no such thing as business-to-business. It’s all people doing business with other people.”

“I really enjoy working hand-in-hand and face-to-face with our clients,” said Boyer, “but when that’s not an option in the current climate, it’s nice to know we can still help them solve problems.”

“Our team is hard-wired that way,” added Luebbe, “to embrace constraints and brainstorm solutions to these new problems that, so far, seem to be defining 2020.”

Watching the satisfied clients disconnect from Teams after a successful F-A-T, it’s easy to see why Custom Powder continues to redefine how it spells S-U-C-C-E-S-S.

If you’re looking for a US-based company to help you embrace constraints and save you time and money with creative solutions, contact Custom Powder Systems today.

CPS Platform Lift

Our Customized Platform Lifts Will Elevate Your Operation

There are hints of lifting devices dating back to the time of Archimedes. Leonardo da Vinci, our kindred Renaissance spirit, drew up elevator designs. Steam-powered elevators would haul lumber and coal in the 19th century. It would be years before people thought about hoisting people in these machines…and this kind of engineering ingenuity is behind our platform lifts.

A standard elevator is an architectural adventure, to say the least, because of the high degree of integration required with the building structure.  This requires an intense upfront effort in facility planning and design AND must be validated where installed.  Our platform lifts have two simple building anchor points for fast and easy installation.  They are design-built as a modular entity that is Factory Acceptance Tested (FAT’ed) and validated before it leaves our factory. 

Scott Heffern, Senior Vice-President of Products at Custom Powder Systems says, “We can come in at any time, move it in in pieces, and it’s installed. It’s fairly coordination-free from the business’s standpoint. We work around you.”

The Right Tool

Platform lifts are the perfect example of using the right tool for the job which is particularly important when it comes to pharmaceutical validation. Scott says, “You have to document that the product works reliably and as intended. It could indirectly impact production output and product quality if you can’t get product and equipment where and at what level it needs to be.”


Custom platform lifts are cGMP (current Good Manufacturing Practice). “We build the lift to the same standards of our production equipment for pharmaceutical and biotech,” Heffern says. This means the cleanability of the lift meets the same standards as that of the process equipment of your plant; this is not achievable with a traditional elevator.

Platform Lift 2 1


Platform lifts are one of the most customized and customizable products offered by Custom Powder Systems. Your lift will be customized for your unique situation, process, and your products.

We haven’t met a challenge we couldn’t tackle with our wealth of engineering knowledge, along with a big dose of creative thinking. We (quite literally) help you take your manufacturing processes to a new level!

Use our contact form, or call Custom Powder Systems at (417) 868-8002.

Photo by H Shaw on Unsplash

Protecting Your Employees When PPE is Hard to Find

“PPE has gone up 1000% in price across the board. Companies are calling us and saying ‘Here’s the situation, do you have any options?’”

Angelo Rubino, Business Development Specialist

PPE has been a common term for people in hospitals, factories, and other potentially hazardous workplaces. With the onset of COVID-19, the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has been the topic of a multitude of headlines. As more PPE is directed to healthcare workers, companies working with hazardous materials are finding it difficult to source some of the most basic equipment. Equipment that was once just a click of the mouse away.

Angelo Rubino, a business development specialist at Custom Powder Systems, has been fielding calls from companies needing new solutions. “PPE has gone up 1000% in price across the board,” according to Rubino. “Companies are calling us and saying ‘Here’s the situation, do you have any options?’”

The solution comes in two forms: Downflow Booths and Isolators.

Occupational Exposure Limits (OEL) determine the type of PPE a worker might need. The lower the OEL gets, the more aggressive the protection must be.

Downflow Booths are a way of blocking particulates by creating a flow of air that effectively traps harmful material and pushes draws it into a filter. This “wall” of air moves in one direction away from the operator—preventing airborne particles from reaching employees.

Isolators are used in situations when measurements go from micrograms down to nanograms. Ronnie Harris, Director of Engineering, says that “isolators keep the operators on the outside and the product on the inside.” This not only protects workers from coming into contact with the product, it prevents cross-contamination with other pharmaceuticals or chemicals.

“What can we do to solve this so we’re never having stress like this again?”

Angelo Rubino, discussing what our clients are asking us.

The unexpected interruption of the PPE supply chain is requiring companies to look for permanent and customized solutions. Angelo Rubino is hearing companies ask “what can we do to solve this so we’re never having stress like this again?”

