Cambridge Brass Inc.

Quality and innovation in Ontario-made waterworks products
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Cambridge Brass Inc. has deep history in Ontario. The company manufactures valves and fittings for municipal water distribution systems. Through a vertically integrated process the operation takes raw brass metal ingot, melts it using coreless induction furnaces, pours molten brass into sand molds to make castings and then machines and assembles these castings to create the finished product. As a leading producer of waterworks products, Cambridge Brass’ success is the culmination of 110 years of progress and experience in quality production.

The business started as two separate entities – Galt Brass, established in 1905, and Canadian Brass, established in 1907, both in Cambridge Brass’ hometown of Cambridge, Ontario. The businesses combined in 1980 and went through several iterations of ownership until landing with current owner A.Y. McDonald Industries in 2006, which also has a number of other companies under its ownership umbrella.

“It has been a good fit,” explains Ed Hesselink, general manager of Cambridge Brass. “They are a family-owned company with the same values as what we always have promoted here at Cambridge Brass. They’ve been willing to invest, supporting us through an addition to our facility in 2008 along with many other upgrades, and we have been growing both internally and in general ever since. We place a lot of emphasis on developing people and processes – and that keeps us competitive.”

Standing out in the market

Cambridge Brass is a major standout as far as waterworks manufacturing companies go. “In terms of being a market leader, it’s really all based on customer service, innovation and product design,” says Hesselink. “We are the smallest producer and the only Canadian manufacturer of our products but that doesn’t hold us back from success and in many ways is an advantage for us.”

The company’s geographic market extends throughout Canada, into the United States, as well as the Caribbean and holds a majority of the Canadian market. Over the years, Cambridge Brass has developed strong relationships with distributors and a reputation of quality with municipalities. “The people who buy from us depend on our reliability and our ability to deliver products in short lead times and of highest quality,” Hesselink notes. “Our products are specified by municipal engineers for use in their area or for individual projects.”

With 130 employees working from the company’s 90,000-square-foot facility in Cambridge and a distribution centre in British Columbia, the internal team keeps on course for growth, focusing on innovation in terms of both products and processes. The goal is to look at processes and determine where improvements can be made to provide additional value to the customer.

“We are continually investing in our processes and people,” Hesselink explains. “New technology is constantly being investigated or implemented including CNC machining cells, CNC tube bending capabilities, laser etching, vision systems for quality purposes, expansion of robotic weld capabilities and other automation initiatives. We also rely on strong relationships with local suppliers for stainless steel components and brass raw materials used in our process.”

Growing with the demographic

The company’s growing product line includes corporation brass, curb stops, service line fittings, meter setters and accessories, as well as iron yoke setters and fittings, repair clamps and saddles. One of Cambridge Brass’ newest additions to the line is the Cambridge Coupling, which has the capability of connecting a wide range of pipe sizes and materials. In 2013, the business implemented a new robotic welding cell to provide capabilities to manufacture stainless steel saddles and repair clamps in-house.

Cambridge Brass has demonstrated its leadership role in the promotion and utilization of no-lead brass in the waterworks industry. “We have supplied no-lead product for about 15 years,” Hesselink explains. “No-lead has greater percentage copper content and is more difficult to manufacture with both factors contributing to a higher overall cost.”

“Even though the United States has passed a law to ban leaded product for use in their municipal water systems, some Canadian provinces, such as British Columbia and Saskatchewan, have not yet endorsed mandating the use of no-lead material,” he continues. “Even so, Cambridge Brass has completely converted to utilizing only no-lead material in parts that come in contact with potable water. Of concern is some U.S. competitors who continue to supply leaded product to municipalities in these markets taking advantage of the associated lower cost.”

As the market evolves and the need for updated infrastructure increase, Cambridge Brass remains ahead of the curve. “Aging infrastructure is a constant concern for municipalities,” notes Hesselink. “Many of the water supply systems are 50 to 100 years old and need to be replaced or upgraded. Some of the extreme temperature variations being experienced more frequently and the associated ground movement add stress to this infrastructure. This is where the quality of Cambridge Brass products, which carry a lifetime warranty, offers a distinct advantage for municipalities.”

The entire team at Cambridge Brass is looking forward to ongoing development. Focusing on the continued push for quality, innovation and value creation for customers and the industry will ensure Cambridge Brass Inc. remains a leader in the waterworks market.