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Market innovators: Clearline Technologies innovates within the rooftop walkway support system industry by using recycled rubber.

Clearline Technologies, a relatively new western Canadian rubber recycler, is finding a tremendous demand for its rooftop walkway support systems. And the company's C-Port products have quickly become so popular with heating, ventilation and air conditioning professionals that Clearline's management had to revise its projected sales for 2004 several times during the course of the year.

"We were at the trade show in Orlando early in the year with our American distributor Cooper B-Line, and the response to our C-Port was amazing," says Neil Krovats, Clearline's president. "C-Port was named Product of the Year in our category by ECM (Electrical Contractor and Manager) Magazine and we are in the running for overall Product of the Year."

Krovats has been in the plumbing and HVAC business his entire career. He joined his father Murray in business in Murray Krovats Ltd. right out of high school. Murray Krovats Ltd. is a manufacturer's agent, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that specializes in plumbing and HVAC equipment. Krovats and his brother Jim bought out their father 10 years ago.

Murray Krovats Ltd. is a distributor for a rooftop structural steel support product called Unistrut that is used to support piping and ductwork.

Krovats says that Murray Krovats Ltd. produces modular walkways that can be easily bolted together on location. "The advantage is that you get a lot less waste product," he says. "By fabricating the units in our shop, we can better control the length and we can reuse the pieces of scrap metal."

The issue with rooftop walkway systems, Krovats points out, is that people spend a million dollars to put this HVAC equipment on roofs on wooden supports that deteriorate every few years. "We wanted to find a low-cost alternative to wooden supports," he says. "Being in the industry, we know that contractors don't want to have to pay a lot of money for alternatives to wood. We began looking for different products we could use instead of wood."

NEW MATERIAL. The company tried fiberglass and plastic, but found them wanting. Then it discovered rubber. "It fit our price point." Krovats says. Clearline Technologies' COO Greg Libbrecht adds that using recycled rubber was a "perfect fit" in terms of cost, conservation and durability. "Our product is the only green product in the world for pipe support," says Libbrecht whose career has also been mainly in plumbing and HVAC supply. "Our product will last longer than the rooftops. And we can never run out of used tires. They have an infinite lifespan."

Clearline first developed C-Sport as a pipe support, says Krovats.

Later, the company created a model for walkways as a soft, non-penetrating walkway system.

Many competitors, he says, use forms of plastic that are harmful to the environment or Styrofoam, which decays. "We were marketing a competitor's product," says Joe Carpino, sales and service manager for Eastern Canada for Lennox Canada, Clearline's principal Canadian distributor. "An agent introduced us to Clearline's C-Port technology. It was a no-brainer. We quickly discontinued carrying the other product and switched to Clearline. It was a seamless transition."

Another factor in the growing popularity of Clearline's C-Port supports is the trend in construction today to use pressure-treated lumber. The process used in treating the lumber causes the wood to deteriorate rapidly if it makes contact with metal. "You have to put something under the metal to protect the underlying wood," Krovats says.

Krovats launched Clearline Technologies two years ago out of a 5,000-square-foot plant in Winnipeg. Clearline's CPort product comes in a number of different designs. The 4-by-6-inch CX-Value model is designed as an economical support for gas piping systems, electrical conduits and HVAC equipment. The C-Strut Support models are for gas and refrigeration piping systems, cable trays and multiple lines in addition to electrical conduits and HVAC equipment.

GROWTH TRENDS. Initially the company was having the molding for its C-Port units done in Montreal and was doing the welding, assembling and packaging in Winnipeg. But growth has been so rapid that Clearline was forced to move into a larger location early this year. Clearline is also setting up a second production line in its Winnipeg plant to handle the demand. (Krovats says that his staff built all of the production machinery the company uses.)

"We were in a back-order situation throughout the spring and summer of last year," Krovats says. "We have been able to increase our capacity and catch up. Right now, we are working out of 8,000 square feet and we have another 8,000 square feet we can grow into as needed. We will probably need to expand again by the fall"

Krovats expects to increase his workforce in Winnipeg to 12 by the end of the summer. The Montreal operation employs 15.

