LAS VEGAS—Novaflex Group has moved into a new industrial hose plant to make its operations more efficient and provide room to grow.
The hose and ducting manufacturer invested $6 million to buy and equip the 100,000-sq.-ft. facility in Ajax, Ontario. The building replaces a smaller plant about five miles away in Whitby, Ontario, that Richmond Hill, Ontario-based Novaflex previously leased.
“The new facility gives us more opportunity for growth,” said Ian Donnelly, Novaflex chairman and CEO. “It just facilitates everything that we're doing. The building looks like it was built for hose manufacturing.”
He and his daughter, Melinda, president of Novaflex, discussed the new factory during NAHAD's annual convention in Las Vegas April 18-21.
Melinda Donnelly said the company began looking for a new building about two years ago. It had used various spaces in the previous plant over the years, but the structure wasn't really a good manufacturing space.
When the automotive downturn left some area buildings unoccupied, the site about 30 miles east of Toronto was found to be a perfect fit for what Novaflex needed. The firm will make its industrial rubber hose products at the facility, along with composite hose and extruded thermoplastic goods, including items made of thermoplastic rubber, thermoplastic poly- urethane and polyvinyl chloride.
Novaflex moved all its industrial rubber hose equipment to the factory and added some new lines for the thermoplastic business. The new plant sits on seven acres, giving plenty of expansion space, and has 12 loading docks. All 40-50 employees from the prior plant transferred to the new site.
“We were able to set up the manufacturing space exactly how we'd envisioned it,” Melinda Donnelly said. “The former location was long and narrow. This one is conducive to longer lengths of hose. That in itself is a major opportunity for us.
“We've gained immediate efficiencies just by being able to put those strategic pieces of equipment in the layout that we knew they should be in had we had this opportunity 20 years ago. That translates into increased throughput.”
Novaflex also makes industrial rubber hose in a 220,000-sq.-ft. plant in North Carolina and a 40,000-sq.-ft. plant in Granby, Quebec. It started producing composite hose at a facility in the United Kingdom earlier this year at a site previously used as a distribution center. Overall, Novaflex employs 400.
Business for the hose maker has been generally up with a good backlog of orders, though the firm doesn't disclose sales. The industrial hose and ducting division saw sales growth of roughly 25 percent the past two years, according to Melinda Donnelly. Sales have been flat, though, for its other businesses—commercial HVAC ducting and home venting of appliances and commercial boilers, areas that typically follow the construction market.
She said Novaflex's competitive advantage is its ability to custom-engineer products to customer needs, something the plant in Ajax is set up to do. “If a customer needs smaller volume, a custom end or custom color, we're ideally set up to take that kind of order,” she said. “Or we can work with the customer to design a whole new product.”
Ian Donnelly said the experience in the U.K. has been a learning one. He said the biggest difference between doing business in North America and Europe is the tighter standards in place overseas.
“There are also language barriers in every country in Europe,” he said. “Every country has its own wrinkle on standards. They all profess to be the same, but they're not.”
Melinda Donnelly said Novaflex will use the U.K. operation as a stepping stone to the European continent and Southeast Asia.¼