Servicing the likes of Tesla and SpaceX, this Uxbridge-based company maintains their competitive edge by focusing on product development and finding efficiencies.
In 1952, a toolmaker named Harry Robbins, along with his wife Audrey, opened a small shop in Toronto called Extrusion Machine Corporation. Seventy years and a name change later, Exco Technologies Ltd. is now the parent company of 15 others. (If that’s not a success story, we don’t know what is!) One offshoot is Uxbridge-based Castool Tooling Systems, a leader in the Canadian manufacturing landscape.
Harry and Audrey’s youngest son, Paul, has been the general manager of Castool since 2002, and he has propelled the company forward with his commitment to innovation and adaptation.
Now a well-respected player in the global market, Castool designs and manufactures tooling systems for aluminum die-casting and aluminum extrusion for a wide range of applications. As Paul Robbins says, “The aluminum industry is a good place to be.”
Currently, automotive manufacturers account for approximately 75 per cent of Castool’s market, as they seek to make their products lighter and more efficient (the industry term for this is “lightweighting”). Whether their goal is to reduce emissions, stretch each drop of fuel or increase an electric vehicle’s range, the automotive industry is committed to lightweighting and Castool is helping to make it happen. As a world-class supplier, Castool is the primary source for both Tesla and SpaceX, and are currently shipping to plants in California, Texas, Shanghai and Berlin.
Castool continues to see exponential growth. Their market share in die-casting has grown by around 50 per cent in the last three to five years, and, because they are currently using around four million pounds of tool steel per year, they are opening their own heat treatment facility to avoid having to rely on outside sources. Their global presence is also expanding; along with their plant in Thailand, they’re in the process of building factories in Morocco and Mexico.
As the GM, Robbins is keenly aware that product development is instrumental in maintaining their competitive edge. To keep them at the top of their game they’ve brought on two staffers with Ph.D.s who are dedicated to full-time research and advancement. “We’re doing the latest simulation of temperature, of mechanical simulation, flow simulation, and thermal simulation. We’re trying to deliver better products and reduce failure,” says Robbins. “In the old days, you used to make something, and you would try it, and if it broke then you would try something else. […] With the simulation tools available today, we can reduce the time and the cost of product development.” By introducing simulations, Castool can also better educate their customers and help them visualize the end result.
“We’re constantly pushing the limits as far as efficiency and value-add. Failure is part of that game, and I think you’re allowed to fail as long as you recover very, very quickly,” says Robbins. “On one side, you try to offer products that are cheaper, last longer, are safer, easier to use, and on the other you have to be extremely efficient in the manufacturing of them. If you offer a product people can buy from someone else and you’re as good as everyone else, you don’t make any money. You make money by that spread between value-add and efficiency.”