It's been nearly 90 years since Comact was first founded, but the wood-processing equipment company has recently taken significant strides forward through a flurry of investments and expansions across North America.
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Eric Michaud, senior vice president for the company, discusses the enhancements made to Comact’s product line, market reach, and overall identity, and talks about how their newfound ability to impact all four corners of North America has them set up to thrive as a supplier to the soft and hardwood industries for many years to come. Steve Engelhardt reports.
While the Comact name didn’t come about until 1974, the company’s roots go all the way back to 1924 with the foundation of the Jos. Coté Inc. Company in Saint-Ephrem, Beauce, Quebec. “We’ve been around for quite some time, and although we have changed names and ownership here and there, the company’s commitment to producing high-quality wood processing parts and equipment has never changed,” Michaud says, adding, “and recently, we’ve been able to take this established reputation and rise up to a whole new level of success.”
A New Chapter
Much of this acceleration of growth began at the beginning of 2013, when British Columbia-based BID Group, a leader in providing a variety of value-added, turnkey solutions for the forestry industry, acquired Comact. “In becoming part of the BID Group family, we were able to take on a much higher degree of flexibility in both our manufacturing and delivery efforts,” Michaud says, adding, “and then when you consider the added benefit of being able to leverage their turnkey solutions and incorporate them into our own operations, it is something that has led to our business growing greatly.”
And business has been expanding, both in revenue numbers and geographical reach. “It’s always been our goal to maintain and build upon our deep-rooted presence here in Canada, but recently with our new capabilities, we find ourselves aggressively pursuing the U.S. market, with the ultimate objective of reaching and impacting all four corners of North America,” he says.
They took a big step towards doing so when they announced the acquisition of a brand new manufacturing facility in St. George, S.C. in July of 2013. The move was primarily a response to overall growing demand for their services in the U.S., but was also a particularly strategic one given the fact that the Carolinas serve as the heart of one of the world’s busiest forestry areas.
The facility, now up and running, spans 40,000-square-feet, created 40 new local jobs, features over $3 million worth of investments into machinery and building improvements, and serves as an effective satellite production location to go along with their main, 90,000-square-foot facility in Saint-Georges, Quebec. “Acquiring this plant was a significant step forward for us as a company,” Michaud says, continuing, “The plant focuses on cutting, welding, and steel preparation, along with some machining, painting, and mechanical assembly, but even more importantly, it has served to drastically reduce time-to-market and related costs.”
With their East Coast presence solidified, Comact continued its expansion on out to the West Coast, announcing in June the establishment of a spare parts and service center in Woodland, Wash., about 50 miles north of Portland. “It goes along with our ‘4-Corner’ approach towards the North American market, and provides us with a location in the Pacific Northwest that, again, has significantly reduced our delivery and related costs of products that previously would have had to of been shipped from our locations in Canada,” Michaud says.
The investments and expanded capabilities have enabled Comact to truly become a complete company. Michaud says that with their new locations, and BID Group’s backing, they have been able to experience an entirely new level of intimacy with their customers when engaging in partnerships.
“Being able to deliver turnkey solutions is a huge part of our iden tity now, and the combination of offering high-quality, high-technology wood processing products with an efficient and comprehensive method of installation to a greater number of customers has us excited about our future prospects.”
The Complete Package
For evidence of such, look no further than the company’s work with New Brunswick, Canada-based J.D. Irving last year, when the conglomerate’s forestry division decided to invest in one of Comact’s TrimExpert™ machines. “Installation of the machine only took about a week, and its capabilities led to a significant increase in production and decrease in re-grading,” Michaud says.
Specifically, the TrimExpert™ reduced production costs by diminishing a number of graders, a specialized resource often difficult to find, from three to one. The machine additionally improved productivity while diminishing needed resources, as well as instantly increasing operation speed from 42 to 60 pieces per minute, a 40 percent increase.
Also of note was the TrimExpert’s ability to diminish the volume of rejected without solution from 5000 FBM to only 50 FBM by work shift, a total decrease of 99 percent. The TrimExpert™ enabled them to greatly improve their hardwood product classification efficiency, bringing a process that was much more stable and effective for them,” he says, adding, “Between installation and product quality, they were very happy with us.”
Projects like these are why Michaud is extremely confident about his company’s international prospects going forward. “We have the technology and production know-how to deliver quality solutions to companies of all sizes, and now with our expanded logistics and facilities, we are able to deliver such across a much wider population.”
Michaud says that in addition to his company’s aggressive expansion across the North American markets, they also have their eyes on the emerging mining markets in Brazil. “Back in 2011, we were granted what was at the time the largest sawmill equipment order in our history from a company called Berneck S.A. for its mill in Curitabanos, Brazil,” he says, adding, “Since then, we’ve been tracking the market much more closely and are optimistic about what it could potentially serve for us down the road.”
For now, though, Comact is exploring and enjoying widespread success across North America, and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon. “We are a company built upon delivering innovative and high quality sawmill equipment, and we’ll bring such solutions to any market in the world where there is demand. Fostering long term relationships with our partners and suppliers has been critical to our success,” he says, adding, “They have always listened closely to our needs, understanding exactly what we want, and, just as we do, deliver such in an extremely timely manner.”