Getting into gear

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by Tim Wilson

Quebec gear shop builds reputation for quality

Job Shops In Canada | Quebec

Shop Vitals

Years in business:

Shop floor: 3,252 to 3,716 sq m (35,000-40,000 sq ft) in two adjacent facilities

Part capacity: Herringbones, double helical, helical, spur, bevel, and worms to diameters of 7,061 mm (278 in.), and faces of 1,016 mm (40 in.).

Key processes: Large gears and gearbox overhauls. New, rebuild, and custom made air lock systems. Large blower overhauls. Roller king journal repair, as well as repair of pulp mixers. Repair and overhaul of turbine guide bearings.

Key machining/equipment: Hobbers, gear grinders, bevel gear machines, worm gear machining, CNC, horizontal boring, vertical boring, welding, fabrication shape, bevel gear machine.

St-Hubert Machine Shopt-Hubert Machine Shop has been in business more than 35 years. Founded in 1979 by Giovanni Barile, the shop, located just east of Montreal, is now operated by Barile’s sons, Cosmo and David. The shop has built a reputation as a solid player in the gear manufacturing industry, with work strategies customized around client needs.

“We have about sixty employees working out of two facilities, which are situated right next to each other,” says David Barile. “They account for a total footprint of between 35,000 and 40,000 sq ft.”

Quick turnaround for all products and repairs is what separates it from competitors. This is not a company that expects its customers to wait 12 to 32 weeks for a delivery.

“One of the keys to ensuring fast turnarounds for specific jobs is having a good relationship with suppliers,” says Barile. “We’ve been working with our suppliers for many years, and when you treat each other with respect it brings results.”

The company is active in a number of industries, from equipment manufacturers to mining, cement, hydro electric, wind farms, metal smelters, and pulp and paper. A significant part of the company’s business comes from large gear, gearbox, and turbine overhauls. Aside from gears, production can include industrial rollers and parts for large blower overhauls in aluminum smelters, such as rebuilding lobes and shafts, as well as rotary valves in air lock systems.

“Overhauls are a lot, perhaps 80 per cent, of what we do,” says Barile. “Gear boxes are expensive, and overhauling is profitable because we can get the same results, for a much lower price, than an OEM.”

Overhauling gear boxes can include bearings and seals, with the gears restored back to their original state. When necessary, non-repairable pieces will be replaced, with the result being that the overhauled machinery now has better and stronger materials. St-Hubert Machine Shop can also rebuild and manufacture custom systems, depending on the customer’s application. The shop does this using a proprietary material the company says will outlast any competitors system on the market under normal operation conditions. It can also strip and pour babbitt bearings up to 2,032 mm (80 in.) in diameter.

“Our quality is very important,” says Barile. “Everything produced in the shop needs to be controlled and verified. We only want the best, and that’s why we’ve been in business so long. People trust us and believe
in us.”

St-Hubert Machine Shop can handle fairly large parts. Machines can machine gears to 2,286 mm (90 in.) or more. There is also a vertical boring machine for large parts, and gear hobbing for smaller gears, with onsite engineering and analysis, allowing the company to provide suggestions and advice to its customers for both materials and applications that can add longevity to products.

“It all depends on what the customer wants,” says Barile. “We can suggest things, but not decide for them. A lot of our customers need support, and we can also refer industry experts in a specific field who can help them out.”

One of the company’s innovations is its on-site capabilities, where the company is able to perform grinding and welding. The shop has a fleet of vehicles that can transport various sized products; and if it cannot transport the products themselves, St-Hubert Machine Shop will find the appropriate method of transportation for its clients.

“Particularly with mining and the pulp and paper industry, sometimes we have to go on site,” says Barile. “That can require a lot of time. It’s an investment–we will travel to those sites.”

Barile says between 60 and 70 per cent of business comes from outside of Quebec, with about 30 per cent from the US, mostly the northeast. And the company is now looking to expand further south into the Americas.

“We hope to expand to Panama and into South America,” says Barile. “There is a lot of business down there, including Brazil. They need quality and they know quality comes from Canada. Canada has a very good reputation in manufacturing–the Canadian brand is strong.”

Part of what makes that brand strong is customer service, a value-added area which involves a commitment to informed and timely feedback.

“We have people available 24/7 that can answer your questions,” says Barile. “That live human support is for anyone, in any time zone they will not be transferred or directed to voicemail.”

St-Hubert Machine Shop is in a competitive business, and one where it is expensive to invest in what’s required to deliver timely and quality products. Quality control is built in to everything the shop does, with the company having its own facilities for testing each product it makes. That approach has served it well in the past, and will remain a cornerstone as the company looks to expand into foreign markets. SMT

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