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UIX: The team at OXX, Inc rethink necessity, coffee

Andrew Van Wylen

Jim Doan & Andrew Vanwylen

Jim Doan and Andrew Vanwylen of OXX, Inc. are using engineering and ingenuity to make products for rough environments. With the flagship Coffeeboxx, their small company is spreading out from its roots in Grand Rapids.
OXX, Inc is bringing ordinary luxuries to extraordinary places. From its home within Start Garden's enclave at 40 Ottawa, the company is putting out durable products that make the limitations of extreme workplaces a thing of the past.
Engineer Andrew Vanwylen describes OXX's mission as a promise to bring the comforts of the kitchen or office break room to hardworking individuals who otherwise don’t get to enjoy things the rest of us take for granted.
The company's flagship product, the Coffeeboxx, was the idea of OXX founder, and former design manager for Whirlpool, CEO Jim Doan. It's being marketed and sold in the U.S. and Canada as an incredibly tough, yet portable, and lightweight coffee maker.

"Just about everybody starts their day with coffee, regardless of where they're working, on a construction site or the office, people start their day with coffee. It's kind of an essential building block of the working day," Vanwylen says. 
The Coffeeboxx was created not only to meet that demand, but to best the ubiquitous stale coffee found in remote outdoor work or camp sites. With advances in K-Cup brewing technology, Doan says, there are new, more efficient ways to produce a quality cup of coffee.

"We just developed a system around that to heat up the water and shoot it through that capsule. It was more compelling that a traditional drip system," Doan says. "For us, the ability to be the first company to bring coffee beyond the home or office sounded very compelling. There was an opportunity to provide good coffee to people who just don't work in offices. They're outside for work or outdoor recreation, where you don't normally brew coffee."

Since the product was launched and began selling last year, Vanwylen, says he has regularly been hearing stories from Coffeeboxx users in exciting and dangerous environments. One client is a disaster relief first responder.
"He travels in after natural disasters to help the community," Vanwylen says. "He brings along quite a bit equipment to aide in the recovering, but he says that the Coffeeboxx is the first one he sets up because it energizes the team and brings a smile to those that need it most."
The Coffeeboxx has even been used at cruising altitudes, as Vanwylen has heard from a member of the U.S. Air Force.
 "He flies around the world in a C-17, and brews coffee at 30,000 feet," Vanwylen says, adding that hearing these stories is rewarding in many ways. "These customers are what keep us going, they work hard and make our country great, we are proud to make sure they have a cup of hot coffee while doing so."

The COFFEEBOXX from OXX on Vimeo.

The product was featured on a Nov. 4 episode of Science Channel's "All-American Makers." Doan and Vanwylen watched as the show hosts disassembled the Coffeeboxx, analyzed it's integrity, reassembled it, and dropped it a few times before making some test coffee.
The OXX team is meticulous and thorough with its testing. The Coffeeboxx prototypes have been through a lot, brewing hundreds of gallons of coffee and hot water, brewing underneath the wheels of a parked Jeep Wrangler, and being dropped from different heights. It was taken apart and redesigned for strength and utility several times before it met the specifications the team was looking for. Vanwylen even field tested a unit over a July 4th weekend.
"I went up to a cabin with a bunch of buddies and the Coffeeboxx," he says. "I use this thing in real life, so I brought it up to the cabin and we kind of tossed it around a dirt yard. Afterwards we used it the entire weekend to brew coffee and it worked great."
Vanwylen says there are many other products in OXX's pipeline, too. 
"Wherever you work, you've got any number of appliances: a microwave, ice maker, things that heat food or chill food, ways to make beverages," Vanwylen says. "There are conveniences that make a work day a lot more pleasant."
Those are the conveniences that OXX seeks to deliver to more people in more places.
"Working at OXX is exciting because of the value we bring to our customers," Vanwylen says.
Vanwylen has a degree in finance from Grand Valley State University and will be finishing up an engineering degree in April 2016. It was actually in one of his engineering classes that he first got involved with OXX. A program alumni asked his class if someone would want to work with a team that made tools.
"He didn't even tell me they made coffee," Vanwylen says. "The product hadn't been released and it was very secretive. He said it was a startup company that makes the world’s toughest tools for those who need it. I followed along because it sounded like fun."
Vanwylen is still having fun, and OXX is operating smoothly with a pared down staff of five to eight people in concentrated roles. The company operates out of two pods in the Start Garden facility, one being office space, and the other Vanwylen's prototyping and testing lab. Currently, the Coffeeboxx is manufactured and assembled in China, but Vanwylen is able to accomplish any research and development or design from his lab in Grand Rapids. 
For more information on OXX, Inc. visit http://www.oxx.com/.
Matthew Russell is the Project Editor for UIX Grand Rapids. Contact him at matthew@uixgrandrapids.com. 
Photography by Steph Harding 

Product photos courtesy Oxx, Inc.
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