Cole-Parmer is a leading source of laboratory and industrial fluid handling products, instrumentation, equipment and supplies. This is an industry where being exact is of crucial importance as demonstrated by the critical needs of the company’s customer in fields such as pharmaceuticals, academic research, and industrial process. New advancements in technology will always fuel it to exceed. We spoke with Joy Bennett of the marketing department and Michelle Joly, a technical service representative, to learn more.
Cole-Parmer was founded in 1955 by Jerry Cole and John Parmer in a small shop in Chicago. Their intent was to provide easy access to a broad array of novel products and do so with the best customer service and technical support available. They were innovators in marketing and advertising and published a four-colour catalogue in a time when catalogues were black and white. This catalogue would become a defining characteristic of the business model into the early 2000s when it was decided that a more environmentally sustainable business strategy should be put in place.
Today, Cole-Parmer offers up its vast array of products online to meet customers wherever they are, while still being known best for product selection, customer service, and technical support.
Since its inception and through to the present, a consistent investment in customer support has enabled the company to set the standard and consistently increase its product portfolio. “This expansion had several notable additions, including the acquisition of the Masterflex® brand at the end of the 1960s. It is arguably our flagship brand and defined us as the premier company in handling virtually all fluids, no matter how viscous or corrosive,” explains Joy.
This theme was built upon with the Oakton® product line which is now a leading brand for pH testing and other fluid parameters such as conductivity. Cole-Parmer is continually taking steps to build a strong portfolio of brands including the acquisition of Environmental Express, a top brand in water testing. In 2015 it acquired Ismatec, which enhanced its fluid handling management portfolio, and in 2016 increased its laboratory essentials and equipment portfolio with the acquisition of Bibby-Scientific and Argos Technologies.
“If any organization or individual has fluid or material that needs to be dispensed, filtered, metered, or transferred, Cole-Parmer can handle it effectively in terms of the specified rate of displacement and efficiently in terms of cost savings. We touch everyone in Canada’s resource-based economy, and we have interacted with most Canadian organizations,” says Joy.
Cole-Parmer serves more than ten distinct markets and dozens of applications within those markets. Examples include pharmacy/biotech, academic and government research, food and beverage, mining, and chemical processes. Additionally, Cole-Parmer products assist different types of end users within those accounts, such as the researcher at the bench, the process engineer, quality manager, and metrology department.
“We work hard to know our customer’s particular needs, such as in the food industry, we want to be knowledgeable for the stores and supermarket staff that use our products. We will educate them to make sure that they use the instruments correctly in their job of keeping our food supply safe. Our knowledge of their application allows us to troubleshoot if a new employee can’t quite get the performance they need, for example,” says Michelle.
Cole-Parmer’s unique value proposition in Canada is that it has the capability to serve customers across the spectrum of activity and wide geographical region. With an office in Montreal, Cole-Parmer has easy access to the biotechnology hub, top Canadian scientific research universities, along with nearby food and agriculture innovation and significant mining and manufacturing activity.
What separates Cole-Parmer Canada from other similar companies? “When someone calls in, they will NOT be transferred.” All staff is trained and responsible. Each representative of the company develops a relationship with the customer to ensure good service with a personal touch.
It is also about product selection and quality. Cole-Parmer Canada has Masterflex peristaltic pumps that can run for hours, delivering a constant high level of performance. These pumps work effectively with the highest quality Masterflex tubing to ensure that any fluid or viscous material can be dispensed, filtered, metered, or transferred at the exact rate programmed, in a contaminant-free setting. Pumps require little to no maintenance or cleaning because the tubing does all the work.
“In addition, we offer the best personalized technical service and guarantees in the industry. Our team has a combined two hundred years of lab and technical advising experience. Our team is trained in asking detailed questions about the unique application of our clients to ensure that the end users are receiving a comprehensive fluid handling solution tailored to their needs,” says Joy.
A final, key part of the business is Cole-Parmer’s custom OEM group, which serves these same markets and customers, by allowing the tailoring of products to individual requirements. Cole-Parmer creates specialized products to build into medical devices, agriculture, industrial, or other needs as defined by partners.
One of Cole-Parmer’s goals is to partner with education and research professionals. Currently, the company partners with universities across Canada to support ground-breaking research, which includes stem cell research in Toronto at the Hospital for Sick Kids. “We are excited about furthering our work in these areas of research because we are confident that our innovative lab equipment and supplies (including the Integrity10 and the PCRmax product lines) can provide scientists with a leg up in managing their experiments. Educational research is the pipeline by which the best thought leaders introduce new methodologies to several industries and from which new entrepreneurial pursuits are launched,” explains Michelle.
Cole-Parmer’s ability to work with the educational field leads the company to offer unique products to help save time and manage complex experiments. This includes products for DNA research, including a range of thermal cyclers that help to amplify DNA samples, products that ensure accurate liquid transfer with innovative pipettes, and a full suite of measurement equipment for parameters such as temperature, pressure, level, and flow.
“We are pretty excited because we really feel like we have rounded out our product portfolio that will help researchers at universities become more effective,” says Joy.
This is the kind of work that depends on technological advancements. “All avenues within the research field will continue to flourish because of our human capacity to seek innovative ways to solve our greatest problems including cancer, ensuring food safety and energy, and environmental and resource management,” says Joy.
The best and brightest researchers in North America come to Cole-Parmer for everything from Masterflex fluid handling solutions, mixers, PCR machines, spectrophotometers, and reaction stations to simple lab supplies such as beakers, filters, Petri dishes, and pH meters. “We strive on providing technical and commercial needs to scientists, plant managers, and lab supervisors require to support their research and manage their production,” says Michelle.
The final piece to the Cole-Parmer story is its people – both customers and employees. It is reassuring to know that in a world of over-communication, global competition, and thousands of Google results to any search, that the people at Cole-Parmer have first name conversations with customers on a daily basis.
“Our teams have built incredible relationships in accounts around the world and will continue to invest in our people and processes so that when John at the drug development company in Ontario calls Sophie in our Montreal office, we know his needs, can propose solutions to those needs, and will follow through until he is successful. Personalization at scale is not cheap; technology can only go so far, so we have made a bet on our teams being the best possible link to those on our customers’ teams.”
Technological advancements and continued investments in genetic stem cell research, increasing food safety requirements, and the efficiency of inputs in all industries require a manufacturing organization and supplier such as Cole-Parmer Canada. “As a Canadian presence, we offer organizations across Canada the necessary products and services to make their scientific and innovative pursuits possible,” says Michelle.