OTTAWA (CP) - Canada's manufacturing recovery took a small detour in March, disappointing markets and returning some of the encouraging gains that the sector had made the previous month.
April 29, 2013 - Professional Engineers Ontario (PEO)—the licensing and regulating body for professional engineers and engineering in the province—installed Annette Bergeron, P.Eng., as its 94th president during its annual general meeting on April 27.
April 18, 2013 - Wesco Canada announced it will formally open its new, fully functional 60,500-sf wire distribution centre on April 24, 2013, between 2 pm and 7 pm at 11616 186 Street NW, Edmonton.
April 17, 2013 - Acklands-Grainger—a distributor of industrial, safety and fastener products—announced its largest-ever product expansion, adding 200,000 new products to its online offering over the next several months.
The new facility allows Intertec to make major efficiency gains in the production of field cabinets and shelters—which are often used to house process analyzers. The building also houses a patented new CNC manufacturing process that allows instrumentation and control engineers to specify the precise dimensions they need for their particular outdoor enclosure and have it made using an economic automated process—instead of compromising and using a standard size, or commissioning a special hand-built model.
The factory expansion—an investment of more than $3 million for the company—follows a period of sustained growth for Intertec, with demand for field shelters increasing massively by some 500 per cent during the last two years, and demand for smaller outdoor enclosures and cabinets growing by around 50 per cent over the same period.
The increase in business is being driven by a number of technical factors related largely to the performance of the structural materials the company uses to build outdoor enclosures—glass fiber reinforced polyester (GRP)—which has become a strongly preferred option for many long-lifecycle outdoor protection applications in the process industries. This has resulted in major orders for the company, such as project wins for protecting field instrumentation used by operators working in the Alberta oil sands region, and possibly the world's most significant single order for field shelters ever placed—for protecting the process analyzers at the new Sadara complex in Saudi Arabia which is the largest petrochemical facility ever built in a single phase and will have 26 world scale manufacturing plants.
"This investment allows us to shave around 25 per cent off the manufacturing times for many of our outdoor enclosures and shelters, and gives us much greater flexibility to meet the fast-changing demand from our processing customers," says Phil Luppke, general manager of Intertec Instrumentation.
The new building has been designed to improve Intertec's manufacturing efficiency in two particular areas.
The first is outdoor shelters. These are typically single-storey buildings providing protected operating environments for analyzers and other process instrumentation and control equipment—in custom shapes with spaces up to 100 square meters. To simplify shelter production, the new building has been fitted with a large gantry and a new 20 ton crane from Zelus—allowing Intertec to assemble and move shelters through the various manufacturing stages much more easily.
A second advance comes in the form of a major new CNC machine from MAKA Systems which automates the cutting, routing and drilling of all the panels that are used to build the enclosure, cabinet or shelter—with an extremely large working area of 12.1 x 3.5 metres. This aspect of the new automation alone eliminates many operations that were previously performed manually, shaving valuable time from the manufacturing process. It also makes it much faster for Intertec to build completely custom sized outdoor enclosures. By optimizing the size and design of an enclosure to precisely match the instrumentation content and layout, engineers can minimize its surface area and thereby secure optimum thermal performance. Until now, due to the lack of design choices, they have often been forced to use an unnecessarily large standard enclosure or even a cabinet, leading to wasted space and excessive energy use for heating or cooling. The new production process is so simple that Intertec can now easily make custom enclosures in quantities of just one if required, providing a valuable new service in the North American instrumentation market.
The outdoor instrument protection business is evolving rapidly, and Intertec's investment in additional manufacturing capacity and automation positions it well to face many of the current challenges. The first and most significant is an enormous shift in demand from purchasing enclosure components to turnkey enclosures—assembled and fitted with instruments ready for connection to the process. This is being driven by the way that many processing companies have downsized their in-house engineering and technical staff—and prefer to employ external specialists as required. Another factor is the relatively higher cost of skilled field labor required to install instruments compared to the rates that are possible when enclosures are pre-assembled on a production line. Although Intertec offers the full range of components required by engineers to build their own outdoor enclosures—from standard enclosures to all of the accessories needed such as heaters or sunshades—ts turnkey design and assembly service has grown dramatically in recent years. Today in North America, over 80% of the company's sales are now for populated enclosures.