In addition to the important protection for employees, the FDA encourages no operator being in the same room as the product being handled. “They want you working through a random access barrier, ” says Russell Krainiak, Director of Technology at CPS. “A RABS is a wall system that keeps everything from the operator from getting to anything that’s inside to fill lines. And you work through gloves just like you do in all our Containment Isolators.”

It’s important that Personal Protective Equipment like masks, face shields, gloves, and outerwear find its way to hospitals and healthcare workers who are on the front lines fighting COVID-19. It’s also crucial that a company like yours supplying pharmaceuticals have a way to protect your employees… and the products you are shipping. And if there’s something Custom Powder Systems is brilliant at doing, it’s finding a customized and creative solution to make your company safe and more effective.

By speaking with one of our experts, you may find that a permanent solution now can both save money, and prevent future shut-downs in the event of another PPE interruption.

To speak with one of our experts about your PPE, isolation, containment, or other crucial challenges, call us today at (417) 868-8002 or contact us via the short form below:

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Da Vinci’s Genius [VIDEO]

As you may have noticed, Leonardo da Vinci is on our Mt. Rushmore here at CPS and ICS. He embraced the constraints that faced him, saw patterns and connections others never could, and unlike most of the mere mortals of his time or any other—to paraphrase George Bernard Shaw—dreamt things that never were and asked “why not?”

We’re big on asking “why not?” around here. Da Vinci died 501 years ago, on May 2, 1519, but not before changing the world, and pioneering The Art of Engineering.

Artist Leonardo da Vinci produced two of the most famous paintings in history, “The Last Supper” and the “Mona Lisa.” But he was also passionate about medical discoveries and military inventions, some of which were centuries ahead of their time. Walter Isaacson, author of bestselling biographies of Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, has written a new book about da Vinci, and he talks with Dr. Jon LaPook about why this Renaissance Man’s mind and curiosity were so extraordinary.

When it becomes necessary for you to embrace constraints and not merely think outside the box, but kick it to the side, we’ll be here ready to work with you and dream things that never were to help you with your containment projects and challenges.

On spec? On time? On budget?

Sure. Why not?

Contact us to get started today.


Another Engineer Obsess—err, Hobby: Woodworking with Russell Motes

It’s no big secret that engineers are particularly obsessive dedicated to their hobbies outside of work. Whether it’s pinball machines or, in this case, woodworking, our engineers get the most out of their natural gifts and talents… Russell Motes is one of our engineers here at Custom Powder Systems. The captions below are his.

This is what happens to all those pallets that I take home from time to time. This is what my projects start out looking like before I mill all of the pallet wood down to usable lumber.
Custom Table
This was a quick little coffee table build…
End Tables
And some fun little end tables (before finishing, of course.)
custom bed Frame
A bed frame that I built for my grandson.
Entertainment Center
A small entertainment center…
Island Table
…and sofa table that I built for my daughter.
A bathroom vanity for my bathroom remodel project (1 of 2)
The floor is made out of pallet lumber, also. (2 of 2)
A desk I built for my wife.
Sofa Table
A outdoor table built for my front porch…
Table with shelf
A storage cabinet built for our closet. (for shoes, hats, belts, etc…)
shop table
A “Miter Saw Station” (w/ tool storage)… built out of necessity.
Vo-Tech class
Well, I guess I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time, because, the last picture is of me (far left), in our Junior Year (1988) of High School – Vo-Tech cabinet making class.
Man, time flies!
Russel at desk
Russell at his desk at Custom Powder Systems… he’s barely aged a day since 1988… 🙂

This wide range of engineering talent is what makes Russell a key part of Custom Powder Systems. (Remind me sometime to tell you about the old church he’s renovating into a home!) When one of our customers encounters a new problem, we turn to Russell and our team to use their skills, experience, and personal passions to come up with a creative way to solve it…


Women in Welding: From Rosie the Riveter to Custom Powder Systems

During World War II as all the “boys” were off to war, women stepped in and took up factory jobs. American women were working around the clock to make sure our troops had the tanks, jeeps, airplanes, and artillery needed to get the job done.

Post-war America saw more and more jobs move into the office setting. But not all of them. Not by a longshot. As many from the millennial generation, and younger, gravitate to tech jobs, a large hole is being created in the manufacturing industry. It’s created an opportunity for many, and women are back at it! Since 2004, the number of women entering welding apprenticeship has increased by 35%.

