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By Ed Robertson

The problem
Repositioning job shop business

The solution
Investing in new equipment, technical know-how

Laser, waterjet machine investments ready job shop for possible shift to OEM work

Concord, Ontario’s Pro Laser Plus is a shop on the move, something that vice president and founding partner Al Gersh would know a lot about. Not only did he relocate the shop to Concord from Brampton, ON, so it could expand, he himself moved to Canada from Israel 30 years ago so he could grow his business vision.

That vision included laser processing as an efficient means of building a fabricating business. A mechanical engineer, Gersh, originally born in Russia, became acquainted with a potential partner who worked in shipbuilding repair with sheet metal in Russia and used a Bystronic laser cutting machine. The partner came to Canada and worked in the shipbuilding metal fabricating area before setting up a business partnership with Gersh and another partner, forming Pro Laser Plus Ltd. in 2003.

The company began business with a Bystronic Bystar 3015 2800-watt CO2 flatbed laser-cutting centre. With a maximum sheet size of 1524 mm by 3048 mm (60 in. by 120 in.), the Bystar 3015 became a flexible workhorse for the company because of capacity and the ability to process a range of ferrous and non-ferrous materials.

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Pro Laser Plus quickly grew a reputation as a shop that produced quality work and quick turnarounds when required. Gersh did his best to spread the word about his shop’s capabilities and service and the shop’s original 4,000 sq.-ft. building became too small for its workload. Relocating to its current 24,000 sq.-ft. plant in Concord, the company quickly added a second Bystronic 3015 laser-cutting center, this one with a 4400-watt laser, also with a 60 x 120 inch (1524 x 3048 mm) cutting area, and the ability to process 1-inch mild steel, half-inch stainless, or three-eighths inch aluminum. “Simply said, the lasers work very well and are dependable,” Gersh says.

In addition to laser processing, the shop also boasts an equipment base of CNC Haco hydraulic press brakes, Luna bending rolls, a TRUMFP TruBend 3066 machine, an AllSteel Maxi Steel hydraulic shearing machine, welding (TIG, MIG and plasma cutter), and finishing/assembly services. It recently purchased a Bystronic waterjet machine to expand business as the waterjet cuts thicker metals, as well as plastics, glass and other materials.

Last year’s sales were $3.5 million, up from 2009’s $2.5 million. The business currently has 150 clients, including customers in the military and defence areas, which makes up about 10 per cent of the current business. It also has customers in automotive, conveyor, food and fixtures markets.

Pro Laser Plus also fabricates ballistic steel for armoured vehicles and is certified to the Controlled Goods Program for armoured vehicles and is also a member of the CADSI – Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries. The company is ISO 9002-2008 certified and employs 20 people, of which 15 work on the shop floor.

Gersh attributes a growing part of the company’s success to its ability to effectively partner with its customers where possible.

“We are focused on our customers and on bringing them quality and timely delivery,” says Gersh. “Sometimes customers need a job overnight and we can do it and offer good quality.”

 It not only has engineers in house that take customer drawings and convert them into CAD drawings for the shop, but also helps redesign drawings if it feels design isn’t particularly well-suited for fabrication. It has, in some cases designed products for customers and so has some history in enhancing its services in contract manufacturing. 

According to Gersh, company partners are in the early stages of considering expanding in this direction.

“If we continue to expand we would like to grow beyond custom metal fabricating and build our own finished machines. We are in the process of discussing this now, but long term if we are to grow, we want to build machines and not just do custom metal fabricating. We already have experience cutting ballistic steel and fabricating parts for armoured vehicles and we’re looking into this area [military vehicle production] as one possibility for the future, but we are just at the stage of discussing this now.”

Asked if automation is in Pro Plus Laser’s future, Gersh says “absolutely. If we do expand and become more involved in manufacturing and building machines, automation has to be part of what we do so we can be efficient and competitive.”

For a company on the move, customers would expect no less.SMT

Ed Robertson is a contributing editor and manufacturing journalist based in the Detroit, MI, area.

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