Building the Future

Written by Samita Sakar

No industry can thrive without the right equipment. Since 1988, Systematix Inc. has provided automated equipment to leading manufacturers in various niches, including health science, transportation, and other sectors.
The Waterloo-based firm, which is known for the robustness and longevity of its equipment, will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in summer of 2018 by relocating to a new 98,000 square-foot building with 20,000 square feet of office space for its engineers, project managers and the rest of the team, more than doubling its current size.

“The new facility is much more suited to the work we do, as we have grown so much over the years,” Chief Operations officer Robert Lague tells us.

The close-knit the company employs 125 people, most of whom are engineers or machine builders. Even the owner, Cecil Bauman, spends most of his time as a chief engineer and is actively involved in the business. The entrepreneur, who began his career as a brick layer and attended engineering school later in life, has displayed unmatched creativity and solutions since he started in the business.

Of Systematix’s anniversary celebration plans, Lague adds, “We’ll also have an open house once we settle into our new space, so our customers and partners can come in and check out how we’ve grown and what we’re doing now. And we’ll host some private events for our employees and their families.”

The Canadian company has made an interesting transition over the years to reach its present status. In the 80s, it produced automatic stapling machines for window and furniture manufacturing companies. By 1993, it landed its first project for the automotive market. In 1997, it began conducting vision inspection projects, which has grown to be one of its differentiators in the marketplace.

Today, approximately 60 percent of the machines Systematix designs and builds are for automotive components manufacturers—the largest part of its business. 30 percent are made for the health market, such as medical device manufacturing companies. Systematix also builds inspections systems for IV bags. The remaining 10 percent consists of sundry niche clients, including a recently completed project for an aerospace company, and even some work for the window and door companies that have been with Systematix since its inception.

“We have a very loyal customer base. Even after all these years, they still come back to us, and we want to keep those relationships,” says Lague.

It’s easy to see why. Systematix’s equipment is built to last. Several of its machines have been running in production for more than 20 years, which is quite phenomenal in its industry. “The longer the life of the equipment, the more value we add to our customers,” Lague reasons.

Not only does the equipment last a long time, but the fit and finish is very high. Customers frequently compliment the team on the look of their equipment, as do vendors when they visit. All of this is a testament to Systematix’s craftsmanship.

“We excel at complex assembly automation challenges. Our innovation factor is very high. Whereas a lot of our competitors don’t have the same experience and expertise with those types of assemblies, we are very good at it. That’s why customers keep coming back to us,” Lague tells Manufacturing in Focus.

Systematix also offers outstanding after-sales service to its valued customers. In fact, Lague estimates that more than 90 percent of customers are repeat customers. Because the equipment is so well built, clients ask for upgrades when products change instead of purchasing new equipment. The service aspect of the business keeps Systematix connected with its customers and allows their equipment to live even longer.

Furthermore, customer retention builds growth. “It costs more to get a new customer than maintain an existing customer. We value the partnership and understanding of our customers’ needs. When we have a repeat customer, we know their expectations, and they know what they are getting from us,” Lague explains.

Indeed, Systematix does not just build equipment for customers; it builds relationships with partners. “Our employees are empowered to do the right thing for our customers. We don’t look at projects as transactions for services; we value our customers as partners. So even when we hit obstacles in the development of our solutions, we honour our commitments to our customers. I think customers value not having to do much negotiating throughout the life of a project. We take care of things,” explains Lague.

CEO Cecil Bauman, who co-owns the company with his wife, instilled the three pillars of innovation, reliability, and integrity into Systematix. These are the team’s core values. With innovation, Lague mentions that the team sees themselves as problem solvers, and approaches every opportunity as such by marrying technology with innovation. “Our company is basically built on strong mechanical designs that are valued for their simplicity,” he says.

The value of reliability is twofold: referring to the reliability of company as well as the equipment. The team prides themselves on being reliable to their customers.

Systematix’s integrity shines through in the way that it treats its customers, and its frequent repeat customers appreciate its commitment to lasting equipment and relationships. The reason that Systematix is able to craft such exceptional equipment is because it listens to the needs of its customers, who reveal their “recipes.” Metaphorically speaking, if a customer wants to create the best cookies, Systematix can build the best oven for them to do so.

While most customers are within the continent, Systematix also operates internationally. Lague tells us that as early as March of 1996, Systematix executed its first overseas project in Thailand. “We don’t do too much work overseas—we are mostly North American based—but we do travel those distances when customers ask us to.”

Lague says that when hiring, Systematix looks for “skilled, creative people with the right attitude. We want people who believe in craftsmanship, and people who like a challenge and share our values. We want people who come to work at Systematix to become part of our community. One of our employees recently said that Systematix is a team working together and living life together. We want to hire people who will be a part of that.”

Publishing a calendar is one unique thing that Systematix has done to celebrate its 30th year in business while honouring the team that made it what it is. The calendar features artwork made by the employees’ children, making it that much more meaningful. “We look at our employee base as a community and as a family, and we want to make sure that we stay connected with them as we grow,” Lague comments.

Systematix retains both its customers and its team as it grows. Over the last year, five employees have even celebrated passing their 25-year mark at the firm. “It’s good to know we have so many people who value being here the way that we value them being here,” says Lague.

Never shying away from attempting innovative new approaches, over the past year Systematix has been improving its systems and tools in order to set the company up for future success, with increased focus on planning and execution across the organization. So far, its approach has been successful: Systematix had a record breaking sales year in 2017.

One example is a full planning session that the Systematix team commences at the start of a new project, wherein leaders from each of the disciplines go through the design and build of the equipment and list all the tasks they have to execute over the job on post-it notes. This fresh new process has been effective at keeping Systematix running smoothly as it grows.

“We literally lay out the job from back to front with every task outlined and all the dependencies listed. We come up with a plan and schedule that makes sure we achieve each of those. It also allows everyone to know who they’re accountable to for the deliverables and what the requirements are. It’s quite unique for this industry. It’s something that we do to make sure that we can focus in on delivering to our customers,” Lague explains.

Now that the company has grown into a new office, Systematix is also looking forward to growing its customer base in the health sciences, making the percentage of work it does in the medical field (currently sitting at about a third of the business) a little higher. With its clients in the automotive sector, Lague would like to grow the company’s market share within them, and actively participate in helping them grow their business. In this way, Systematix can stay in step with its established customers’ growth plans. After all, when your customers do well, you do well.

“As automation is increasingly implemented on the manufacturing floors across North America and around the world, we would like to position ourselves to be the leading supplier of end-to-end solutions – not just provide a piece of equipment, but help our customers with their products, understanding what it takes to automate, making sure it is in place, and helping them be successful in the delivery of their products to their customers,” Lague concludes.

Since 1988, the established company has completed well over $250 million dollars in automation projects, with equipment built to last through the decades, just like Systematix itself.



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