by Noelle Stapinsky
A Quebec job shop invests in technology and its workforce to boost productivity
THE PROBLEM A new state-of-the-art facility, but not enough skilled workers to meet demand
THE SOLUTION Investing in new technology that makes it easier to train people and eye growth amidst the pandemic
It’s only been about a year and a half since Sam Batnigi and his business partners/investors opened the doors of their 60,000 sq. ft one-stop fabrication and machining shop—GS Global Manufacturing—just west of Montreal. They invested millions outfitting the shop with new technology and machinery. Specializing in high precision, close tolerance machined parts for the aerospace, automotive, medical, high-tech and industrial markets, the order books were full. But there was just one hitch: they couldn’t find skilled workers to man the machines.
Batnigi, COO and managing partner of GS Global, has 25 years of experience as a machinist and programmer. His Toronto-based business partners, who run a casting division in China, wanted to start manufacturing in Canada.
“I came up with the idea of blending sheet metal fabrication and machining. We bought brand new machines—two fiber lasers, a punching machine, two bending machines and more CNC five axis machines—and created this company. But we came to a halt because of the lack of technical people,” he says. “In the first two or three months, we had orders like crazy. And we tried every avenue to look for staff, but it just wasn’t working out. It scared the hell out of us because we invested a lot of money. For the first five months, we were sending so much work offsite because we couldn’t do it.”
All of the machine cells in the fabrication division are from LVD Strippit, where Batnigi sent his 24-year-old son to train on the Strippit PX, an all-in-one single-head system that can punch, form, bend and tap. “He really surprised me when he came back and took on the PX punch operation. It’s a complex and challenging machine to learn,” he says. “LVD was also very impressed that my son wasn’t even in the sheet metal industry, but he took over the programming of the PX as if he knew it all along.”
From there, Batnigi’s son recruited a friend that was in the construction industry and trained him on the machine. “Within three weeks this guy was running the machine by himself and programming it. My son has created a great, young team that’s hungry,” says Batnigi. “And that’s the method we’re taking on now, training people from scratch.”
The PX-series of punch presses from LVD runs Cadman-P programming software and is capable of handling complex, three-dimensional parts. The tool changer accommodates up to 200 tools that rotate 360°.
“We are the second operator in Quebec to have this machine,” says Batnigi. “It bends material up to three-inches thick. And instead of punching and taking the part out to bend it on a press brake, you’re eliminating that operation. You can do it all on this one machine. There’s minimal handling and every single part that comes out is repeatable, so there’s no human errors.”
For the LVD fiber laser machine cells, it’s Batnigi himself who has taken on learning how to use it and train other employees. “I like the challenge and I love this like it’s a hobby,” he says. “I enjoy running the machine and helping others learn it. I have a female employee that’s now running the laser and she knows it very well. And I’ve sent another employee to LVD to train. My goal is to have a minimum of two people per department that knows the programming and how to operate these machines.”
Located in Vaudreuil-Dorion, Que., GS Global currently has about 35 employees and business is humming away on the shop floor. At least that was the case until the threat of COVID-19 locked down the market. “We’re running at half the staff, but we are still running because we produce essential products for the medical industry,” says Batnigi. “When the pandemic first hit, we decided to close for that first week. When I called everyone back, I gave all the employees a choice. If anyone didn’t feel comfortable, I would understand. Especially for those that have young kids or elderly family members at home.”
For those that have decided to work, GS Global is taking every precaution. Staff is given sanitizer prior to entry, all surfaces are disinfected every hour, and all staff is provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks.
GS Global’s medical products include sterilization carts, patient handling equipment, cabinetry components, modular imaging systems and nuclear scanning equipment. “We’ve also started a project to help with face masks, and we’re talking to doctors about another project. We’re hoping that soon we will have some news about if it’s been approved. We’re hanging in there,” says Batnigi.
Even though Batnigi admits that the global pandemic has slowed them down, GS Global is already posturing to grow again. In fact, in the next three years it is planning on building a larger facility in order to move its casting division from China to Quebec. Currently all casting products are shipped to the Canadian facility for final finishing and machining treatments.
“We will have machining, fabrication and casting all in one facility,” he says. “We want to be different from everyone and to be that one-stop shop.”
True to its word, GS Global is actively looking for a new location, reaching out to potential customers, and getting new casting machines on order. SMT