Roy Metal Products is one of the largest North American manufacturers of customized metal store fixtures. David Soyka reports on how this company helps polish the look of leading retail establishments.
If you’ve ever been at a Macy’s or a Saks Fifth Avenue, a Nordstrom or a Simons or a DKNY, you’ve seen the work of Roy Metal Products. It isn’t anything that these stores sell; rather it helps these stores sell their wares by providing uniquely eye-catching platforms with which to display their wares.
Roy Metal Products makes store fixtures – not just any old commonplace store fixtures, but customized metal furnishings built to complement the distinctive character of high- and medium-end retailers throughout the United States and Canada. And it’s not just the unique look of the fixtures, but the unique approach that comprises what this Canadian manufacturer terms the “Roy Advantage.”
“We work through all stages of development, from design development and shop drawings through prototyping and development to production and final delivery,” says Pierre Liasse, director of marketing. “Our manufacturing operations combine state-of-the-art technology with old-fashioned craftsmanship to attain the highest quality with the ability to meet deadlines for national roll-outs as well as a single store opening. We utilize CAD/CAM technology, five-stage powder-coat painting, polishing and electroplating processes, all performed under one roof. Indeed, we are one of the few store fixture companies that have an in-house plating facility. The fact that we don’t outsource minimizes costs while ensuring maximum quality control.”
Another dimension of the Roy Advantage is quick lead time. “Our stated delivery date is 20 to 25 working days from client approval shop drawings and our receipt of the purchase order,” Liasse says. “However, the reality is that we more typically operate on 14- to 18-day turnaround schedules. That presents a challenge for us to maintain our quality standards under such rapid conditions. One way we’ve responded is to operate two shifts, while our welding division is running on a 24-hour basis.”
He adds, “Another way we’re meeting the challenge is by eliminating paper. Not just in terms of drawings, but throughout the entire ordering, manufacturing and delivery process. Right now, we’re looking at software systems that will allow us to electronically monitor everything from quotations to inventory to production to delivery. Once we institute this kind of continuous automation, our goal is to eventually reduce standard lead time to as little as 12 days.”
Eliminating paper also helps reduce the company’s carbon footprint; this is just one example of the many environmentally friendly practices Roy Metals Products has established at a number of levels. “We seek to reduce the harmful effects of the fabrication process wherever possible,” Liasse notes. “In March of 1998, we invested in a powder-coat painting process that reduces pollutants significantly. The emissions from our factory now contain only carbon dioxide and water vapor, which puts us ahead of general industry standards. In addition, all the water used in our five step surface preparation process is reclaimed in a 2000-gallon reservoir, where it is treated until it is as pure as rainwater. The dried sediment that results from both water and emissions treatment is recovered by a company that specializes in environmentally safe industrial waste management.”
In addition, Roy Metals Products has instituted a company-wide recycling program. Recycled scrap metal is sold to a middleman that reconditions and resells it to other manufacturers. In one year, the company has sold as much as 30 tons of scrap metal for reuse. In addition, everyday office materials, such as paper and aluminum cans, are recycled. “We also strive to reduce our packaging and use recycled products wherever practical,” Liasse says. “This not only makes sense from a ‘green’ standpoint, but also reduces our overhead.”
The company also supports a number of regional and national environmental programs. These include a project for local schools that started the first paper and cardboard recycling programs, as well as a number of initiatives sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund.
Of course, customers aren’t impressed with speed of delivery or effective recycling programs if the product is shoddy or not what they had in mind. “Everything we make is custom,” Liasse emphasizes. “Sometimes that involves customers handing us CAD drawings to work from, sometimes it means us developing the design, which may include doing prototypes so they can see what they are going to get before we go into full production. Our objective is to make highly precise shapes that have the perfect finish for the desired overall look of the displays.”
Fixtures are cut, punched, stamped or bent from steel, stainless steel, galvanized steel or aluminum tubing, then welded into the desired shape. The next steps involve polishing and powder coating, which are crucial to obtaining the perfect finish and color. “Our color engineers develop a custom powder coat finish, while our expert polishers apply inventive polishes of their own creation,” Liasse points out, “which are protected with a clear finish or a tinted lacquer. These are prime examples of how craftsmanship distinguishes our fixtures from mass produced commodities.”
A further competitive differentiator, Liasse emphasizes, is flexibility. “We have a saying here that flexibility is a state of mind defined by our positive attitude in the face of change. We’re not one of those companies where we continue to do things mostly because that’s the way we’ve always done them. We aim beyond what our customers expect to turn the intent of a design into an innovative and distinctive solution that realizes both the practical and aesthetic potential, while minimizing the cost.”
Roy Metal Products, headquartered in St. Francis, Quebec, Canada with offices in Quebec City and Montreal and employing 175, is a fourth generation family owned company. While Roy Metal Products itself was founded over 25 years ago in 1982 by Robert Roy (who remains actively involved), the company builds on previous family metals manufacturing ventures dating back to 1850. Georges Roy was a blacksmith who worked with local entrepreneurs to help produce their products. His son, Donat Roy, followed a similar path, while his son (and Robert’s father) Clément, was the first to build a plant and hire workers.
Sales are evenly split between Canada and the United States. While Roy sells its metal fixtures directly to stores in Canada, U.S. sales are the result of partnerships with vendors that supply wood furnishings. “We never deal with the end-user in the United States,” Liasse points out. “Rather, the wood company comes to us with the specifications for the part of the application that requires metal fixtures. We supply them, and they are responsible for managing the in-store installation.”
About 80 percent of sales are to high-end retailers and the remaining 20 percent to medium-end stores. End-users range from single small boutiques to national store brands requiring a consistent look for multiple locations. “Usually this is for new store openings, but there are also times when a store wants to refresh its existing look,” Liasse says.
Current uncertain economic conditions are, however, casting a shadow on both sides of the border. “Basically, everybody is on stand-by right now in waiting to see how the economy plays out,” Liasse notes. “There’s been a definite slowdown since last year of about a 15 percent decline in our sales. One way we’re looking to address that is to diversify beyond retailers to supplying fixtures to hotels, casinos and high end restaurants. The more market segments we can enter, the more overall stability we can attain.”
All business is cyclical, though, and any store that has installed custom fixtures made by Roy Metals Products will have little need to shop around when the need arises.