R&J Machine: Providing Custom Marine Industrial Solutions

Rick and Jennifer Hickson founded R&J Machine (R&J) in 1975 as a small snowmobile and motorcycle parts and repair outfit. As R&J flourished, the husband-and-wife team began to expand services, adding docks, marine rails and boat lifts to the company’s capabilities in 1987. The same year, R&J moved from its original location in Peterborough, Ontario, to its current facilities in Lakefield. As the newer components of the business grew, the Hicksons decided to end the snowmobile and motorcycle divisions of the business, focusing R&J on marine solutions.

R&J remains a family business today, as Rick, Jennifer and their children, Ryan and Katie, run the company’s day-to-day operations. As the business continues to boom, the team has expanded its shop facilities to more than 20,000 square feet. With a staff of 40 that fluctuates in the busy season, R&J is large enough to handle complex projects while still maintaining a hands-on approach to business.

The company deals in several marine-handling products and related services, and R&J’s unique capabilities have lent the team success in unusual areas. “We specialize in difficult projects,” elaborates Rick. “We do projects in hard to reach places, or projects that are just more complex in general.” Every project is unique and specially designed to fit the shoreline and meet customer needs. All products are manufactured at the facility in Lakefield to the specifications determined in the design process.

Broad Capabilities

The team utilizes a range of durable materials to construct marine products that will hold up to the elements and offer easy use and access to boats and personal watercraft. Customer needs vary, and R&J’s dock division offers a broad selection of design and function. Heavy-duty aluminum pipe docks offer a basic, durable solution for boat owners that are built with sturdy trusses and quality decking. These docks sit 15- to 18-inches above the water, making them a good fit for larger craft. Wheel and lifting options offer easy removal in the fall. The wheeled option is a good fit for owners with ramps, who can simply roll the dock ashore when the weather turns cold. Lifting docks raise up from the water at the point of land contact, and docks remain suspended, out of the ice, for the winter.

R&J also offers a full line of floating docks, constructed with the same durable truss system and varied decking materials that are available in pole docks, and can be outfitted with ramps to compensate for changing water levels. These docks are held above water with sturdy polyethylene foam floats that are resistant to wear resulting from rodents, mild ice conditions and petroleum spillage. Each segment is anchored down with adjustable chains, holding the dock in place while allowing for some flexibility. These docks are available for private owners, or in a heavy-duty design for marinas or individuals with larger docking needs.

For owners who need to remove their boats and watercrafts from the water after use, R&J offers a range of sturdy boatlifts. The team offers vertical and cantilever lifts for dockside use. These durable aluminum lifts offer product longevity and protection for valuable watercraft. Customers may also select from a range of covers for these lifts. These covers offer added protection from rain and sun. Lifts can also be installed in existing or new boathouses.

Complex Projects

R&J completes full design and manufacturing for custom projects. These lifts, rails, walkways, docks and boathouses are commissioned specific to site and shoreline, offering unique waterfront features for watercraft. Whether waterfront property is hillside or flat, the R&J team works with clients to design a setup that provides accessibility and protection. Single- and multiple-bay boathouses can be designed and built by the company. The team performs 95 percent of work in-house and guarantees a quality, lasting product, regardless of size and scope.

Rick admits that a lot of the work is fairly repetitive; similar principles are applied to changing landscapes. However, unique projects still stand out. In 2011 the team completed a glass boathouse. “It was a lot of architectural work,” he explains. The team worked hard to provide a structurally sound, unique and aesthetic product that leaves a mark on the landscape.

The team’s broad capabilities have offered R&J stability even throughout the recession. “It didn’t really hurt us at all,” says Rick. R&J’s projects have garnered several awards for quality and innovation, and good relationships with suppliers and other strategic partners have contributed to the company’s success. R&J Machine continues to grow sustainably, offering family-business service with major manufacturing capabilities.