LAS VEGAS—Key initiatives made by Duraprene Industries Ltd. in 2009 have had a significant—and positive—impact on the firm as it emerged from the 2009 economic downturn.
Because of those moves, the firm already is considering adding machinery and expanding its work force, if it can find the right people and business continues at its present pace.
The Calgary, Alberta-based manufacturer of a variety of urethane products last year purchased a small competitor, Smart Tech Rubber; absorbed part of the business of a urethane goods maker that closed its doors in Canada; and invested in new equipment at a fraction of the original cost.
Both acquisitions “opened up new markets for us and helped us through the lull (in the economy), which hit us later than it did other provinces in Canada,” said General Manager Scott Woodworth, who also is the current president of the Canadian Urethane Manufacturers Association.
“In the long run, they strengthened us,” he said. For instance, the Smart Tech purchase helped bring a substantial customer into the Duraprene fold. That client was a key reason for the acquisition, he said.
The purchase of the small product maker included some equipment, molds, “and a lot of business in new areas for us, areas we never considered or approached before,” he said.
Last year was difficult for Duraprene, with sales dropping about 25 percent, Woodworth said prior to the recent CUMA conference in Las Vegas. But the firm viewed the economic downturn as an opportunity, which is why it made the moves it did.
“The slowing of production also allowed us to do some long-overdue maintenance on existing equipment and to review current procedures and safety practices,” according to Woodworth. And adding business helped offset losses in other areas.
Duraprene has had a recent surge in orders. “We are extremely busy, with activity coming from all sectors of the business,” he said. “We have actually hired four new production staff, which hasn't happened in close to two years.”
The company is now considering other hires if the right candidates become available.
The firm has a work force of about 22 working out of an 11,000-sq.-ft. plant in Calgary, where it molds custom polyurethane parts for companies in numerous industries, including oil and gas, mining, military, recreation, communication and transportation.
Duraprene has been successful over the years because of four key elements, Woodworth said: creation and investment in a working culture where employees want to remain long term; development and maintenance of a strong working relationship with quality suppliers; establishment of a loyal customer foundation through continued commitment to service and quality; and diversity.
“This is a simple foundation for any business, big or small, but the fact that we have been able to implement and maintain (those elements) has meant success for our customers and ultimately success for Duraprene and its staff,” he said.
Woodworth is hesitant about predicting improvement in the economy.
“I think there are some positive signs à and I'm excited about the development of new materials in our industry, but there are so many unknowns. How will 'buy American' provisions affect Duraprene or our customers? How will China's economic growth affect this industry in Canada or North America in general? How will rapidly changing environmental opinions affect this industry in the future?”
Even with those and other uncertainties, the company—which was formed in 1986 when Duraprene Products Ltd. merged with Cast Polyurethane Products out of Fort McMurray, Alberta—is committed to expansion.
“Right now we're incredibly busy; if we could find additional bodies for production it would be better,” Woodworth said. “We are currently looking to add/upgrade some processing equipment and as always continue to look at new product/material development. We are still continuing to reorganize from our recent acquisitions, so I don't see anything on the immediate horizon à but you never know.”