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North Bay's 'mighty' saw blade maker: Haskins industrial prides itself on selling a quality product, whether it takes longer to make or not.

A small "but mighty" North Bay manufacturer of carbide saws is carving out a name for itself across eastern Canada.

This year, saw manufacturers Haskins Industrial are poised for a big push into new forestry and industrial markets.

In targetting "sustained and controlled growth" opportunities, exposure from industry trade shows has gained Haskins a strong foothold in northeastern Ontario and north western Quebec, which has earned the small 30-employee company some brand recognition for building quality saws.

Once a home-based shop, the family-run business now serves a multitude of North Bay-based and national forestry, mining supply and industrial clients such as Domtar, Tembec, Abitibi, Boart Longyear, Atlas Copco, J.N. Precise, PGI Fabrene and many Quebec-based forest products companies including Uniforet, Barrette Chapais and Bois Francs St. Charles.

"The saw industry took us off into new locations," says Sean Farnell, the company's marketing manager of 17 years. "There's a fair amount of business in the Abitibi region (of Quebec) and we're making a concerted effort to capture business in the southern portion of Quebec."

To hawk their saw shop products, Haskins has hired a full-time sales person in Quebec City to cover that new territory.

Quebec represents a huge market for Haskins, accounting for up to 50 percent of their sales primarily in the forestry industry.

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"The ratios of saw mills in Quebec versus Ontario is significantly higher," says Farnell. "It's a very resource-rich province."

Started by Fred and Sheila Haskins in 1968 as D.F. Haskins Supply Company, the company began as a home-based business distributing carbide saws, fasteners, cutting tools and abrasives to customers in North Bay.

They began manufacturing their own product in 1995 and today, the company is considered one of the primary industry saw suppliers in eastern Canada. A Nepean branch was opened in 2000 to service Ottawa's high-tech industry and to supply general machine shops and fabricators.

Fred Haskin remains company chairman, while son Brian is president.

To avoid the economic downcycles of the resource industry, the company has diversified over the years beyond forestry to service machine shops catering to the mining industry.

"When mining is down, we've seen the cycles that forestry has a tendency to be stable," says Farnell. "It's rare that both are down. So we try to hedge our bets to be two companies in one by servicing those two diverse markets."

Farnell says Haskins' forestry markets have remained strong despite ongoing troubles in that sector. Sales of saws and saw accessories should be stable for a number of years thanks to some recent contract renewals.

He says Haskins has "dodged a bullet" since many of the mill closures in Northern Ontario have affected their competition.

They have plans to capture both new and old ground expanding beyond their traditional northeastern Ontario territory, south to Huntsville, and they intend to jump back into the Nickel City.

"We did some exploratory work about a year ago," says Farnell, "and we're making a concerted effort to re-establish ourselves in Sudbury."

What's old is new again

Previously they had a "loose gentlemen's agreement" with a Sudbury industrial supplier and gave up the territory. "We've decided what's best for this company is not to inhibit or impede our growth but go back and re-capture new opportunities in those old territories."

For competitive reasons, Farnell prefers not to divulge production figures or the square footage of their 20-year-old Franklin Street shop, saying their fully automated facility makes the most use of the space they have.

"We're extremely efficient and we do tremendous things in that shop," says Farnell. "We have phenomenal through-put. The output would make it look like it's four or five times its size."

With a shop stocked with sophisticated computer numerically controlled (CNC) equipment, Farnell says "everyone is trained to keep the machines running as close to 100 percent as possible. Our people are hopping constantly to feed the machines."

New software enables the company and customers alike to chart the progress of work orders in real time during the manufacturing process.

It's among the first steps Haskins is taking over the next six months toward introducing StatisticalProcess Control, a 100-percent documented inspection system using tools such as calipers and micrometres to measure and check for product quality.

"That process has always been there, but we're using the tools to actually capture the data to a computer," says Farnell.

The typical lead time to manufacture product is between six and 10 weeks, which is considered normal within industry standards.

"Our processes don't allow us to be as fast as some of our competitors, but our processes allow us to produce the best quality product," says Farnell.

He says what makes their product stand out is their process control. A new addition in the past four months has been a certificate of inspection going out with each of their saw orders. "Every body to some degree monitors how they make their product," he says. "We monitor, document it and back it up.

"We're not going to put out an inferior product. We'll turn an order down before knowing we'll put a bad product out."

www.haskinsindustrial.com

By IAN ROSS

Northern Ontario Business
COPYRIGHT 2005 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: NORTH BAY
Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Sep 1, 2005
Words:863
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