In business since 1914, IMT partnership already looks ahead to its second hundred years, as it moves into a new era of growth. Currently comprised of five business units, and with competencies that include machining and forging, the Canadian company seeks to increase size, revenue and value through organic growth and acquisition. Dan Harvey looks at IMT’s past, present and future.
Something to consider as IMT partnership rapidly approaches its century milestone: If evidence of its ongoing evolution is any indication, the company will observe its historic birthday not by looking at what it has already achieved but by looking forward to what it hopes to accomplish.
Nevertheless, a historical review and current assessment certainly seems in order, as it underscores why the Canadian company is well positioned for continued development. Located in Ingersoll, in the southwestern part of Ontario, IMT Partnership has been
around since 1914, when it was known as Ingersoll Machine & Tool. The name indicated its original mission but, as it matured, the company diversified and established several divisions to produce different product lines. During World War I, IMT began engineering and manufacturing precision defense products, particularly for the Canadian militia. By 1920, it started operating as an integrated producer of high-tolerance, machined components. Later it moved into automotive products and, for more than 50 years, IMT has been a leading axle supplier for the heavy truck industry.
Appropriate to its development, IMT is currently subdivided into five business units. “We have two forging operations that service the oil and gas, rail, trucking, and aerospace industries, and our axle division still caters to heavy duty trailers,” informs IMT Chief Operating Officer Arnold Visser. “We also have a machining division that services clients with customized products, and our defense division focuses on machining for military applications.”
Indeed, the secret to IMT’s success is a seemingly preternatural knack for innovation and diversification. “Even today, we continue to look for new ways to add value to our existing product lines and at the same time envision new products and assess new industry trends,” comments Visser.
A perfect example is IMT’s growing interest in alternative energy sources. “As we move forward, we’re looking closely at wind-generation technology and nuclear power,” indicates Visser. “Those efforts will be focused within our machining and forging divisions, which are our core competencies.”
FORGING A GROWTH STRATEGY
The company is positioning itself well for the future through acquisitions. “We’re increasing our focus on growth, and we’re looking to do this organically but also through acquisitions that will complement our core competencies,” says Visser.
Obviously, current acquisition plans are proprietary, but IMT can already point to a significant purchase it made in 2007. Last year’s acquisition of Clifford-Jacobs, a rival forging operation located in Champaign, Ill., brought into the fold substantial assets and capabilities. The operation produces an array of custom forgings, from the simple to the complex and ranging from three to 800 pounds.
IMT’s other forging division, the Ontario-based Port Colborne Drop Forge, supplies hot-forged components made to exacting standards, for both the company and industrial customers. Hammer forgings range from five to 200 pounds, while upset forgings range from 10 to 300 pounds. Equipped with advanced technology, the operation includes a new Lasco automated hammer station that handles repetitive, large-volume items. On-site metallurgists recommend the best materials and processes for customers. Materials used include carbon steel, alloy and stainless
steels, copper-based alloys and aluminum.
OTHER BUSINESS UNITS
Among IMT’s other divisions are its axle operation, which produces the Ingersoll Axle brand that provides customers with the largest selection of axle configurations for specialty and standard trailer OEMs located throughout the Americas, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The ISO: 9001/2000-registered operation utilizes integrated manufacturing technology to meet its customers’ standards and special needs. Specifically, it employs state-of-the-art cellular manufacturing combined with rapid-change techniques and a just-in-time approach, providing both the company and customers with an unparalleled level of flexibility.
The machining division, which produces forged, machine components, is an IMT mainstay, as the company has produced such components since the 1920s. Evolving along with the parent company, the division has adopted an efficient cellular manufacturing approach in recent years. In fact, IMT invested more than $8 million
toward the purchase of the most advanced machining technology. As a result of this attention, the division can deliver precision products that are durable, cost-effective and delivered on time.
As far as customers, the machining division serves the automotive, defense, oil and gas, and rail industries, and its engineers work with clients to develop optimal design and production methods.
The division’s highly automated production area includes the latest equipment – CNC machining and lathes; grinding, milling and pressing tools; friction and production welders, as well as cleaning, painting and assembly tools – and is capable of producing components that range from 10 ounces to 200 pounds in a variety
of metals and alloys.
As rich in tradition as the machining division, IMT’s defense division carries on a company heritage for producing the finest forged, machine metal parts ranging from medium- to large-caliber pro- jectile bodies for the North American Defense and Ordnance Industries. The division also serves the Canadian Department of National Defense and the U.S. Department of Defense with an array of products – forged and machined from a variety of metals and alloys – that include suspensions, axles and drive components.
The division is comprised of the latest engineering and manufacturing technologies. It has a broad selection of forging equipment and CNC machinery capable of producing the most critical and complex components. Its heat treat equipment includes an internal Bayonet Quench System that ensures complete and proper quench of the materials. Morever, with its ability to press and weld rotating bands, the division takes on the most complex and demanding munitions projects.
Three of the five divisions’ manufacturing facilities are located within IMT’s Ingersoll site. “If you were to peel back the roof, you’d see three very distinct production areas, dedicated to axles, machining and defense products,” describes Visser.
At this main site, as well as the two forging sites, IMT has put in place industry leading quality control and assurance measures. For instance, company machinists document assurances at every stage of the manufacturing processes, while metallurgists work with customers in advance to ensure the proper raw materials for each project, and they tightly control the testing on finished products.
“Throughout our division, we employ the most advanced testing equipment, such as magnetic particle inspection, ultrasound, and hydraulic and tensile strength testing,” reports Visser. “We also have our own internal quality assurance departments at all of our facilities that coordinate measuring machine capabilities.”
To further increase quality as well as efficiency and customer value, IMT has implemented lean manufacturing principles. “As of August of 2008, we intend to take it to a higher level. Our intent is to eventually go Six Sigma but, our immediate goal is to achieve lean certification. Our focus in moving forward will be on continuous improvement, at every level within the organization,” Visser relates.
FACING THE FUTURE
Since 2004, under the direction of new ownership, IMT has achieved over 20 percent annual growth. Its vision is to become a $1 billion organization within 10 years, indicates Visser.
As it works toward these goals, the company is confronting recent challenges. “For instance, we’re dealing with the fact that the Canadian dollar has gained strength on the U.S. dollar,” says Visser. “Sixty percent of our business is oriented to the United
States so this is a significant challenge for us. We’ve had to look inward to reduce our costs and improve our efficiencies to offset the impact of the Canadian dollar.”
Another major trend involves the perfect storm of rising costs. “All manufacturing firms have to deal with the rising price of steel, as well as increased costs of utilities and resources such as oil and gas,” says Visser. “We’re trying to reduce as much of those costs as we possibly can by looking at our processes and determining where we can reduce waste. We’ve been targeting several areas including material movement and processing, as well as the type of material we process. We do this on behalf of our customers and, wherever and however possible, we share the savings
In the meantime, IMT offers a complete package for customers in niche markets. While it’s not a high-volume manufacturer, the company is strongly oriented to added value, which it provides through its five divisions and their many capabilities. As Visser indicates, for many of its customers IMT represents one stop shopping.