Kawartha Metals Corp.

Custom steel, industrial and decorative metals in Ontario
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
Sean O'Reilly

Tom Elliott established Kawartha Metals Corp. (Kawartha Metals) in 1994 as a small business operating out of his garage. For 10 years prior, he had worked for Crawford Metals, a business he continues to work with in 2015. He credits his time there with the skillset needed to grow on his own. Over the years, Elliott has built a successful metal supply business, working with a wide range of customers, including, manufacturers, fabricators and contractors throughout Eastern Ontario.

Elliott and his team have moved several times since the business opened its doors in order to accommodate expansion. Kawartha Metals currently operates from a 30,000-square-foot space in Peterborough, Ontario, as well as a 24,000-square-foot in Port Hope, Ontario.

The company has 35 employees, dedicated to safe operations and quality work. Approximately 80 percent of sales volume is comprised of hot rolled metal products, while the remaining 20 percent comes through aluminum, stainless steel, cold rolled and other specialty metals

Building relationships

On the smaller end of metal product supply, Elliott and his crew focus primarily on Eastern Ontario. Most of the company’s orders fall below 10,000 pounds and smaller. The business has ongoing accounts with roughly 800 customers from a number of industries. These companies include General Electric, McCloskey International, Siemens, PepsiCo and several fabricators and manufacturers that build items such as conveyor systems and trailers. A significant portion of total volume also goes to contractors seeking unique finishes and structural elements.

Elliott credits his crew for much of the business’ success. He says the company stands out most in terms of service and value compared with other metals suppliers that share his service area. “The key to our growth has been having the right management team,” he elaborates. “On our team, we have staff members who been here since almost the beginning. I started in my garage 20 years ago and I have people who have been here 18 years. I teach them all I know and coach them; they continue to grow as professionals. There are a lot of great people on our crew helping us make it work.

The business is ISO certified 9001:2008, allowing Elliott and his team to maintain strong control over quality. This recognition guarantees solid time management and efficiency while building traceability and consistency. Kawartha Metals obtained ISO accreditation in 2002 and continues to meet the standards set forth by the international organization.

Keeping up with the market

Elliott and his team saw a huge disruption in business around 2008, when international markets took a hit in the recession. To counter these effects, the Kawartha team made significant changes internally. “We hired an outside sales manager and we are now going after more added-value products and services,” says Elliott. “We bought an angle master, which takes the metal and processes it. It comes out other end cut to size with holes. We can sell that to a fabricator who use it to build large aggregate machines. We supply the cut to size and processed material they put it together but our services eliminates the need for them to deal with it in-house. We become an important arm of that company.”

Other additions to the plant include a drill line, which also provides an important in-house service for fabricators and equipment manufacturers. Elliott says he is also planning to purchase a new plate-cutting laser machine

Every component of the production line is CNC controlled, including the drill line, angle master and saws. The plant is set up for tight tolerances of around 1/32. The company is also putting in Genius Solutions software, with a computer on ground floor and authorized workstations to monitor how much time it takes to process these value-added products. This new capability will offer even better control over quality and efficiency, allowing Elliott and his team to provide the same high-quality metal products with a better turnaround.

Over the coming years, Elliott is planning continued organic expansion. He is working with clients in new markets, hoping to drive more traffic from a broader geographic footprint in Ontario as well as part of the northern United States. He is optimistic about growth over the coming years, especially with the improving value of the Canadian dollar, which gives the business an advantage in the international market.

Regardless of how large the company becomes in the coming years, Elliott remains focused on maintaining a strong reputation and lasting relationships with customers. His long-term employees, well-equipped facilities and knack for service keep these customers coming back time and again. For value, honesty and integrity these industrial customers turn to Kawartha Metals time and again.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
All Lift Ltd.