Location: Port Coquitlam, BC
Years in business: 45
Key manufacturing processes: Laser cutting, bending, CNC milling, turning, EDM
Recent investments: 4 kW laser cutting machine
When East German native Klaus Stolle, a trained ironworker, formed Stollco Industries in 1967, manufacturing in British Columbia was not what it is today. For more than 20 years, the Port Coquitlam, BC, job shop thrived as a tool and die and stamping operation. Then the China Factor hit the province and suddenly that business began to decline.
That’s when Stolle decided to send his son Floyd, who had joined the company in 1980, to FABTECH in Chicago.
“I saw my first laser cutting machine and I told my dad I had seen the future,” recalls Floyd Stolle, now president of the company. “It was a TRUMPF 1500 W 2503 model. Being a tool maker, I could see that the machine was well designed; it could do fixturing and pre-form parts, features that the other machines I had seen weren’t capable of doing, so we purchased the TRUMPF machine.”
Today, Stollco is a thriving 35,000 fabricating and machining operation sprawled among four buildings on adjoining lots that employs 30 people. The company—run by three Stolle brothers, Floyd, Tom and Steve—operates a full tool and die shop with milling and EDM machines. And while stamping is not as big as it once was, “our stamping work is a little busier now because there isn’t much competition in this market in Canada.”
Since getting into the laser cutting business, Stollco has enjoyed steady growth, except for a brief period last fall. “Now we’re busier than ever.”
In addition to laser cutting, fabrication processes include, forming, bending, punching, and stamping.
He attributes part of the company’s success to its focus on it key strengths: overcoming technical challenges on difficult jobs and working closely with customers to consult on product design and manufacturing.
“A lot of our customers are also my competition. They often send the tougher jobs our way because they know we can do the work.”
The laser cutting operation has experienced steady growth. Its most recent laser cutting machine is the TRUMPF 4 kW 3030 model.
“We can cut up to seven eighths stainless steel, one inch plate and we can also cut lots of exotic materials, such as titanium and tantalum, which is very heavy and very dense, and many other materials. We like to learn from cutting new materials and we’ve cut new materials at no charge just to see how the materials work on our machines.”
While many shops experienced some tough times during the 2008 economic downturn, it didn’t impact Stollco, says Stolle.
“We didn’t fell the slump at all that Ontario shops felt back in 2008. We had a brief downturn last year and went into the red in December 2011 for the first time since the 1980s, but then in January of this year business started up again.”
Stollco has grown steadily over the years, but the Stolle brothers aren’t looking to get too big, adds Floyd Stolle.
“Our business is 100 per cent owned. We have no financing and our machinery was purchased outright. Our approach comes from our dad. When he started the business he went into debt but got out of it quickly and when he had no debt he expanded. We don’t grow as fast we probably could but we like slow and steady. We don’t want to go into debt to expand and purchase more equipment. There are a few machines we’re interested in adding to our operation, but we don’t want to get too big. We’re comfortable where we’re at and happy with what we’re doing.“
The three brothers, who operate different parts of the business, get along well, adds Stolle.
“We all have the same goals to succeed and we don’t walk on each other’s toes. We go out for lunch together every day.”
As a job shop in the machining and fabricating business, Stollco has manufactured a variety of interesting parts for customers with products around the world.
“We’re making parts for a Disneyland roller coaster, Universal Studios in Florida and Japan and we did the tube cutting for the Maple Leaf for the Canadian pavilion in Japan at the World’s Fair.”