Custom Powder Systems works closely with Ozark Technical College in Missouri helping young adults find their way into something more than a job. We help them build a career in manufacturing.

DeAnn Kraichely, our Director of Human Resources, was recently tasked with attending Manufacturing Day at OTC and met Nadine, who would become our first female welder in the company. “She had no skills for aluminum, but she could weld stainless steel.” This didn’t disqualify Nadine, because DeAnn saw an opportunity to help a new employee grow. “It was a big opportunity for her, but it was also a big one for us.” Giving her the chance to show her willingness to learn worked out great for both Custom Powder and this young welder. “She was willing to do whatever it took,” DeAnn said. “Her attitude had a lot to do with it, but I saw the guys rally behind her. They wanted her to succeed, and that was a big part of it.”

The hiring process is a two-way street.

A company is evaluating a new employee, while the employee is sizing up the company. A good reputation isn’t something that just happens, it requires both leadership from the top and teamwork from the staff. Nadine shared with her fellow students at the technical college that Custom Powder Systems is “real.” DeAnn says that comes from the family atmosphere found in each department. “They go over the goals with the employees…they’re very open and honest with what we’re working towards and what we’re trying to do.” This deliberate approach to openness accounts for much of what makes Custom Powder Systems one of the great manufacturing companies to work for in the area.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are over a half-million unfilled jobs in the manufacturing industry. Finding people who “perfectly” fits a job description is becoming increasingly difficult, which is why Custom Powder Systems is always looking for those diamonds in the rough, like Nadine. Welding and other manufacturing jobs provide a great opportunity for young women and men looking for a good-paying job, without the ever-increasing costs of attending a four-year university.

We’re proud of Nadine, and all of our employees, who work hard every day to help us forge strong bonds with our customers.

We’d love to talk with you about any current challenges you may be facing. Please call us at (417) 868-8002 or fill out the short form below:

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Where’s Your da Vinci-Chute?

It once seemed outrageous to think a ship made of heavy steel could ever float on water. Imagine the reaction if a painter told you a contraption of wood could let you toss yourself from any height and drift safely to earth.  The parachute was one of the many inventions from the always-bubbling brain of Leonardo da Vinci.

The invention was way ahead of its time. In the 15th century, a good day was avoiding The Black Death or Typhoid Fever. Nobody had time to be constructing a pyramid of wooden poles with sealed linen between them and “hoping” they land like a little bird. “I’ll take my chances with the Diptheria, thank you very much.” Leo would be long gone before anyone actually made a practical parachute. The late 1700s were a more “devil-may-care” time, it seems. But even then, there really wasn’t a big need for parachutes.  

That story would repeat itself many times with many of da Vinci’s inventions. The idea preceded the time. But by their very nature, new ideas usually do come before the need arises.

What ideas might be hiding away in your mind’s filing cabinet? 

Maybe the only difference between you and da Vinci is the act of writing it down. The act of literally putting a pencil on a piece of paper can activate those sleepy neurons and turn a flickering notion into tomorrow’s da Vinci-chute. How and when it will be used may not be apparent right now. But one thing we know for sure, those ideas aren’t doing anybody any good locked away in your beautiful brain.

At Custom Powder Systems, we see our jobs as solving problems that haven’t yet happened. Bins and lifts and gloveboxes and containment systems are made to fit your facility. Having done this more than a few times, we’re able to see around the corner and find solutions to things before they become an issue.    

As for Leonardo’s bold design: He got it right! In June of 2000, Adrian Nicholas of Great Britain dropped from a hot air balloon 10,000 feet in the air. Experts told him (as they told da Vinci) he would jump to his certain death. Instead, Mr. Nicholas came back to the earth beneath a 187-pound contraption that was just a sketch for 500 years, saying the ride was actually smoother than a modern parachute.    

We’d love to talk with you about any current challenges you may be facing. Please call us at (417) 868-8002 or fill out the short form below:

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Napkin Sketch

Happy New Year! Here’s Your Blank Napkin

We are an idea company. When we first meet customers, they are always a bit baffled…perplexed…flummoxed even. Our job is to take their (seemingly) impossible challenge and come up with the best way to solve it. We love love love being asked to do the things that haven’t been done before.

