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An evolution in logistics

CareGo develops new technology to speed up transportation of steel.

CareGo is trucking out some new technology. It now has a driver check-in kiosk at its facilities that strongly resembles an ATM machine but reads a bar code or series of keyed in numbers to alert staff of a truck’s arrival and its load.

The information also can be accessed remotely by the customer or the shipper.

It’s just one more piece of automated technology designed by the transportation logistics company.

CareGo made its mark in moving steel via marine, rail and truck and has evolved as it needed to solve increasingly complex issues around moving and storing coils of steel as a supply chain delivery and innovative logistics firm.

Walter Krancevic, vice-president of sales and marketing at CareGo, said the technology is “battle-tested” and its own transportation company provides a giant lab for making sure the new technology will work.

About 150 people are employed at CareGo with facilities on Longwood Road (billed as Canada’s largest intermodal transportation facility), Eastport Boulevard, Burlington Street and its CareGo Innovation Centre on Dundas Street in Burlington.

Krancevic said the steel and warehousing industries traditionally have been slow to adopt new technology, but that attitude changes when the advantages of automation become clear.

“The technology used to be receiving an Excel spreadsheet and people would say ‘wow’,” he said. “There is ample opportunity to help customers improve efficiency even more.”

“After it was up and running, the drivers got used to it and liked it. It appreciably made their jobs better.”

Time savings are incalculable.

In the previous manual system, a truck driver would arrive at the facility with some pieces of paper, try to find the supervisor to check in, possibly wait in line behind other trucks, bring the truck in and manually enter the bar code numbers for each steel coil after unloading.

Now most of those steps are compressed with the swipe of the bar codes by the driver at the check-in kiosk.

The software associated with the system also gives customers the ability to manage and analyze their business.

“Any customer anywhere in the world can access this information on the Internet. If they have one of their customers saying ‘Where is that product?’, (the CareGo customer) can go online and say, ‘It just arrived, it will be there later today.'”

The new driver check-in system is catching on, and CareGo is selling the technology to other companies, including another steel mill.

“They had truck deliveries going helter skelter and this helped them organize that chaos.”

Krancevic said this side of CareGo’s operations — innovative technologies in logistics — is growing more rapidly than its delivery division.

It struck a deal last year, for example, with the port of Liverpool for use of its proprietary CareGo technology and products.

“The technology side has a global market. The delivery side is GTHMA. Strategically, (technology) is the most important side of our business; commercially, (the delivery) side is much larger.

“(Delivery) is limited by its physicality. To build (a new transportation facility) is very expensive. We have created high-paid, intellectual jobs in this area. From a social point of view, it’s pretty cool.”

Article courtesy of  Lisa Marr, The Hamilton Spectator.

New technology on the old factory floor

Burlington Street operation targets sales of its insulated panels at $100 million next year.  They’re the kind of numbers a CEO dreams of.

Sales up 700 per cent in five years, year-over-year increases of 40 per cent, new jobs and plants — all with more than 90 per cent of the potential market still untapped.

That rosy world is where Colin Osborne works today as president and CEO of Vicwest Income Fund of Oakville. It has turned a derelict Burlington Street factory into a hive of new technology, investment and jobs.

The local plant, operating under the new name of All Weather Insulated Panels, a Vicwest Company, manufactures insulated metal panels — two sheets of steel sandwiching a layer of foam. They’re intended primarily for the industrial-commercial-institutional buildings to keep heating and cooling costs under control. The panels are also produced at Vicwest plants in California and Arkansas.

Insulated metals are relatively new to North America, where they represent less than 10 per cent of the exterior building material market, but they are well established in more energy conscious markets such as Europe where they have up to 50 per cent market share.

Osborne said architects and builders are learning slowly that insulated panels are lighter, easier to handle than traditional materials and offer impressive energy savings — and that’s driving rising sales.

“I think our product is really a game-changer for North America,” Osborne said. “In Europe, it’s quite a mature product, but North America has been a little slower to adopt it.

“It takes time to convince architects to adopt a new technology, but it’s starting to happen. Over time, we think this will take an increasing share of the market.”

Vicwest came to Hamilton in 2006, leasing a former Massey Ferguson plant from the Hamilton Port Authority. The factory had been idle since the farm equipment maker slipped into bankruptcy in 1988.

One of the company’s first moves was to reclad the building in insulated panels.

The factory’s original stone block construction allowed temperatures to vary too much inside, which was unacceptable for Vicwest’s quality control.

Construction materials are the largest part of its business today but account for only 7 per cent of the North American market, while insulated panels have been 55 per cent of the business in Europe.

Since introducing the panels to the Canadian market, sales have been steadily rising from $8.2 million in 2007 to $57 million in 2012. The company expects to hit $75 million this year and targets $100 million for 2014.

As sales have grown, the company has expanded through acquisition, buying competitors in California and Arkansas to give itself an American presence. It was that Arkansas purchase that brought the company the All Weather Insulated Panels name. Since that brand was already known in the United States, the building products division has been renamed.

As well as reviving a disused factory building, Vicwest has also helped revive the working lives of people cast off from closed or downsized plants around the area, including Camco, Stelco, Dofasco and other names that once meant prosperity in Hamilton.

“A lot of the industries that have died around here have been our feeders,” Osborne said.

Vicwest represents one of the new facts of life for Hamilton’s economy — where Massey Ferguson employed hundreds, the new company employs only 30, with expansion possible.

“We’re getting close to adding a second shift that should mean another 10 jobs.”

Article courtesy of Steve Arnold, The Hamilton Spectator.

Let’s be local, mobile, social

The best reward is immediate.

Drew Thachuk and Mo Shahin have taken this truism to heart in the launch of their new tech startup AdvanTag.