Late in 2003, Clearline Technologies signed a distribution agreement with Cooper B-Line, based in Highland, Ill., to distribute C-Port products in the United States. The first shipment to the United States went out in January 2004.

Krovats expects Clearline's sales to double this year--with most of that growth coming from sales to American customers.

"Our research shows us that there are as many as 20 million gas pipe support units in the United States," says Greg Libbrecht. "Right now, the lumber yards have most of that business. We can produce up to 400,000 units per year."

Krovats reports negotiations are underway between Clearline and a distributor in the U.K for distribution in the U.K. and Europe.

Clearline is also on the lookout for new uses for its products. "Using recycled rubber is good business and good for the environment," Krovats says.

METALS ON THE MOVE

Rob Sinclair, recyclable materials policy advisor, National Resources Canada Business Development Division, reports significantly higher export shipments of recyclable metals in 2004.

Data provided by the Natural Resources Canada through the end of March of this year shows that recyclable metal exports last year stood at nearly 3.5 million metric tons valued at CAN $2.6 billion in 2004 as compared to 2.9 million metric tons worth CAN $1.6 billion in 2003.

The amount of recyclable metals imported into Canada was also up, with nearly 2.1 million metric tons imported in 2004 (compared with 1.4 million metric tons in '03) valued at CAN $1.6 billion compared to CAN $1.3 billion in 2003.

The projections for 2005 are that market demand will increase thanks to China and other offshore markets, says Len Shaw, executive director of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries Inc. (CARI).

The trade group is holding its Annual Convention June 11-13 at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. Those interested in exhibiting or attending can contact CARl's Donna Turner at donna.turner-cari@on.aibn.com or at (905) 426-9313.

Brian McIver of Canada's leading lead recycler, Nova Pb, reports that inventory levels decreased from 88,000 tons at the end of January 2004 to 35,000 tons at the end of January 2005, mainly in light of demand from China. At the same time, the price increased by 25 percent.

Nova Pb has spent the last few years diversifying its operations, and aluminum now plays a more significant role. Nova concluded a multi-year agreement Jan.13, 2005, with Alcoa Canada Primary Metals to recycle spent aluminum potliners and other scrap materials generated by Alcoa's Quebec smelters. Nova will use the material to make CALSiFrit, an additive to portland cement.

The principal buyer of Nova's CALSiFrit technology is St. Lawrence Cement, a major global cement manufacturer with a cement production plant located in Joliette, Quebec. According to the company's Web site, St. Lawrence Cement is a leading producer and supplier of cement, concrete, aggregates and construction materials to the construction industry.

ALBERTA INTRODUCES ITS ELECTRONICS RECYCLING PROGRAM

In provincial recycling news, the western Canadian province of Alberta has become the first jurisdiction in Alberta to introduce a comprehensive electronics recycling program.

"We launched phase one last October," says Kari Veno, communications manager for the non-profit Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA), which has been charged with administering the program. "We established 75 collection sites throughout the province (which has a population of about 3 million)."

Phase two came into play Feb. 1, when a new environmental fee was slapped on the purchase price of all new electronics products sold in the province. Those fees are $5 for laptop computers, electronic notebooks and desktop printers is; $10 for CPUs; $12 for desktop computer monitors; $25 for 19-inch-to-29-inch televisions; $30 for TVs with 30-inch-to-45-inch screens; and $45 for TVs that are larger still. The funds will pay for transportation and recycling costs, a public information campaign and research.

The author is a freelance writer based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. He can be contacted at myron@autobahn.mb.ca.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:CANADIAN MARKET REPORT; Murray Krovats Ltd.
Comment:Market innovators: Clearline Technologies innovates within the rooftop walkway support system industry by using recycled rubber.(CANADIAN MARKET REPORT)(Murray Krovats Ltd.)
Author:Love, Myron
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2005
Words:1465
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