VU alumnus helps combat COVID-19 with new disinfectant system

After graduating, Valparaiso University alumnus Ben Lehman has become a regional manager who is in charge of product distribution for Leo M. Ellebracht Company (LME). This company that typically creates fire fighting equipment has created a new disinfectant system called KLEAN/pak used to disinfect surfaces that may have been contaminated by COVID-19.


Lehman began working at LME his sophomore year at VU and cites it as one of his college highlights. 


“I played for years of football, but I started working for this company my sophomore year so it was a culmination of being a student athlete and working in a machine shop at DFT,” Lehman said. 


The KLEAN/pak system was created using a five gallon tank and parts of systems from fire fighting equipment made by the company. 


“There’s a valve on the top that’s controlled by your hand and then there’s a metering head that there’s a pickup to it that drops into the tank and that five gallon tank will pick up any EPA approved dilutable liquid and that metering head on top will make sure that the right amount of dilutable liquid is getting mixed with the water that’s being fed through the valve,” Lehman said. 


After adding the solution the dial can be turned on the metering head to match the amount of water the solution says to mix it with and then put the garden hose through the system. A special nozzle that is then put on a handheld bar helps to put some distance between the user and the system. 


“You put that on and open it up and you feed the garden hose through, picking up the right amount of solution, and you get this wide spray pattern that you can knock down shopping carts and dumpsters, doors, and other things,” Lehman said. 


The product was designed and produced quickly in light of the COVID-19 crisis and is a slightly different market from the company that primarily produces fire fighting equipment. 


“It went from idea to product to distribution so we really blasted this thing out and that’s where it’s a little bit different for us a little bit different market, but we created it because of the COVID-19 crisis,” Lehman said.


The idea for the product came from a conversation between the new CEO, the Director of Research, and the Vice President of International Sales of LME. 


Lehman sees the product being used by commercial businesses similar to the way previous company products have been used by firefighters. 


“The two products that we had previous to this that use that same technology, the valve and the knob up on top, those two systems are used one for firefighting foams so you can either fight fire with water or you can add foam into the line to make it a little more effective or you can add gel just to make the water last a little bit longer. So we’ve basically taken that technology and put it onto this and this product is going to live with retail, with public works, parks and rec, it has a different end user base,” Lehman said. 


Lehman highlighted the differences between KLEAN/pak from two other disinfectant systems that are currently in use.


The first system is a hydrostatic misting system that is typically used in offices and ambulances. 


“These hydrostatic misting systems you walk in and you have this massive pump behind you and then there’s this high pressure hose and you’re holding onto this wand and you’re spraying this mist. This mist has a negative charge to it so it’s reaching out to stick to the nearest surface so, like within an ambulance for example, that’s great because it gets into different nooks and crannies that you probably can’t hit with a wipe and it’s just very effective that way,” Lehman said. 


The downside to this system, according to Lehman, is trying to use this system outside as the wind can easily blow the mist away from the object being disinfected. 


The other disinfectant system that’s currently being used is the Scott Garden Sprayer. 


“I went to Costco this weekend and they have a Scott Garden Sprayer and that garden sprayer it’s a small two and a half gallon bucket and that two and a half gallon bucket holds basically a concentrate water mix and so that’s your total solution whereas ours is garden hose fed the tank only holds a solution so eventually you get way more finished product out of KLEAN/pak than you do out of the Scott Garden Sprayers,” Lehman said.


He also believes that the garden sprayer is more labor intensive than the KLEAN/pak as you have to pump the system to get it to spray rather than using garden hose pressure with the KLEAN/pak system. 


Lehman believes this product will help prevent the spread of the virus, but also give people peace of mind when they leave their houses. 


“I have two kids as an example and those two kids never touch the handle that we’re all wiping down. They’re always touching the underneath part and the front part and grabbing the gauge and so they’re touching everything that I don’t think right now we’re doing a very good job of disinfecting,” Lehman said. “I think there’s a desire and need for some peace of mind knowing that the things we’re interacting with are disinfected are not contractible for covid 19.” 


The KLEAN/pak system information can be found on the company’s website and social media pages.  

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