The July opening of Tigercat’s latest manufacturing plant – a massive 12,000-square-metre facility on Consolidated Drive in Paris – has led to new jobs, increased production and a shuffle of manufacturing work around southern Ontario.
The firm has moved work to the new $12-million facility, freeing up capacity in other plants, particularly Woodstock and Cambridge.
“It’s like a giant chess game of moving things around,” said Steve Crosby, vice-president of operations for the forestry and off-road industrial equipment company. The company is well-known for its large-scale machines, designed for felling, transporting, processing and loading timber.
All the production lines for undercarriage and sub-frame assembly work, cab manufacturing and engine components have been shifted and adjusted until the big new plant has been filled with warehouse racking for parts and assembly lines where the giant machines come together.
Outside, working on reinforced concrete, the 50,000 to 110,000-pound harvesters and feller-bunchers that ship out to forests all over the world are tested and pushed to their limits, ensuring they’re ready for action.
As part of the giant shuffle of assembly lines and workers, Tigercat has also recently renovated 63 Morton Ave., right across the street from its old headquarters and has moved its Brantford operations to the new building. The old facility is ready to be refurbished for new manufacturing work.
The shuffling, tightening, improving and constant assessing of how the work is being handled has paid off immensely for the firm.
Crosby says when he first started with Tigercat five years ago, the most machines the Paris plant could turn out in a month was 13.
“We increased that to 57 in a month, which I thought at one point was impossible but there was a great effort from everyone along the line to make the space and kind of systems that would allow for it to happen.”
This month, even as lines are still being moved and adjusted, Tigercat in Paris will produce more than 70 machines from the new building.
“We just needed more space.”
The new building, by Vicano Construction, was designed with state-of-the-art technology for lighting, heating and assembly-line functionality.
Support pillars along the lines are useful hubs that feature electrical hookups, computer data access, air fans, a breaker system for the overhead cranes, welding plugs and pumps for UREA and coolants.
Crosby said some of the bugs are still being worked out with a few of the systems but workers and visitors to the facility have been impressed.
With more than 1,200 workers in southern Ontario, Tigercat refuses to stand still. It’s a growth-oriented business, says Crosby and is continually looking at new products and new ways to hedge against future recessions.
One of its strategies is to buy fewer components from others and make more of the parts itself.
“We designed a drive-train component and we’re assembling them. We’re not buying Funk or John Deere axles any more. We’re making Tigercat axles.”
The company is also moving into products that will reach a wider market, like planting, seeding and fertilizing equipment and – for the logging industry – scarifiers that prepare ground for new trees and forest regeneration.
With 75 per cent of Tigercat machines being shipped out of Canada, the firm’s commitment to Southern Ontario, especially Paris and Brantford, is impressive.
Crosby said some machines are assembled in countries like Brazil in order to help with tariff penalties but Tigercat stays put in Ontario because of the company leadership and the great labour market.
“We live here. I live in Brant County and it wouldn’t be easy for me to manage a company in Brazil from Princeton.
“Also, we have a great team here with a friendly atmosphere.”
The company works hard to keep it that way, looking for new hires all the time but being very selective in who it puts on the payroll.
“It’s a hard-fought battle and we put a ton of effort into screening. We’re making a commitment to that person and that person’s family and we don’t take that commitment lightly. We want to ensure it’s a good fit for them and the job.”
Tigercat considers attitude as important as expertise or know-how, he adds.
During the latest shuffles, the company began by transferring people internally in the plants and then internally in the company so workers could relocate closer to home or try new positions.
Right now, said Crosby, Tigercat is looking for skilled assemblers for diesel, hydraulic and electrical work, Class A mechanics, hydraulic experts and diesel mechanics.
Since the new Paris building went up, more than 100 people have been hired, but mostly in the plants where work has been shuffled around. Paris workers now total about 220 and Brantford has between 100 and 120.
As the ‘new’ Brantford facility on Morton is developed, Tigercat will be looking for brake press operators, hydraulic operators, fitters, welders and machinists.
Resumes can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When the new facility was being built, local suppliers and service people provided wares and expertise to make it a reality.
“Paris is a really good community,” said Crosby.
“We don’t have a hard time finding good people locally.”