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Mining supplier has target to grow into small, solid company

Drillers Edge doesn't have aspirations of becoming the biggest company in its field, but it does intend to continue making quality products.
Drillers Edge
John Daniels, left, Steve Boesche and Dave Liberty display some of the drill bits their company, Drillers Edge, manufactures.

Drillers Edge doesn't have aspirations of becoming the biggest company in its field, but it does intend to continue making quality products.

In operation for just more than a year, the North Bay company manufactures drill bits and sells other products related to core drilling.

With a warehouse and a separate facility for offices and manufacturing, the company has 11 employees.

“I started the company,” said John Daniels.

Soon after, former colleagues Steve Boesche and Dave Liberty joined and became investors. All three have gained more than two decades of experience in the bit divisions of multinational companies.

“You could say we disbanded and then came together again,” said Boesche. “We talked about this 20 years ago but right now the timing is right.”

Each brings an area of expertise such as Liberty, who began as a machinist and is now the technical manager.

“We started with something small and the market can be volatile,” Daniels said. “We decided to make bits because in the total basket of goods, it is the most flexible. We can also differentiate ourselves by making the best bits.”

If the mining industry enters a downturn, the company can easily shift its focus to making bits for the construction and geotechnical industries.

“If you think of drill rods, and the lengths required, you could end up sitting on months and months of supply if you couldn't sell. We only invest in product capacity and we use diamonds and powder metal,” Daniels said.

The diamonds and powder are mixed together in a mold so the bit wears evenly. The mold is pressed and the steel component is fused to the bit with a copper and silver binder. After some lathe work to smooth the fused bond, the product is complete.

“We can have a bit out in a few hours,” Daniels said.

Other products include core retrieval systems which is a tool that is inserted in the drill rod to pull the core out.

“The components are all subcontracted out to machine shops,” Daniels said. “It is a product that is out there and we didn't invent it but about five per cent of it is unique to our company. About 70 per cent of the value of it is also coming from North Bay.”

The company prefers to work with distributors as much as possible to sell its products.

“We have a loyal distributor base,” he said.

Distributors have taken the products across Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Peru and Columbia.

They have found that those they met while working for the multi-nationals are still in the business in different capacities and are once again becoming contacts.

“We have found that the relationship carries on,” Boesche said. “People we knew as bit technicians or geologists are now running their own companies too. We know each other so it really helps.”

While there is no grand scheme to become a large enterprise, Daniels said they have a target to grow into a small, solid company.

“We can take the lessons we learned from working for the big companies and apply them here,” he said.

And while some multinationals may gravitate to low-cost countries for product manufacturing, Drillers Edge will always be “made in Canada.”

“What we make is high quality and we are proud Canadians and this is our home,” Boesche said. “One of our distributors wanted his customers to see we were a Canadian brand so we added the maple leaf to our logo.”

“We are homegrown and so are our products. We are betting on that,” said Liberty.