By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor
P125 isn’t exactly a product name that rolls off the tongue, acknowledged William “Rocco’’ Sandrella, plant manager for Thomas & Betts’ Reznor operation in Mercer.
Then again, neither do product names Formula 409 and WD-40, yet they proved to be very successful, he noted.
The company, which locals simply call “Reznor,” unveiled its $5.5 million renovation on Thursday and its new product, which is ready to hit the production line.
How did this latest heating and cooling unit get its name? The “P’’ stands for product and the 125 is for Reznor’s 125th anniversary.
Among Mercer County’s oldest manufacturers, Reznor has been a pioneer in producing heating and cooling units for industrial and commercial customers.
As part of a major overhaul over the past 18 months, the company knocked down its century-old 117,000-square-foot production plant, which traced its roots to horse and buggy days. Dating to 1911, the four-story plant had a wooden roof and floors, which made production cumbersome.
By improving the plant, production time for the P125 was slashed in half to 40 manhours.
Among the upgrades, Reznor added a testing laboratory, which simulates outdoor temperatures ranging from a bone-chilling, minus-20 degrees to a toasty 130 degrees.
“It simulates the equipment sitting on a roof anywhere in North America,’’ said Rich Blasko, Reznor’s North American engineering manager. “We can see how the product is reacting in real time.’’
Previously, Reznor had to contract out for that service, which was expensive.
The P125 has passed all the laboratory tests with flying colors.
“We’re production-ready right now,’’ Sandrella said. “And we’ve already taken our first orders.’’
Other upgrades at Reznor include a new truck docking area, a new parts department, a new 10,000-square-foot warehouse and a 17,000-square-foot canopy area, which covers inventory from the harsh outdoor elements.
Wesex Corp. of West Middlesex was the main contractor for the project.
A controversial piece of all this was that part of the production line was shipped to Thomas & Betts’ Mexican operations. The state kicked in $2.5 million for the local project to entice the company to keep at least part of the production line here.
Initially estimated to cost the plant about 70 production jobs, that number was whittled down to 40, Sandrella said.
What saved a lot of those jobs was that Reznor kept much of the parts department in Mercer.
“We needed to keep the parts close to where they were needed – in the colder climate,’’ Sandrella said.
Further, the older product lines were moved to Mexico, while the modern, more sophisticated products remain in Mercer, he added.
Reznor employs about 130 with that number rising to 160 during peak demand times in the winter.
The company continues to honor its tradition by creating a custom product for every customer, Sandrella said.
“Everything we build is unique unless you want two of the same thing,’’ Sandrella said. “We can literally create millions of different options to meet your needs.’’