Fine Metal Finishing

GMB Heavy Industries
Written by Pauline Müller

Based in Mississauga, Canada, GMB Heavy Industries is the turnkey steel mill equipment partner that North America’s best-known steel mills search out to help keep steel products rolling across the continent. The company provides them with research and development, design-engineering, project management, manufacturing, parts, and installation of custom equipment. Taking on only custom projects, the team’s vast knowledge base and attention to both detail and safety are benefits for customers that want a supplier committed to their success.

GMB is best known as a custom cooling bed specialist that also provides integrated scratch-free roll systems and other products. GMB Heavy Industries is favoured by some of the world’s leading industry giants in steel manufacturing for providing engineering and equipment that enables steel mills to add value and quality to their products.

To answer this need, the company primarily offers equipment involved in the final processes of manufacturing long products. This includes everything from rebar to flat bar, angle iron, channel, and square bar. “GMB Heavy Industries is specifically focused on what we call the finishing end of steel mill production,” says General Manager Wayne Baxter.

Following fabrication, hot, freshly forged long products are set down on its cooling beds, followed by other processes like strapping, which is done right at the end before the products are stored or shipped. By strapping long products securely into bunches, transporting and moving them is made considerably easier.

GMB also supplies custom entry troughs, gearboxes, and other products used in finishing metal to a high standard. With the help of its team of nine engineers, managed by Filipe Cadete, the company can limit customer spending by integrating new components in such a way as to enhance and retain as much of their current equipment as possible.

A place for people
Many employees have served the company for over a decade—some for over a quarter of a century and longer. Three new designers recently joined and are currently being mentored by some of its seasoned professionals in the industry. GMB’s commitment to taking care of its people is evident, and Baxter is positive about the value of building a life within the steel industry.

“It’s a very lucrative environment; we all need steel to build. Our products are utilized in roads, bridges, buildings, those kinds of good things,” he says, pointing out that for governments to maintain infrastructure, steel is necessary.

With much of its new clientele arriving through word-of-mouth marketing from existing customers, the company’s digital marketing presence supports what its collaborators already know about its outstanding service. To further establish and maintain face-to-face relationships, its representatives make certain that all customers feel included in the GMB family loop. Of course, when they need any new equipment or adjustments to existing systems, GMB is always ready. As well as problem-solving, engineering, and manufacturing, the company’s project managers oversee delivery and installation.

“We have an installation team that’s been working with us for 20-plus years, so we have the expertise to be able to install our own equipment. It gives customers the full gamut of the project and only one person to point a finger at,” Baxter says. Its New Brunswick-based team of installers perform around 10 two-week-long heavy-duty installations every year, ensuring that machinery is operational without wasting time.

Whenever possible, GMB’s technicians are on scene within 24 to 48 hours of receiving fault reports to take care of any equipment emergencies that may arise. “It doesn’t typically happen because once we install a piece of equipment, we’ll stay there during the commissioning phase to ensure that things run smoothly and correctly,” Baxter adds.

Since big projects for the company can span a year to a year and a half, generally costing between five and eight million dollars, keeping customer satisfaction in mind throughout that period necessitates clear communication and tight management of all aspects of such projects. Being a comparatively smaller outfit, GMB has also learned how to employ its available technology more effectively than other companies in the same field.

Responsive and responsible
GMB Heavy Industries is committed to fabricating equipment that stands the test of time in rough environments, so its vision of developing machines that perform as intended and for far longer than others means setting its design bar ever higher. Making equipment that lasts two to three decades comes from cultivating and retaining a deep in-house understanding of their maintenance.

It also is a consequence of actively opposing built-in obsolescence, seizures, and other machine problems. Customers have the option to replace or change components and aspects of their workflow as the company has included easy access points into its systems, significantly improving the long-term cost of ownership. “Our mission is not to be the cheapest company in town; our mission is to be the most robust, maintenance-friendly, maximum production-uptime equipment provider,” Baxter says.

“Everybody in the steel industry needs to work with GMB because we are fast responders. Among our competitors, we are outstanding in how fast we respond and solve their problems,” says Digital Marketing Specialist Makan Ayoughi, who has been with the company for eight years. For Ayoughi, seeing the proof of the company’s value in its customers’ satisfaction levels and bottom lines is a tremendous reward.

Although the company does roam outside its primary work in support of customers’ needs, by concentrating on its core strengths, GMB Heavy Industries ensures that its services remain top-notch. Its teams receive regular feedback regarding installations, and the company uses this to continuously improve its systems. As a result, performance, installation, and distribution are constantly evolving.

Because the company prizes open communication, it especially values its employees being open about what they think works and what does not. One case in point is listening when the installation team pointed out that improving delivery logistics would improve overall logistics. Considering that it takes around 25 truckloads to deliver a semi-preassembled cooling bed system, it is a tall order.

Now, the company is busy improving this system, while also posting its engineers in customers’ facilities more often. In this way, it will deepen its understanding of continued system demands post-installation. The exercise has the added benefit of improving future design and engineering based on the accumulated knowledge garnered from hitting the road and speaking to people.

The GMB team is also traveling to attend AISTech, the Association of Iron & Steel Technology annual trade show hosted from May 4 to 6 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. “We’ve been participating in this show for many years now. Our team looks forward to welcoming old and new customers at the AISTech show in May,” Ayoughi says. The mounting excitement is palpable, and the event promises to be another great success for exhibitors.

A history of innovation
The company’s founders, Gordon Muir and Iain Barnie, arrived in Canada from Scotland in the late 70s. Following a few years of working in the local steel mill industry, the two opened the firm in the early 80s. By solving concerns for customers, the two partners were soon being trusted to make big problems disappear, putting the business on a streak that is still going. Today, the management team includes Wayne Baxter and Filipe Cadete.

The early 90s saw the introduction of metal recycling equipment like vehicle shredders—all designed and fabricated in-house—motivating further innovation, while the late 90s were full of firsts. In 1997, the company installed its very first complete cooling bed. In 1999, its first scratch-free roll system hit the market. 12 months later, its first four-crank shear, or sheet metal cutter, saw the light. Little did the team know then that the dream of becoming a premium equipment supplier to the North American market would become a reality only five years later.

Between 2009 and 2011, the GMB team focused on fabricating steel mill entry and exit roller feed tables, and 2014 welcomed a next-generation cooling bed that rivalled what was commonly available. By 2020, the company was ready to take on the market as a turnkey metal equipment supplier and complete any steel mill equipment project.

Consequently, growth has been generous over the years. With comfortable expansion allowing the company to develop its engineering and design division while improving its production at a steady pace of around 10 to 15 percent annually, its growth rate satisfies the company’s owners as they prefer to provide customers with the consistency they have come to appreciate.

A culture of success
A well-equipped, 12,500-square-foot facility is used effectively through intelligent planning and logistics; GMB also has a metal scrap recycling plan in place. Other sustainability strategies include using environmentally safe coolants in its equipment, LED lighting throughout its plant, and a largely paperless office.

GMB also consciously creates a pleasant atmosphere for its people, celebrating big wins with them in the form of get-togethers and meals. The joy is even spread throughout the community. Apart from sponsoring local soccer teams, the company enjoys sharing around the festive season every year when it joins in clothing and food drives and matches employee donations to worthy causes.

Building on its existing success, GMB Heavy Industries has its eye on employing more engineers, with a good mixture of younger and older professionals being the ideal. In addition, by diversifying the types of clients it serves, Baxter believes the company can further deepen its expertise in its current range of products and services while keeping its team intact and growing. This is one team that is looking forward to a bright future.

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