Driving through the Fielding Road industrial park, an impressive new construction project is making an impact as it takes shape against the Sudbury skyline. It's just a skeleton now, but once the 33,500-square-foot manufacturing plant is complete, it will mark a major milestone for Industrial Fabrication Inc.
Established 11 years ago by partners Daryl Rautiainen and Peter Villgren, Industrial Fabrication cemented its reputation in the mining industry with the Mine Mule, an underground utility vehicle capable of hauling cargo designed specifically for mining. The acquisition of Northern Consolidated Equipment—and its signature MINECAT product—in 2002 extended the company's product line and client base, but that's where the expansion stopped.
Instead, Rautiainen said, the company made do with the cramped quarters at its current location, slowly taking over the 25,000-square-foot building.
“As a new company, we had to give the company some time to get itself financially stable enough to make a commitment like a 33,500-square-foot facility,” Rautiainen said. “We've been at it 12 years now, the company's doing well, we've got a great front-line management team, we've got a good sales force, and we're busy enough to justify going to the next level.”
At its current space on Long Lake Road, the building stands out in what is otherwise a residential and retail neighbourhood. The new building, which is being designed specifically for the company's purposes, will allow for more logical flow between departments, said general manager Keith King.
“From what we have today, we're roughly going to be about a 36 per cent increase in capacity,” King said. “We're also going to be in an industrial area now, not more in a retail area, so we can do more things as a manufacturer would do.”
That includes introducing shift work to keep up production—without fear of waking up the neighbours.
While the MINECAT remains popular with mining companies and contractors, Industrial Fabrication continues to introduce new products, and the new building will help facilitate their manufacture.
When introduced three decades ago, the MINECAT was comprised of a Ford/New Holland agricultural grade tractor base, disassembled and adapted for mining. But once in the hands of Industrial Fabrication, its design was overhauled and built from the ground up, specifically to meet the requirements of the industry.
That same design methodology is applied to their products today.
After four years in development, the company most recently rolled out the UT99C, a personnel carrier with built-in rollover and fall protection that is currently going into production.
“As opposed to taking an automotive vehicle off the highway and then trying to modify it so it will work underground by putting in brakes and wiring, we decided to use the same concept as we did with the MINECAT 100: to build it and design it from the ground up for mining,” Rautiainen said.
Joining it is the FL6000, a four-wheel forklift that can lift up to 6,000 pounds with an optional rear basket capable of carrying four passengers. By expanding its product line, the company has watched its client base grow as well, with customers in Canada, the U.S., China, Indonesia, Chile and Mexico.
“We sell to a lot of contractors, so wherever their contracts are, our equipment follows them,” King said. “So they end up in all these different geographic areas.”
Diversifying beyond the Sudbury-centric client base, which formerly comprised 80 per cent of its business, the company has been able to weather downturns in the economy and labour disputes, he added.
After-market support is an essential component of the business, and 24/7 parts availability ensures that any machine needing a new part isn't down for long. As a smaller company, Industrial Fabrication works to adapt to customers' needs, said King, who believes that attention to clients' needs has been essential to the company's growth.
In preparation for the move, the company has hired on 12 new employees within the last year, bringing its workforce to 45, a far cry from its humble beginnings of seven workers. By the time the company is ready to move into its new digs next spring, the employees will be well trained and familiar with their roles.
“We've been here and got to where we are because of all the great people we have,” Villgren said. “That's been our biggest benefit as a company: to acquire a lot of really, really great people over the years, having them stay and help us build the company.”