AdvanTag is a loyalty rewards system that uses software loaded onto tablets. Consumers swipe with an Apple or Android app or a key tag at a cash register or at an event (such as a ball game) to give them an option to either Tweet or post a Like on the company’s Facebook page. That, in turn, could give the customer a variety of options: spin a wheel or scratch a coupon on their touch device or computer, or open up a different kind of surprise gift or discount.

“Every company wants to be local, mobile and social,” said Shahin, one of the co-founders. “We’ve taken loyalty programs and made them digital.”

It’s only been six weeks since the pair launched their business in the incubation centre at McMaster Innovation Park, but it’s been a whirlwind of meetings with customers, potential customers, staff and advertising firms.

Thachuk said while the technology works well for large companies, he’s appealing initially to small- to medium-sized businesses in Hamilton and the GTA because of the low cost and ease of the sophisticated marketing technology.

It’s $250 for a tablet for customers to swipe and the rewards offered by the company can range from quirky items such as naming a sandwich after a frequent customer to a money-back discount. AdvanTag’s staff takes care of managing the software on a subscription basis, removing the need for extra staff.

The big return for AdvanTag stores comes from those customers using social networks to promote that business.

“It leverages people’s own social networks to create feedback and traffic to an event or product,” said Thachuk. “There’s a big gap in access to this kind of technology between, say, a Starbucks chain to a small coffee shop.”

The pair met at the first Startup Weekend hosted by Shahin’s tech company Soft Mills and Innovation Factory. Shahin is a graduate of McMaster’s masters program in engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation. Thachuk is a graduate of Mohawk College and Davenport University.

It has a staff of nine with an office in Dubai. That foreign connection resulted after AdvanTag finished top 10 at an MIT business-plan competition with more than 4,500 participants in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, last year. It was there that AdvanTag received seed funding from angel investors as well as landing Du — the second-largest phone carrier in Dubai — as a customer. This week, AdvanTag was invited to attend one of the largest technology conferences in the world in Dublin, Ireland, at the end of October.

It’s early days yet in Canada but so far AdvanTag has picked up three customers with five locations in Burlington and Hamilton.

In an effort to find more local customers, AdvanTag has an instant reward offer for Hamilton Business readers: the first 10 people to contact Thachuk (dthachuk@advantag.me) will receive a discount on a package.

Article courtesy of Lisa Marr, The Hamilton Spectator.
Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator. – See more at: http://investbak.2genbox.net/hamilton-tops-corporate-construction/#sthash.YDSOy0bf.dpuf

Russel completes upgrade of Stoney Creek plant

STONEY CREEK A $7-million upgrade to a local steel plant has been completed.

Russel Metals Inc. announced recently it has finished the installation of a new roller at its B&T Steel division here, completing an upgrade that started in November.

The new hydraulic roller leveller is designed to process three-quarters of an inch thick coiled steel up to 72 inches wide on the company’s heavy-gauge production line.

In a news release, the company said the upgrade would allow it “to provide superior quality products with industry leading flatness.”

The latest installation is the second half of a project the company announced last November. The first phase involved installation of a stretcher leveller to its light gauge line.

Russel bills itself as one of the largest metals distribution companies in North America. It does business in the metals service centres, energy products and steel distribution sectors under several names including Russel Metals, A.J. Forsyth, Alberta Industrial Metals, Apex Distribution, B&T Steel, Baldwin International, Comco Pipe and Supply, Fedmet Tubulars and others.

In August, the company reported second quarter profits of $20 million, down from $23 million in the same quarter last year. Revenues in the metals service centre segment slipped 13 per cent to $378 million in the second quarter due to a combination of lower demand and prices.

Article courtesy of The Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton again tops in corporate construction

Hamilton has topped the country in corporate construction projects for the second year in a row.

The city logged 35 corporate projects between April 2012 and March 2013, which edged out Quebec City with 34 and handily outdistanced Toronto and Edmonton, which tied for third at 22.

The rankings were produced by Site Selection magazine in its Canada’s Best to Invest report. The Atlanta, Ga. publication is aimed at about 44,000 corporate site selectors.

Hamilton also topped the rankings in 2011-2012 and was in second place behind Toronto in 2010-2011.

“I think this shows the whole community is pulling in the same direction,” said Neil Everson, the city’s director of economic development.

“They’re all over the city, which is great, and they are across different industries, which is the diversity we’ve been pushing for the last 15 to 20 years.”

A rough tally of investment comes in at more than $250 million, but Everson cautions that not every company attached a dollar figure to its project.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, Hamilton’s economic diversification index is 0.94 out of a possible 1, which is the best in Canada.

The city’s submission to Site Selection says Hamilton gained approximately 1,070 jobs over the year.

The number of projects grew significantly across most cities on the list over the June 2011-May 2012 period last studied. Hamilton had 20 projects during that time.

The city’s Hamilton Calling program, which interviews and surveys city employers, found close to 65 per cent of 345 visited plan to expand in terms of job, facilities or investment in the next three years. Close to 95 per cent saw an increase in sales over the previous year and almost 70 per cent plan to introduce new products or services in the next two years.

To be eligible for inclusion in the Site Selection tally, projects must be at least a $1-million investment, result in 50 new jobs or be more than 20,000 square feet in area. Data is collected through building permits and from company representatives. It is independently verified by Site Selection staff.

Everson says the data will be vital to the city’s marketing push as a corporate destination aimed at the GTA.

“So when people say, ‘Why should I look at Hamilton?’ There’s a reason: because everyone else is.”

The city’s economic development department was also named among the 10 best in Canada. Rankings aren’t assigned to that list.

The report appears in Site Selection’s September edition which will be posted Thursday.

Article courtesy of Meredith MacLeod, The Hamilton Spectator.

 

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