Clemmer SteelCraft Technologies, designs, engineers and manufactures custom steel components, fabrications, mixers, dispersers, processing equipment, tanks and pressure vessels. That’s six kinds of products, sold through six divisions. But while each division operates independently, they share the expertise and facilities of the others to provide the best possible products and services. David Soyka sorts it out.
Four years ago, Canadian manufacturers Clemmer and SteelCraft, which have been operating since 1923 at various locations, merged to form Clemmer SteelCraft Technologies, with headquarters in Stratford, Ontario. Their combined custom steel-based product lines sell innovative steel containment, machine components and process equipment to a broad range of industries comprised of six separate divisions:
- Bowers Process Equipment – mixers, dispersers, ribbon blenders, portable mix tanks, tank presses, portioners, fillers, process vessels used in the adhesives and sealants, paint and coatings, resin, ink, petrochemical, pharmaceutical and food and drug industries; it is also the sole Canadian distributor for Russell Finex sifting and straining equipment;
- Fabric City Fabricators – designs and builds custom pressure and process vessels, chemical reactors, autoclaves, quick opening doors, storage tanks and steel fabrications for the chemical, petrochemical, offshore oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining, steel, and related industries;
- Clemmer Dry Storage – containment solutions comprising tanks, silos and other cylindrical systems for the storage of dry products used in the petroleum, food, chemical and associated industries;
- Clemmer Liquid Storage – containment solutions comprising tanks, silos and other cylindrical systems for the storage of fuel, oil and other liquids for the chemical, petrochemical, offshore oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining, steel, and related industries;
- Clemmer Pressure Vessels – a variety of pressure vessel solutions for blow-off, condensate receiving, air cushion, air receiver, hot water storage and custom applications using carbon steel, stainless steel and aluminum designs for the chemical, petrochemical, offshore oil and gas, pulp and paper, mining, steel, and related industries;
- Quality Components International – manufactures fabricated and machined components and assemblies in low-to-medium production quantities for the transportation, forest products, off-road machinery, construction, mining, and similar heavy equipment industries.
“The various divisions operated independently with their own dedicated sales forces,” explains Chris Wyatt, sales and marketing manager for the Fabric City Fabricators division. “However, all the divisions share certain back office operations, such as accounting. Then there are certain overlaps where some divisions share resources where it makes sense. For example, the Clemmer Dry Storage, Liquid Storage and Pressure Vessels divisions use the same engineering staff because they have similar product lines. For the same reason, Festival City and Bowers share engineers, while Quality Components has its own engineering staff.”
Similarly, Festival City, Bowers and Quality Components share an IS0: 9001-registered, 80,000-square-foot parts manufacturing space in two plants located in Stratford; the three Clemmer divisions have facilities in Waterloo, Ontario and Mocton, New Brunswick. Quality Components also has a dedicated 72,000-square-foot facility in Woodstock, Ontario and Bowers has a 130,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, also in Stratford; both facilities are ISO: 9001 registered.
While customers typically view each division as a separate entity, Wyatt points to other synergies that offer value-adds beyond shared resources. “It’s not unusual for one division to get a request for something it can’t provide, but another division in the company can. For example, Caterpillar is a customer of Festival City, and they might need 600 baskets laser cut. Well, we don’t do laser cutting, but Quality Components does. That enables one division to continue to provide a customer service it otherwise couldn’t.”
An additional advantage is to combine division capabilities to offer a single seamless solution to multiple customer needs. “One-stop shopping is more economical for the customer, and results in better working integrated components,” Wyatt points out.
He adds, “About 95 percent of everything we supply is manufactured in-house. We do everything from processing raw materials to producing the finished goods. That not only helps reduce our operational overhead costs, but it also ensures the highest level of quality control.”
MEETING CUSTOMER EXPECTATIONS
Of course, like any manufacturer, Clemmer SteelCraft products must perform to customer expectations for price, delivery and quality. The driving factor, however, depends on the industry. “Industries serving the oil sands reserves in Western Canada are running at peak capacity,” Wyatt notes. “Manufacturers in that region are so busy that product orders are backlogged for as much as 22 months. With us, they can get product in as little as 22 weeks. So, for those companies, delivery and quality is paramount and price is less of a consideration. When shops in the west get saturated with work, these customers look to us here in the east to satisfy their needs. In other industries where time is not as critical, or all the competition is offering the same turnaround, price is going to be prime consideration.”
Business cycles are also industry-dependent. According to Wyatt, “Quality Components provides a lot of products for large trucks, and right now that industry is in a down period. On the other hand, we have customers who have acquired financing for projects through to 2010, so regardless of the current state of the economy, we have contracts that are going full speed ahead. One of the advantages of having multiple divisions that serve a broad spectrum of industry segments is that whenever we have slowdowns in some areas, we’re making up for it with increased sales somewhere else.”
Wyatt emphasizes, “Every division is solutions-oriented. We determine customer expectations, and then we deliver product that exceeds those expectations.”
To help accomplish this, Clemmer SteelCraft continually reinvests in capital equipment to be up-to-date with the latest technologies. “I think we’re somewhat unique in our focus on replacing and updating our equipment,” Wyatt says. “A lot of companies try to save money by pushing their equipment to the limit. We’re a little more forward thinking; we want to analyze what we’re going to need and that justifies the cost to obtain it. Consequently, we’re usually further advanced in our capabilities than other companies similar to us. When you’re talking custom solutions, those advanced capabilities often make the difference not only in what you can make and how fast you can make it, but at the same time the quality and price of what you make.”
Because much of the company’s product across all divisions is built-to-order, skilled labor is critical. “We’re heavily dependent on a knowledgeable workforce,” Wyatt says. “Because we do a lot of low volume, custom production, you’re not going to find a lot of robotic welders in our shops. So we put a lot of focus on attracting and retaining the right talent.”
While one division incorporates “international” in its name, Wyatt says most of its overseas sales are the result of making product for North American-based OEMs that are shipped to their global facilities. “Though we’re based in Canada, a good portion of our business comes from the United States,” Wyatt says.
Whatever division they are dealing with, customers of Clemmer SteelCraft can depend on containment and process products that are built right to every specification.