CAN-ENG Furnaces International

Building innovative machinery and controls in Niagara Falls, Ontario
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Lance Pelletier

Since 1964, CAN-ENG Furnaces International Limited has delivered high-performance heat treating equipment for ferrous and nonferrous metals, supplying the automotive industry, commercial heat treaters, foundries and forging operations, the mining sector, the rail industry, oil and gas, bar and tube and steel plate producers. Headquartered in Niagara Falls, Ontario, CAN-ENG was able to take advantage of its proximity to manufacturing in southern Ontario and the U.S. industrial heartland and by early 1965, was exporting equipment to the United States and Mexico. The company has extended its reach producing automated high-volume batch and continuous industrial furnace systems for clientele around the globe.

CAN-ENG was founded by a pair of engineers, Waldron Bamford and Arthur Neufeld.

CAN-ENG was founded by a pair of engineers, Waldron Bamford and Arthur Neufeld. Their partnership laid the foundation that would help CAN-ENG build strong relationships with industrial clients all over the world. CAN-ENG started with an order from a U.S. furnace manufacturer for design engineering. Within a month, an order was obtained for a $100,000 furnace line for Thompson Products (TRW) in St. Catharines, Ontario, a major contract 50 years ago. “The heavy industrial manufacturing base in Hamilton and Niagara were very key to us in the ‘60s and ‘70s” said Michael Klauck, President of CAN-ENG.

Klauck is a graduate of the Metallurgical Engineering program at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and has spent nearly 30 years in all aspects of iron and steel production, from primary steelmaking to the finishing floor. Before joining CAN-ENG, Klauck held positions at Atlas Specialty Steels in the Metallurgical Technology Group, and was a division manager at the vacuum heat treatment operations of Bohler Uddeholm, the world’s largest producer of specialty steels. He has been with CAN-ENG since 2000 and was promoted to president in 2012.

Standing out in the market

“We’ve been involved with industrial furnaces since the company first started out,” says Klauck. “Most people think of the furnaces we build in terms of home heating, but our systems are complex batch and continuous equipment designed to improve the mechanical properties of metals such as steel, aluminum and titanium. In the metals production process, all metals have to be heated and cooled – slowly or rapidly – at some point in their manufacturing. For example, if a steel mill wants to form a thick metal plate, they must heat metal stock and it pass through one or more pairs of rolls to reduce the thickness to meet the required final gauge thickness. Once this is completed, the mechanical properties of the plate can be improved by quench and tempering. We build heat treating equipment and the automation and material handling systems that go with them.”

 “CAN-ENG doesn’t face much competition within its borders.” Klauck notes, “Most companies that handle the complexity and the volume of the ‘engineered-to-order’ work CAN-ENG manages are located in the United States, Germany or Italy.”

Over the last 50 years, the furnace itself hasn’t changed much. It is still a large insulated box that heats up and cools down the products inside. Most of the advancements in the industry have occurred in the control systems, the material handling systems, automation and the quenching process. Developments include robotic material handling for infeed and outfeed resulting in significant labour cost savings, sophisticated part tracking that enhances quality measures, integration of the heat treating cell with other parts of the manufacturing process and better management of the quenching process to prevent distortion. CAN-ENG is at the forefront in the heat treating industry in the development of these new technologies.

The company has contracts over the world, with loyal clients relying on quality furnaces and high-tech controls and automation that CAN-ENG seamlessly provides. In India, the team currently has $14 million of ongoing work. In Russia, the company is involved in three large projects, totaling around $14 million.

“We’re also in Mexico, Chile and China – we have done work in 40 or so countries,” Klauck adds. “A lot of our work is in the automotive industry, which has many different facets. One of the main components is fasteners, specifically engine-critical fasteners used in high-speed, fully automated screw machine lines. If there is any thread or nick damage in the fastener, it is rejected and it can result in costly downtime to an engine assembly line. Our systems prevent those types of damages from happening.”

A strong portfolio

General Motors Corp. (GM) has been the company’s biggest customer for 50 years. “Coming out of the recent economic crisis, GM emerged anew as GM LLC,” explains Klauck. “As a new company, they made a commitment to reinvest into castings with foundries in Defiance, Ohio, Bedford, Indiana and Toluca, Mexico. We started a contract with them in 2011 for $16 million, which we finished a year and a half ago. It was pretty remarkable to be involved with the one of the world’s largest automotive manufacturers reinvigorating their casting business. They chose to go entirely with CAN-ENG.”

The company’s market extends far beyond North America. In India, CAN-ENG is wrapping up a large plate quench and temper for a facility manufacturing 3-meter-wide armored plates – up to 100 mm thick – for tanks. The prime minister of India has visited the high-profile facility on several occasions to see the progress. “This is a groundbreaking investment for the Indian government,” says Klauck. “We were honored that they chose CAN-ENG for the project.”

The business also has a significant amount of work in the mining and oil and gas industries. In 2014 CAN-ENG manufactured three Rotary Hearth Furnace Systems for the heat treating of grinding balls – similar in appearance to cannonballs – used to grind up ore in mining operations. These grinding balls are now in use in Canada, the U.S. and Chile and their production netted roughly $15 million of revenue for the company.

Because of the drop in oil prices, the oil and gas industry is currently experiencing a downturn and all the spin off industries like the forging (valves), and casing suppliers (drill pipe) are experiencing a slowdown too. However, before the pricing dip, CAN-ENG manufactured a large casing quench and temper system for downhole tubing. “It was running up to 40 tons per hour of pipes, anywhere from 4 ½ outside diameter (O.D.) to 10 ¾ O.D. at lengths up to 48 feet long,” Klauck recounts. “These are big pipes, moving through a continuous system at high volume and they have to come out arrow straight when quenched and tempered. There are fewer than 10 companies in the world that can produce such a system.”

Maintaining growth

As a specialty manufacturer, CAN-ENG’s business model is one of continuous improvement. CAN-ENG is constantly working to improve quality, efficiency and safety, allowing the business to best-serve its clients. “We are proud now to have the right staff in place to accommodate the growth we have seen and continue to see,” notes Klauck. “CAN-ENG has invested in itself, revolutionizing the way parts are heat treated.” To do that, the business has recruited bright engineering and design staff educated by local universities and colleges who, as Klauck says, “have been able to invent the future. Today many of the things we are doing did not exist 15 years ago.”

“2015 has proved to be a very good year,” he continues. “We are very satisfied with the way things are going. CAN-ENG has developed new products and processes and we have some very strong markets. Our latest strides in the processing of thin-walled aluminum automotive components have been received very positively. Automotive and aerospace are having a record year right now. We are focusing on these market segments for our growth and working to take on new contracts in those areas.”

Despite the market challenges and the fluctuations in the resource sector of the economy, Klauck and his colleagues remain a fine example of Canadian manufacturing, which remains strong despite international competition. “We are proof that Canada can make custom equipment and complete globally,” he explains. “We don’t have to outsource these capabilities. We have the intellectual property and the right people in place tackle large complex international projects.”

As the business continues to grow and innovate, CAN-ENG Furnaces International remains a leader in industrial manufacturing.

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