By NICK STEWART
Some say a true testament of a man’s worth is evidenced in his working practice. Well, in Sturgeon Falls, three men are making quite a living manufacturing measuring tools for the mines. In fact, their business has doubled over the year, evidence that the company is on the right track.
From British Columbia to Texas, from India and the former Czech Republic, Ranger Survey Systems Canada is turning drillhole surveying equipment into a common industry phrase.
“People around the world have warmed fairly quickly and fairly well to the product,” Don Dupuis, manager of the company.
“There have been some tough times, but we’re definitely starting to see some forward momentum.”
After spending nine years traveling around the world as a drill surveyor, Dupuis returned home to Sturgeon Falls to open Ranger Survey Systems Canada in 2005, marking the first international branch of Australia-based parent company.
The company now counts companies such as CVRD-Inco’s exploration arm among its clients, and recently added FNX Mining to that list.
Initially, Dupuis ran the Canadian operation solo out of his Sturgeon Falls home. Receiving parts from the Australian headquarters, he assembled the tools on his own.
However, the cost of shipping the brass alloy housing system around the world soon proved to be problematic the company’s Federal Express bill for its first year totaled nearly $80,000.
“Needless to say, other alternatives had to be found,” he says. “What made things worse is that the head office was having trouble filling supply because I was constantly soaking up their brass housing. So the decision was made to have the housing built here instead, which led to our current industrial space.”
After purchasing new warehousing and office space last November, Dupuis then hired two staff members, a shop machinist and an electronic technician, to occupy the 5,500-square-foot plant.
With two CNC mill lathes, a manual lathe as well as various associated welding and machining equipment, the facility produces the company’s flagship product: a wireless drillhole probe which gives Ranger Survey Systems Canada its name.
The product itself is a two-foot-long length of brass in which is encased the circuitry and various components built to detect direction and dip of a borehole. Measurements are displayed on the front of the device.
The instrument can also help to survey blast patterns in deep rock by using infrared technology to transmit information from a variety of successive holes to a PDA-like device.
Although the company’s product is not entirely unique -- similar products offered by the Sweden-based FLEXIT are direct competitors -- Dupuis says the Ranger device can detect naturally-occuring magnetic fields. This allows the device to properly account for magnetic interference in the measurements, which can sometimes modify results by a few degrees.
The Canadian arm currently has three employees, Dupuis says. The spacious shop floor will accommodate the company’s steady growth. Since last year, gross revenues have doubled.
The Canadian arm of the company now has roughly 40 tools out in the field, and Dupuis expects this number to reach as high as 100 within the next year.
In fact, he’s had to refuse business to a number of clients because the plant simply can’t produce the necessary parts fast enough to meet the rising demand.
Should this level of interest continue, the number of employees at the Sturgeon Falls plant may triple in the next year as Dupuis considers adding a rental, sales and service department.
Despite achieving rapid sales in a relatively short time span, Dupuis says his operations are only capturing five to eight per cent of the market, leaving a great deal of room for progress.
“Sales are up, things are going well, and we’re feeling pretty optimistic about the future.”
By NICK STEWART