North America’s automotive and industrial markets count on Canadian General Tower Ltd. for incomparable quality in complex plastics. Gloria P. Cahill highlights the company’s milestones and new products.
For a company that started out more than 140 years ago, Canadian General-Tower Limited (“CGT”) has made quite a journey. Remarkably, CGT has been owned and operated by the same family for five generations. It was founded in St. Catharines Ontario as the Welland Vale Manufacturing Company, makers of hand tools for garden, field, forest, railway and mine as well as wagon wheels and even bicycles. Company brands included True Temper and the Perfect bicycle. The company invested in natural rubber processing technology and was soon manufacturing rubber coated fabric and protective rainwear, or “slickers”. During World War II it began experimenting with vinyl and today is the leading manufacturer of vinyl coated fabrics and films in North America.
The company’s current product line also includes leather-like soft interior trim for the automotive industry, printed in-ground pool liners, single-ply roofing membranes, environmental containment liners and loose-leaf binder films. Tomorrow’s products are being deployed today.
“CGT’s long horizon planning is complemented by the company’s ability in assessing new markets, creating innovative products and responding to customers’ evolving needs” says President and CEO Jan Chaplin. But then, a business that progressed in the automobile industry from making oil-skin curtains for early open-touring cars in the early 1900s to making rubber coated fabric “AutoTop” for the 1928 Chevrolet four-door sedan, to creating a line of vinyl films, sheeting and coated fabrics for automobile components today obviously knows how to shift gears.
As a major supplier of automotive products, the company has longstanding relationships with all the original equipment manufacturers in North America and Japan and most of their related tier interior suppliers. Additionally, the Canada-based manufacturer has developed such color-matching expertise that CGT has become the color master source for the North American automotive interior industry.
The company has developed alternative polymers with enhanced performance and recycling characteristics. A thermoplastic olefin (TPO) is available for each of its markets. It recently expanded its product offering with a new application referred to as ProteinLeather, made with natural ingredients that have the effect of appearing, feeling and behaving like leather. It actually mimics leather in its ability to absorb and release moisture. The difference when comparing this product to leather is that it is more durable, more versatile, and less costly.
The company’s pool products also are renowned as being innovative. Having exceptional design and color print capabilities are core competencies honed over 35 years, TOWER liners are the recognized leaders. Further, Canadian General Tower is readying for a launch of super durable vinyl and non-vinyl products, rich in both texture and color, which are targeted at capturing greater share in both North American and European markets.
In a related application, CGT makes Geoliner geomembranes that are used to contain water in areas ranging from small backyard ponds, to aquaculture farms, to reservoirs that span hundreds of square miles. Currently CGT is supplying a series of large liners on a dry lake bed measuring 40 miles by 60 miles in the high mountain desert of Chile where brine laced with potassium chloride-based salts are pumped from beneath the earth and evaporated in massive ponds. Products include iodine and fertilizers.
The company also makes a range of reinforced sheeting for the commercial single-ply roofing market. Architects specify PVC single-ply because of its durability and reliability, its ease of installation and maintenance, its high reflectivity and low emissivity related energy savings, and its light weight which allows for architectural freedom in the design of the roof. It’s also available in a vast array of colours.
The bookbinding industry relies on CGT ColorTrack films for loose-leaf and three-ring binders. While most binders are white, customers can literally choose from a complete spectrum of colors. These films are straight and flat and are ideally suited for today’s high-speed machines.
What is this company’s secret for its success? “It’s been our ability to source innovation and technology around the world and convert it to advanced product applications for our customers,” says Vice President of Corporate Affairs Rick Chaplin. “Private ownership gives us the flexibility to take a longer strategic view and risks that are not otherwise available to publicly traded companies. This approach over time has made us the platform company in the engineered films industry.”
Canadian General-Tower Limited clearly intends to remain in the driver’s seat in its markets.