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Location: Mississauga, ON

Years in business: 20

Key manufacturing processes: Punching, laser cutting, bending

Recent investments: Automated punch/laser combination machine, 4 m press brake

Dana Precision Metal Fabricating is undergoing some big changes at its 41,000, Mississauga, ON, facility, to better position itself in the competitive Ontario market.

“I purchased out two co-owners and brought in a co-worker [Paulo Lopes] as a partner to bring some new blood and fresh ideas into the business,” says Marzy Anania, president. “And we’ve invested in new fabricating equipment from Amada; a four meter press brake and a punch laser combo machine with load and unload automation for lights out fabricating.”

The machinery investments will help Dana become more competitive, says Anania.

“We need to be able to offer our customers high quality manufactured products at a lower cost and to do that, we need the right technology. We also have good expectations about the business for the future; business is starting to pick up more.”

The shop cuts and welds a variety of metals, including, steel, stainless and aluminum up to three quarter inch thicknesses. The large shop houses a variety of fabricating and welding equipment from various suppliers, but its most recent purchases include the Amada punch laser combo and press brake.

Dana’s customers operate primarily in the communication systems, automotive, military and energy markets. Many of the company’s customers are long-term companies who stayed with the job shop even during the tough economic period between 2008-2009. New partner Paulo Lopes attributes this to “quality and service that we’ve provided.”

A key strength is in how the company handles production, adds Anania.

“We’re a structured company, ISO 9001-2008 certified. This is something that customers are looking for in job shops. Our customers tell us they like how we control our production systems, our quality and on-time deliveries.”

A key component in its manufacturing operation is a real-time production tracking system Lopes (who has a degree in electronics) developed called SofTrack. Through the use of barcode scanning and time clocking, the software provides accurate production information, “which means we can provide our customers with accurate information about job deliveries,” explains Lopes. The software includes a production module that controls work orders at the shop floor level, and a time clock module, that monitors employee attendance and reports on job assignments.

The cost of competition is the biggest challenge that Dana faces.

“This is a big issue,’’ says Anania. “Some shops don’t have ISO, nor do they invest in safety, quality or in tracking systems. So their costs of operating a shop are lower than ours and yet we have to compete with them and meet the same price points.”

The competitiveness issue has become even more intense in recent years because many metal service centres are now also offering fabricating.

“Some of these service centres offer very competitive pricing, so when a potential customer comes to us, they want the same pricing; they don’t take into consideration our costs are higher because of the infrastructure we have in place, the investments in new technologies and the cost of maintaining high quality and service.”

Running a 41,000 sq ft job shop can be challenging, and while Dana continues to be successful, Anania and Lopes don’t want to get any larger.

“I think it would be difficult to justify a larger shop given today’s marketplace. To grow, our focus will be more on investing in new technologies and updating equipment to ensure we have the right processes in place to meet customer needs in the markets we serve, such as energy,” says Anania.

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