Upsher-Smith Laboratories: 2023 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

Upsher-Smith Laboratories: 2023 Manufacturing Excellence Awards

When pharmaceuticals producer Upsher-Smith Laboratories saw the need to expand, it considered building an additional facility outside of Minnesota, its home since its founding in 1919 as a producer of digitalis, a medication used to treat cardiac conditions including congestive heart failure.

company founder F.A. Upsher Smith on his foxglove farm in Wayzata
Company founder F.A. Upsher Smith on his foxglove farm in Wayzata

“We did have the option to look at a low-cost region, such as India,” says Rich Fisher, Upsher-Smith’s president and COO. “The strategic discussion was, do we want to focus on cost or do we want to focus on quality?” The company, he adds, has a reputation for developing high-quality products with no interruptions in the supply. Expanding in Minnesota offers advantages both with receiving supplies and shipping supplies, he notes. “It’s just an efficient base of operations. And we have access to a high-quality workforce.”

This year, Upsher-Smith, which manufactures more than 150 brand-name and generic products, has begun operations in its expanded facility in Maple Grove, which now measures 600,000 square feet. The $100 million expansion has allowed Upsher-Smith to close its plant in Denver. Long-term, it also hopes to consolidate operations at its third plant, in Plymouth, into the Maple Grove facility.

Woman working laboratory equipmentThe flow of the expanded space “is designed very thoughtfully” for efficiency, Fisher says.  Upsher-Smith also is incorporating more automation into the new facility—for instance, weighing product as it’s being readied for manufacturing. In the past, an employee had to physically move materials through the shop. Now, many of those once-manual processes have been automated.

Fisher notes that state government has been supportive of Upsher-Smith’s expansion. “One of the things that differentiates our facility is the ability to coat solvent-based products,” he says. The company worked with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to properly install a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO) system, which is designed to prevent hazardous air pollutants and malodorous emissions.

“Our industry is hypercompetitive, but we are growing,” Fisher says. Upsher-Smith, he adds, is a cost-competitive but not a low-cost provider; the new facility will help the company maintain that approach: “As we add product to the plant, not only our own products but also as we take on contract manufacturing, our costs are only going to get better,” he says.

Location: Maple Grove
Employees: 450
Specialty: Generic pharmaceuticals

Products being manufactured
Products being manufactured

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