On the western shore of Lake Ontario, just north of Toronto, the town of Parry Sound is home to a booming marine industry, which Kropf Industrial (Kropf) has been supporting since 1977. Since its inception, Kropf has steadily grown into one of the leading regional and international marine and industrial equipment manufacturers. Today, Kropf boasts a 24,000-square-foot facility offering customized concept to completion fabrication services; however, the company started humbly in Peter Kropf’s pickup bed.
“In the mid-1970s my father started out with a portable welder while working another full-time job,” recalls Jordan Kropf, second generation principal and owner of Kropf. “He’s a uniquely driven guy with an entrepreneurial, ambitious spirit. He really loved being self-employed and responding directly to customers and he enjoyed the opportunity to grow a business on his own.”
Kropf really began to take off in 1981, when Peter tackled building the first hydraulic boat trailer; from there, the rest is history. “Boat handling equipment, which remains a huge segment of our business was the first product line Kropf offered,” details Jordan. “It really launched the company, because we offered a unique expanding width design with an open frame and we could customize trailers as the customer needed.”
Custom applications from concept to completion
If there’s no off-the-shelf solution available, Kropf steps in to craft a custom application. In a never-ending effort to improve quality and efficiency, Kropf is C.W.B.-certified in both steel and aluminum and is continually updating equipment with CNC machinery and computer-driven technology. The company’s drawing and design department uses CAD programs and 3-D drawing capabilities to conceptualize and solve virtually any marine or industrial problem.
“Over the years, we’ve found that design principles are the same from boats to industrial heavy loads; there’s lots of cross over,” says Jordan. “We’ve taken our marine background and applied it to new industries and non-marine markets.”
Jordan goes on to explain that there are three main product categories the company has carved out a market in. “The first being boat-handling equipment and related products, such as boat stands, sling lifts and mobile gantry lifts,” he continues.
Kropf’s Conolift marine hydraulic trailer division manufactures hydraulic boat trailers with load capacities ranging from three to 100 tons, including highway and self-propelled designs. “We try to meet the needs of a particular environment,” adds Jordan.
Conolift marine hydraulic boat trailers feature a unique wide-open frame concept, delivering the most user-friendly trailer operation on the market. “Our trailers provide superior inside clearance, allowing vessels to be safely carried and set with very low ground clearance when necessary,” notes Jordan. “Setting keel blocks and boat stands is also easier with the improved accessibility of a Conolift hydraulic boat trailer.
Multiple division diversity
From hauling and handling, to a secure spot on the water, Kropf’s trailer fabrication soon evolved into fabricating and installing floating dock systems around the Great Lakes and beyond. “My father began designing dock systems in the early 1980s and Kropf performed its first installation in 1988,” recalls Jordan. “From a single cottage dock to complete marina systems, we design, deliver and install and our systems are known for the rugged durability needed in northern harbours.”
In 2012, Kropf completed one of its largest marina projects at the Port of Orillia. “We performed a complete rebuild of the existing marina, including a new $2.7 million advanced dock system to hold 220 boats,” shares Jordan. “Kropf acted as the general contractor, coordinating the supply and installation of electrical and plumbing; it was one of the largest jobs we have ever completed dollar wise.”
The company’s experience in dock construction has also led Kropf into the fabrication of floating structures for the aquaculture industry, such as steel pontoon cages and walkways for fish farming operations. However, Jordan says the next big thing for Kropf is an expanding industrial division. By leveraging the company’s experience in boat handling, Kropf is able to design and manufacture custom lifting equipment to solve unique manufacturing and material handling challenges for a variety of industries.
“Kropf industrial offers a complete line of services, including lifting equipment, steel and aluminum fabrication, conventional and CNC machining, CNC plasma and oxy-fuel plate cutting, crane truck services and hydraulic parts and service,” details Jordan. “We recently delivered an 80-ton capacity self-loading trailer all the way to Texas for General Electric.”
The company has plans to further expand its industrial capacities with an additional 13,000 square feet. “We’re currently working through the approval process with local building authorities and once we get the site plan registered and permits in place, we’re going to break ground,” reveals Jordan. “This will give Kropf an avenue to pursue more industrial sales and non-marine industries, while also improving the finished quality of our existing product lines.”
Even when times are tough, Kropf remains afloat with a broad range of services. “Coming out of the recession, we were able to sell some large dock systems, tapping into municipal projects and stimulus funding,” says Jordan. “When that slowed down, the equipment side was picking up. Our diversity is a real asset.”
From the bed of a pickup truck, to one of North America’s leading marine and industrial manufacturers, Kropf Industrial is building on 37 years and merging years of expertise into new markets.