Intertec has two factories in North America: Sarnia and a second facility in Houston, Tex., which also offers Intertec's 'SafeLink' enclosure and cabinet design and assembly service. These two factories are part of Intertec's worldwide network of enclosure design, manufacturing and support centers which has 10 manufacturing and support facilities located throughout Asia, Europe and North America.
According to the index, which examines wages in the U.S. and Canada, wage decreases in the manufacturing industry and job category reflect other economic reports.
Information released by the Institute for Supply Management, which tracks manufacturing activity, found that the manufacturing sector’s expansion slowed in March.
This matches The Pay Scale Index’s findings that wages decreased by almost 1.0 per cent for the job category and 0.4 per cent for the industry overall in Q1 2013.
However, the study also found that decreases were minor and wages are still up year-over-year across the board.
Other industries also saw wage decreases, according to the report.
“Building upon the current political and economic climate, this quarter was a bump in the road to recovery, as wages fell in previously high-performing areas including IT, Biotech, and Oil & Gas Exploration. It remains to be seen if this quarterly drop is a blip on the radar, or a long-term trend,” said Katie Bardaro, lead economist, PayScale, in a statement.
HELUKABEL Canada will be in their new facility beginning April 1.
“Canada’s continued industrial and renewable energy expansion made adding a domestic distribution center a logical choice to further enhance our services to the market,” said Alex Kanouni, general manager of HELUKABEL Canada. “Being centrally located in the Greater Toronto Area allows us to reach the entire country within a few business days.”
With sales operations in Canada since 2008, product used to be shipped from HELUKABEL’s U.S.-based distribution center in Elgin, Ill. With the opening of the new warehouse, 600 line items—including products such as the TRAYCONTROL 600, TRAYCONTROL 530, TOPFLEX 600 VFD, JZ-602 and JZ-603—will be available for immediate shipment. Customers will also have the added convenience of receiving quotes and purchasing product using the Canadian dollar based on meter length measurements.
“We look forward to providing even more cabling expertise in an effort to assist Canada’s future growth in such sectors as automated industrial manufacturing, food and beverage packaging, and renewable energy generation,” Kanouni continued.
However economists cautioned that growth remained below the two per cent pace for the year expected by the Bank of Canada.
Statistics Canada said Thursday that Canada’s gross domestic product grew by 0.2 per cent in the month after shrinking 0.2 per cent in December, beating the 0.1 per cent gain that had been predicted.
CIBC World Markets economist Emanuella Enenajor said the manufacturing sector showed surprising strength given previous reports of softer sales, but cautioned that growth was still not as strong as some have expected.
“While today’s data suggest Q1 GDP could track somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1.5 per cent—an acceleration from the pace seen in prior quarters, that’s still softer than the Bank of Canada’s outlook,” Enenajor said in a brief note.
In its latest outlook, the central bank said it expected growth to gain momentum as the year progresses and result in 2.0 growth in GDP this year followed by 2.7 per cent growth in 2014—more optimistic than other estimates.
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development said Thursday that it expected the Canadian economy to expand 1.1 per cent in the first three months of this year and by 1.9 per cent in the second quarter.
Hurt by the December contraction, real domestic product output moved ahead by just 0.6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012 following a marginally better gain of 0.7 per cent in the third.
TD Bank economist Sonya Gulati said despite the better than expected results for January it was too soon to celebrate the economic recovery.
“Manufacturing was a particular area of strength, but this comes after several months of disappointments,” Gulati said.
“The sector has struggled to gain traction over the past year as global economic uncertainty has continued to dominate. Optimism about the health of the U.S. recovery is gaining momentum, but this will likely show up in the numbers in the second half of the year.”
Manufacturing, the biggest contributor to January’s gain, expanded 1.2 per cent following a 1.9 per cent decline in December.
Statistics Canada reported that Canadian goods production in January grew 0.4 per cent as mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction also increased while there were declines in agriculture, the forestry sector and construction.
The output of service industries was up 0.2 per cent in January, mainly as a result of gains in wholesale trade, arts and entertainment and the public sector.
Enenajor said that the gains in arts and entertainment probably reflected the return of NHL hockey after the National Hockey League and its players union reached a contract settlement and began a shortened playing season.