For nearly six decades, Ebco Industries has provided clients with the highest quality manufacturing, repair and rebuild for complex projects. Established in 1956, the Canadian company is a one-stop, turnkey operation that encompasses heavy metal fabrication and heavy machining, as well as light-precision fabrication and machining. Dan Harvey reports how this company diversified, and the challenges that diversification entails.
Aspiring businesspersons are always told that the secret to success is location.
“Location, location, location!,” is the shout.
Most often, the advice is directed to mom-and-pop shop entrepreneurs who need to place their fledgling business at the best corner in a busy intersection or within a heavily visited shopping strip center.
But the same advice readily applies to much larger enterprises – and that means region, not local community. Take Ebco Industries, for instance. This company – that provides heavy machining and fabrication, as well as light-precision machining and sheet metal services – positioned itself in a fertile industrial environment: British Columbia, Canada. Specifically, it is located in Richmond.
“British Columbia is an industry hub,” says Steve Robinson, Ebco’s Director of Sales and Project Management. The company is well situated on the northern portion of the Fraser River which, in turn, is close to a major airport (Vancouver International) and convenient to the US-Canada border.
“Location is one of the ways that we have made ourselves very diversified,” adds Robinson. “The founders were very entrepreneurial and, as such, they knew how to target areas of emerging industries and growing markets.”
Established by German Immigrants
The company was established in 1956 by Helmut and Hugo Eppich – twin brothers with twin vision and ambitions. “They were born in Germany and came to the Vancouver area to open a tool-and-die shop,” relates Robinson. “They moved the company to its current location in Richmond in 1969.”
That move invited growth and diversification, and it was underscored by the creation of a facility that now measures nearly 250,000 square feet, from which Ebco services to and supplies for domestic and international clients. Today, the company offers it capabilities to clients in several industries. “We now perform custom manufacturing services for OEMs,” says Robinson, “and our diversification is the reason why we have survived for so long.”
60 Years Young and Still Growing
Indeed, burgeoning businesses are warned about that critical five-year period: If you can’t make it that long, then give it up. Ebco has gone well beyond that business dictum; it has endured for nearly 60 years. Robinson describes why: “Throughout our history, we have adapted to various industries, and we have hired experts in each sector that we serve.”
Currently, the industries the company serves include mining (and aggregate), oil and gas, power generation (traditional and clean), pulp and paper, aerospace, marine, national defense, and nuclear (which means both energy needs and advanced medical imaging). But these sectors aren’t confining. Wherever needs arise, Ebco will be there.
For sure, the enterprise offers significant services. Along with heavy machining and fabrication it provides:
- Precision machining and fabrication – With a division that specializes in fabrication, machining and assembly of products built of lighter- to medium-weight materials.
- Precision sheet metal fabrication – A recently expanded sheet metal fabrication shop is equipped with state-of-the-art CNC punching and CNC brake forming equipment.
- A fully-equipped assembly shop – along highly skilled millwrights, provides the ability to assemble or dis-assemble complex machinery and equipment.
One-Stop Production Environment
With its large facility – measuring nearly 250,000 square feet – Ebco possesses one of the largest fabricating and machining operations in North America. This facility houses several divisions within a one-stop shop environment – a characteristic that provides customers with faster and more efficient processing, optimal service, and cost savings.
The facility (and corporate headquarters) is located on a 13-acre site in Richmond, less than 30 minutes from the US-Canadian border, as the eagle flies. The production portion houses small and large fabrication shops, machine shops, state-of-the-art production-oriented CNC machinery and, according to the company, some of the largest capacity machinery to be found in the US and Canada. Within this one setting, you’ll find:
- Twin 200-foot x 70-foot fabrication and welding shops;
- A 30,000 square-foot heavy machine shop;
- Machining capacity to 32 feet in diameter;
- 3, 4 and 5 axis production machining;
- A CNC-equipped sheet metal shop;
- 86 overhead, jib and mobile cranes;
- Up to 180-ton lifting capacity;
- A 19-foot wide and 50-foot long stress relief oven;
- Oxy fuel and plasma arc burning capability;
- Heavy press brakes to 1,500 tons;
- Sandblasting and painting capabilities; and
- In-house rail spur.