We’ve been sharing with you stories of great inventions and businesses that literally started on a blank cocktail napkin. Today, we want to give you your blank napkin:

What will you do with it? What can you do with it? From the Gettysburg Address to Southwest Airlines, great ideas just need a little space. Entire forests have grown from a tiny acorn. Like a growing plant, ideas need air, room, and nutrients. If you neglect ideas and hide them away, they most certainly perish.

But a blank page can be a tad daunting. When you’re told “just come up with ideas…the sky’s the limit,” you may find yourself paralyzed by over-choice. Coming up with ideas is like a muscle. With work and practice, you can find yourself coming up with ideas like a post-impressionist artist!

Introducing your new muse:  Alex Faickney Osborn.

Osborn was a mid-century ad-man (the “O” in BBDO). He’s the one to thank for  “brainstorming.” That’s his baby. Many think brainstorming is “just throwing ideas out there and seeing what sticks,” but brainstorming is a process. A system.

What’s the goal?

It’s important to know where you’re going before you start. Gather as much information as you can and identify what you’re trying to accomplish. Whether you’re brainstorming by yourself or with a team, this will help keep your ideas on track.   

Agree it’s just ideas

The first thing you must do is agree that you’re just coming up with ideas. NOT solutions. This might be the hardest part. Our busy brains want a solution, so each time an idea is presented, it’s very natural to shove them through the logic-filter to see if it’s a “good” idea or a “bad” idea.  It’s neither. It’s just an idea. You absolutely must separate the generation of ideas from the solution. We’re not there yet.


Now that you have your ideas, you can work on your solution. Ideas and solutions don’t play nice together. The right side of your brain is playing with possibilities, while the left side of your brain is trying to herd a bunch of crazy squirrels. Each side resents the other and when they start fighting, you get stuck. Just as you kept ideas separate from the solution, keep the solutions away from new ideas. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in rabbit holes you never expected.

Test this thing

Now you can implement the solution. A solution that came from a goal to come up with ideas that lead to the solution. Did it work? No? Now you refine the goal. Then you come up with ideas. Then you apply the ideas to a solution.  

Alex Osborn worked with Professor Sid Parnes and developed the “Creative Problem-Solving System,” or “CPS” (Hey! Nice initials!)

“Of all the gifts we have as humans,” said Professor Parnes, “the one that stands out, giant-like above all the rest, is our ability to be creative. It is responsible for all the progress we enjoy today.”

Their work led to the founding of The Creative Education Foundation, a non-profit organization developed to “spark personal and professional transformation by empowering people with the skillset, toolset, and mindset of deliberate creativity.”

The Osborn-Parnes Method, loosely outlined above, goes like this:

Clarify:  This includes setting a goal, gathering information, itemizing your resources and knowing any challenges.

Ideate:  Now you’re generating ideas that are connected to your clear goals. Don’t stop. As many as humanly possible, without judgment.

Develop:  This is where you turn ideas into solutions. Evaluate, improve, and select the ideas that fit.

Implement:  Explore acceptance and identify resources and actions that will support the implementation of the selected solution(s).

This comes from the firm belief that everybody IS creative in some way, and everybody HAS the capacity to learn creative skills. Should the implementation not work for some reason, refine your goals and restart the process.

Because it is a process.

Have a happy, and very creative, new year. Here’s your napkin.


Napkin Sketch: Life-Saving Fire Hose Nozzles

Necessity is the mother of invention, but when three million gallons of liquid hydrocarbon explodes in front of you, waiting for mother to call isn’t an option. While the event was cataclysmic, it inspired the invention of the variable flow fire nozzle now used by fire departments around the world.

Volunteer firefighter Clyde McMillian arrived at The Standard Oil Company in Whiting, Indiana on the morning of August 27, 1955. Just after sunrise, the nation’s largest oil refinery erupted in a fireball so huge, residents thought it might be the end of the world. One witness said “I thought the sun had exploded,” while others were certain that Russia had finally dropped the atomic bomb on the United States. The blast shattered windows nearly 50 miles away.

McMillan was fighting the blaze to the best of his, and his fire hose’s, ability. When a tank of naphtha exploded, the nozzle on his hose did not have a spray pattern wide enough to protect him. His only choice was to drop the hose run. McMillan suffered third-degree burns on his back, legs, and arms. He was down, but he wasn’t going to let this happen to another firefighter.

Simply put: The nozzle was ineffective. The spray was inconsistent, and couldn’t compensate for unpredictable water pressures. After recovering, Clyde McMillian founded The Fire Task Force in Gary, Indiana. This new company focused on one thing: water.  

