Gaddess Industrial: Putting Atlantic Canada’s Steel Fabrication Industry on the Map

Gaddess Industrial (Gaddess) strives to make a difference in the steel fabrication industry with the company’s philosophy of continual improvement. Gaddess made a name for itself in New Brunswick as a custom steel fabricator specializing in modular construction.

Around the time of the company’s 43-year anniversary, Leonard Gaddess and his three sons, who own and operate the company, felt the need for something more. So the Minto, New Brunswick, based company spoke to some of the largest engineer firms in the country. “We asked these firms what frustrates them most and what they find to be most lacking from the clients perspective. What we found across the board is that keeping a project on time, on budget and keeping communication lines open were the biggest issues,” explains Paul Gaddess, president of Gaddess.

For more than 40 years, the Gaddess team has been providing state-of-the-art fabrication, repair and installation services to support contractors by doing more than just ordering steel components. According to the company’s research, the essential priorities of the contractor-client relationship have eroded in its sector. So, the Gaddess’ crew wasted no time before springing into action and designing a new plan for the future of the company.

Instead of doing business with the mindset of a steel manufacturer, Gaddess redesigned the company with the consumer’s perspective in mind. “I’m a personal believer in the lean manufacturing principles, which have been around for more than 10 years, but the problem is that most people only scratch the surface when they incorporate them into a corporate philosophy,” asserts Paul. “We made major changes to our critical chain management program and we are determined to apply the lean principles to their fullest.”

The lean model was popularized by Toyota in the 1990s and is based on the idea that any production practice or system that does not directly add value to the end user is wasteful and must be eliminated. In today’s market especially, companies like Gaddess are under more pressure to produce more value with less manpower, and many companies are revisiting the lean model along the way.

When applied at Gaddess, the lean model means that every employee must be supported by cutting edge technology, the right equipment and the right approach. “We specialize in fabricating and handling large, heavy components so we need a world-class facility, but that alone can’t do it. We have to work on being competitive in the market place, focusing on the essential needs of the client and then providing our employees with the best equipment we can,” Paul continues.

Along the way, Gaddess was able to apply the lean model to the production process and make changes across the board that resulted in cutting production costs by one-third with a higher productivity, faster turnaround and more quality control.

Increased Efficiency for All

As far as Gaddess is concerned, customers interested in modular construction methods shouldn’t be the only ones to benefit from a quicker turnaround time, so the company made changes to its scheduling and shipping logistics to even the score. The new system tackles shipping logistics and maximizes the access Gaddess has to truck, rail and deep water from its one location. In practical terms, the improvements apply both to incoming shipments and outgoing heavy transportation, reducing downtime and incurred storage costs.

Not only does the company maintain a facility full of some of the most advanced equipment in Atlantic Canada, many of this equipment is top-of-the-line on a global scale. Gaddess supports its team of 60 employees with a 65-ton overhead crane and a high roof capacity of 40 feet and a 50-foot cutting table, so it can make what can’t be purchased.

Of course, a top-of-the-line fleet of equipment requires a top-of-the-line facility and Gaddess renovated and relocated to its brand new facility with the support of the Canadian government. The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) helped fund Gaddess’ investment as part of its Enterprise Development Program. The program is one of three ways that the ACOA fosters the creation of economic growth opportunities in Atlantic Canada, with the other two centered on community development and policy making. In Gaddess’ case, the ACOA provided over $700,000 in repayable contributions to give the company a competitive edge by significantly increasing its productivity to foster further growth.

In the process, Paul’s own enthusiasm was spurred on by the renovation process. “We witnessed firsthand the frustrations our clients can have with contractors because most of the time, the contractors are not on time, they are not on budget and sometimes they simply won’t show up to the work site. We realized very early on that all we really needed to do to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace is do what we say.” To celebrate the new facility and the revamped corporate philosophy, the firm invited 300 guests, including regular clients, ACOA and the Irving Group to tour the new facility and witness firsthand the company’s new beginning.

Clearly Capable

So far, the changes have been very well received, especially in the international community and Gaddess already sees promising signs of a new industrial era for the region. “We are talking to a lot of customers right now about the possibility of large jobs outside of the country,” says Paul. “Right now though, we’re working closer to home on a conveyor project for AV Nackawic where we are designing, fabricating and installing all of the new equipment.”

In particular, this work with AV Nackawic is encouraging. In 2004, the AV Nackawic pulp mill was shuttered after the company declared bankruptcy, leaving over 300 staff members unemployed. In 2008, the Aditya Birla Group of India purchased the company and is in the process of re-equipping the mill for both dissolving pulp and kraft pulp production, which Paul considers a promising sign for an emerging industrial town.

Already, Gaddess is planning for a second expansion and reorganization that will allow for a more expansive fabrication space. In the long term, Paul hopes to see the company grow and incorporate more aspects of the business in-house to increase quality control and efficiency. “Eventually we would like to bring in an engineering team to have more control over that aspect, but for now we are happy to continue as we are and focus on the things we can control from planning to project completion.”

In any economic climate, there will always be companies finding new ways to grow and Gaddess is primed to number amongst them. By offering total commitment to the client’s needs and a world class fabrication shop, Gaddess Industrial is sure to grab the attention of new clients near and far, while staying loyal to the ones who helped make it all possible.