With its strategic location, Ebco can ship by road, rail and water. “Ours is a turnkey facility and operation for process manufacturing,” says Robinson. “As a single-source supplier, we can control quality and offer on-time delivery in a cost-effective fashion. When it comes to the manufacturing process, clients need not go to multiple outside contractors.”
Quality is assured by ISO 9001 – certified company’s Quality Management System, which means that optimal performance is maintained throughout all stages of fabrication, welding, and machining.
This is how it serves its target markets:
- Oil, gas and petrochemicals – Ebco manufactures and repairs numerous components for land-based refinery operations as well as offshore and sub-sea installations. The company has extensive experience in the fabrication, machining, assembly and testing of onshore-based products and components (pressure vessels, heat exchangers, pump and motor base plates for refineries, refinery pump cases, compressor housings including all of the internal components, multi-stage shafts, impellers, bearing housings, inlet rings, diaphragms, and more);
- Mining and Aggregate (equipment manufacturing and repair) – Ebco boasts more than 50 years’ experience as a mining equipment manufacturer. It has built some of the world’s largest components for mining equipment;
- Renewable energy and power generation – For nearly 60 years, Ebco has served this market sector, providing components (new and rebuilt) for the largest turbine installations in British Columbia, Washington State, Oregon and California;
- Fabricating and machining services for the pulp and paper industries – Ebco manufactures some highly sophisticated parts while meeting strict quality standards and delivery schedules. The company excels in medium- to extra-heavy and large steel and alloy fabrication, and is capable of manual, semi-automatic, and automatic welding in steel, stainless steel, aluminum, titanium, nickel-chrome, copper, and low-temperature steels;
- Aerospace – Ebco has many years of experience manufacturing aerospace tooling including large work platforms, automated drillers, assembly jigs, check fixtures, drill jigs, form blocks, fiber placement mandrels, locating jigs, overhead lifting equipment, portable mechanical equipment, roll-over fixtures, wing positioners, and much more;
- Defense – For more than 35 years, Ebco has supplied the defense industry with equipment and components, engaging in projects that require the most complex hardware pieces. Components provided involve land based radar systems, ship based propulsion systems and missile launching systems. With Canadian Controlled Goods certification, Ebco helps international companies meet their IRB obligations;
- Nuclear Energy Manufacturing – Ebco has produced critical components for nuclear power stations, in Canada and throughout the world.
Recent Growth and Future Glimpse
Like just about every company throughout the world, Ebco suffered stymied growth in the hellish years of 2008 and 2009. Previously, according to Robinson, the company enjoyed a 50-percent growth rate. But stagnation is now merely a look-behind: The company projects revenues in the $50 million range, with increased growth anticipated for 2014 and 2015.
Such positive projections arise from diversification. However, with diversification come business headaches, as Robinson indicates. “When you are as diversified as we are, so many factors come into play and impact the bottom line,” he says.
These involve the fluctuating prices of commodities. “We have to bring into the equation such elements as the cost of raw materials, consumables, or the price of precious metals in the mining industry,” reveals Robinson. That only scratches the surface.
Robinson adds that every nation – including Canada – must keep a close watch on what is going on in the United States. “The value of the US dollar significantly affects how international companies operate, and recent concerns have involved sequestration and the looming issue of the financial cliff,” he relates. “A lot of factors come into play.”
That means that many companies move forward with trepidation into a changing world. But there’s good news, Robinson reports. “We are beginning to see global economic growth, and we have attached ourselves to that growth. Demand in the aerospace industry is expanding, and China is witnessing an increasing demand for commercial applications. So our outlook is very positive.”
A prevailing factor, he says, is a growing middle class in world regions that never heard of the idea, particularly Southeast Asia, where consumer demand for basic household appliances – items that US consumers take for granted – is growing.
“It’s all about how the world is evolving,” says Robinson. “Our planet is huge, but technology is shrinking the space. One key is availability of raw materials.”
It’s a new world, continues Robinson. “We need to make sure we fit into the world of new business globalization, to secure our place so that we can successfully compete with the emerging companies in places like China, Brazil, India, and Mexico, where labor costs are low. That means keeping up with advancements in automation and robotics.”
“Those elements are changing the manufacturing world.”