The Fire Task Force eventually became Task Force Tips, and grew into a trusted international company when McMillian began scribbling on a cocktail napkin. On May 10, 1968 he drew a diagram for a variable-speed, or “automatic,” nozzle. Similar to an automatic transmission in a car, the correct nozzle is automatically chosen as the speed of the water flow increases or decreases. 

jbHqI3fmQB0UiRSatt XYUJCVpdPhqEwWYbTtTKVjssAIP2LbXAqqn6OpZ7IMtQBOyWhY ewJS6Js4 82mZk70Qlrtqr7at3lFjs0JbPH26L

The original napkin sketch is on display in the Task Force Tips Fire Museum.

Success for his new company wasn’t immediate.  The first nozzle wasn’t sold until 1970, and by 1972 the business was still housed in the McMillian family basement. But good ideas find their way. By 1976, they were a $250,000 company (equivalent to $1.13 million today).

It’s a trait shared by our engineers at Custom Powder Systems. The ideas may seem fanciful at first, but the ultimate test is not what people think of the idea… but rather if the idea becomes useful. Some of our finest ideas have come from an off-handed comment while brainstorming, but good engineers know to file these ideas away. Sometimes on an app, sometimes in a file cabinet, and sometimes on a napkin.

Finding solutions is what we at Custom Powder Systems do each day. We are at our best when challenged by the things that other companies think can’t be done. We are always inspired by great thinkers like Clyde McMillan and appreciate good ideas can come to all of us at the most unexpected times.

Thanksgiving - Custom Powder Systems

Preparing for Thanksgiving

No, that’s not a typo.  No, we didn’t push the wrong button.

Instead of a holiday once a year, what if we gave a little “thanks” …every day?

At Custom Powder Systems, we’re a building full of scientists and engineers.  We like to see methods and proof. This is why we’re delighted to discover that science has confirmed what many of us already knew:  Being thankful is good for your health!

The University of California and the University of Miami published a report called “Counting Blessings Instead of Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life.”  That’s quite a mouthful to simply say what Charles Dickens so eloquently summed up:

“Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.” – Charles Dickens

Whether you call it “counting blessings,” “saying thanks,” or “expressing gratitude,” many health professionals agree:  Being thankful can be just as powerful as any drug in your happiness. In “Counting Blessings Instead of Burdens,” researchers found that “inducing a state of gratefulness through the self-guided gratitude exercises led to some emotional, physical, or interpersonal benefits.”

What this, and Charles Dickens’ quote tells us is that our worries seem bigger because they are the rare standout. We tend to notice dramatic contrasts. If you really analyze things around you, you’ll find most of your day is filled with good things with the occasional “ugh” thrown in there.  Because the “ugh” is the oddball, it stands out.

None of this is to minimize the many struggles we all have but to re-organize our thoughts to highlight the good. According to Harvard Medical’s publication “In Praise of Gratitude,” proving a direct cause-and-effect is difficult, nonetheless “most of the studies published on this topic support an association between gratitude and an individual’s well-being.”

What might happen if every day you deliberately noticed the things you’re thankful for?

  • A warm cup of coffee
  • The shoes on your feet
  • A ride to work
  • A place to work
  • The friend who made you laugh
  • The person who held the door for you
  • Lunch break
  • A warm bed
  • Friends, family, and mentors
  • A toe-tapping song on the radio
  • Your faith and beliefs
  • Pie
  • Kids laughing
  • Hugs

What would you add to the list?  

Think of it as “preparing for thanksgiving.”  Keep an ever-growing list that you can turn to, and remind yourself of the things you’re grateful for. 

Some recommendations from Harvard University include:

  • Write a thank-you note
  • Keep a gratitude journal
  • Count your blessings
  • Pray
  • Meditate

Even simply saying a mental “thank you” when you think of something or someone in your life that you’re grateful for can make a real impact on your happiness. Try spending as little as 90-seconds each morning and note as many things you’re thankful for as possible. It can be as simple as a bowl of cereal, or as grand as your family and friends.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the impact it has, and it’s guaranteed to have no bad side effects.

We’d also like to take this moment to give a big THANK YOU to you. The customers we get to serve each day is truly a blessing and one we never take for granted.  Thanks for being who you are and for trusting us each day.

We hope each day can be a day of thanksgiving for you.