ELM Rises From the Ashes With High Oleic Soybean Oil

As of March 21, 2007, Environmental Lubricants Manufacturing, Inc. was a blossoming, sustainability-focused company producing grease for major railroad companies. On March 22, all that went up in smoke.

Disaster struck ELM by way of a fire that decimated their grease production plant in Plainfield, Iowa. The cause of the fire was determined to be hot oil that leaked out of a vat. ELM lost most of its major customers and was on the brink of throwing in the towel.

However, ELM is a purpose-driven company that wasn’t going to let a minor inconvenience like a catastrophic inferno stop them from doing important work that had a positive environmental impact.

Not only did ELM’s leaders have to rebuild manufacturing operations, they had to make bio-based products more cost-competitive if they wanted to beat out other suppliers… and they also, of course, had to figure out how to prevent future facility fires.

ELM put in the hours and research to develop microwave technology for heating their oil, which provided a much safer method than what they were previously using and offered a cost-savings benefit. They also started producing grease with high oleic soybean oil, which efficiently absorbs microwave energy, making heating quicker and less cost intensive.

When faced with challenges, ELM could have switched to non-biobased feedstocks. Or they could have shuttered their doors. Instead, they worked to find a way to stick to their environmental principles, improve their operations and stay competitive. The road to an environmentally-friendly product is not always easy. But with the right motivation and tools, it can be well worth it.

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