Three generations: From left is Kurt Feigel Sr., son Kurt Feigel and grandson Konrad Feigel.Click image to enlargeby Mary Scianna

Strategy and hard work a winning combination for growing job shop

Universe Machine Corp., Edmonton, ON
years in business
: 52 size: 9,941 sq m (107,000 sq ft)
services: Machining, millwrighting, repair, specialized product manufacturing
machine types: Multi-tasking, five axis, turning, milling 

Kurt Feigel Senior learned to work hard and to work smart at the early age of 18 to obtain journeyman machinist accreditation in Germany.

His perseverance has paid off. Today, with help from his sons Kurt Junior and David and daughter Connie, the now 75-year-old grandfather to 10 and great grandfather to one, operates a flourishing 52-year-old machine shop in Edmonton, ON, Universe Machine Corp., as well as several other manufacturing businesses under a separate business entity, Feigel Enterprises.

It wasn’t always such a flourishing business, but Feigel has learned to manage the economic ebbs and flows of the Canadian marketplace by adjusting his vision and his business when required.

“At one point we reached 175 employees but with the downturn in the economy and the drop in oil pricing, we’re now down to about 117 people,” says Feigel. “The biggest challenge in our business is to be able to adjust to the times. When things are booming and there’s lots of work, you make money. But when the economy changes, and we’re in that downturn now, you need to be able to adjust, cut personnel and do things differently to survive rough times. We’ve done a fairly good job over the years and I can proudly say in 52 years of being in business, we haven’t had a losing year yet.”

Kurt Feigel Sr. says Universe Machine houses some of Western Canada's largest CNC machine tools, including the largest vertical CNC lathe, a Titan.Click image to enlargeFeigel was only 23 when he and two partners opened a 186 sq m (2,000 sq ft) shop in Edmonton in 1965. By 1977, Feigel was the sole owner of the 14-employee business. Today, Kurt Jr runs Universe Machine and his son David and daughter Corinne run Feigel Investments, which consists of a number of businesses, including a tooling company that supplies tools to the machine shop and a second machine shop that specializes in small part machining, Saturn Machine Works.

“My goal has always been to find partners or buy businesses that would supply machining work to our shop. So we created Saturn Machine Works to concentrate on machining of small parts because Universe Machine focuses on large part machining,” explains Feigel.

Indeed, Universe Machine boasts a number of large machine tools, including what Feigel says is the largest vertical CNC lathe in Western Canada, a Titan, and the largest Mitsubishi horizontal CNC boring mill. The large part machining operation also includes other vertical and horizontal boring mills, multi-tasking, five axis and other machining centres.

Universe Machine boasts a number of large machine tools, including what Feigel Sr. says is the largest Mitsubishi horizontal CNC boring mill in Western Canada.Click image to enlargeUniverse Machine is not just a general machine shop, although it generates a significant portion of its business from servicing the oil and gas and construction markets in Western Canada. The shop also manufactures some of its own products used in the oil and gas industry throughout North America. The products include hydraulic test stands and hydraulic power tongs. The materials are made from steel and while the majority of its work is with steel, the shop does machine Inconel and stainless steel parts.

To ensure the shop remains competitive, Feigel invests regularly in machinery updates, but it’s now always new machine purchases.

“We update our shop in two ways. With large equipment, we first look at retrofit but with the smaller machines, we just replace them because it’s very important to have good equipment. At the moment, we have what we need but in the future we’ll adjust to the type of work that we have and buy equipment if we need it. I always believed that you buy the best equipment right from the start to do the best job for the work.”

A side benefit of operating updated equipment is having a shop that people want to work in, adds Feigel. Indeed, while many shops are grappling with a skilled trades shortage, Universe Machine has many long-term employees, including approximately 20 who have been with the company 25 years.

Universe Machine's 9,941 sq m (107,000 sq ft) operation boasts some of the latest in CNC machine tools including some of the largest machines in Western Canada.Click image to enlarge“We have some third generation employees. I think the main way to keep people is to offer fair wages and ensure it’s always on the upper end. We also treat people right and make them feel that they’re part of our family. We’re not just a machine shop; we’re a big family. My motto is to treat others the way you want to be treated and a lot of people say this but you need to actually do it for it to work.”

Perhaps the most important part of Feigel’s success comes from a simple fact; he enjoys what he does and it’s advice he’s passed on to his grandchildren, including two who are now engineers and work in the business.

“I say to my children and grandchildren, go into a field you love, not where the big bucks are. If you have a passion for something, you’ll be good at and the money will come from that.” SMT

Joe Poulin joins Elliott-Matsuura Canada

Joe Poulin has joined Elliott-Matsuura Canada, Oakville, ON, as regional sales manager.

Milling Tools

Luke Pollock, Product Manager

Shop Metalworking Technology Magazine speaks with Walter Tools’ Luke Pollock about advances, cutting strategies and challenges

Picking up speed

by Tim Wilson

Acquisition part of growth strategy

CN to invest $2.5 B in 966 km of new rails, maintenance

CN plans to spend $2.5 billion in 2017 to improve its core infrastructure, which includes replacement of 2.2 million rail ties, installation of more than 966 km (600 miles) of new rail, and work in bridges, branch line upgrades and other general track maintenance.

Virtual reality arc welding

The VRTEX family of virtual reality arc welding training products includes the VRTEX 360 and the VRTEX Mobile.

New machine tool distributor in Canada

Synergy Machine Sales Inc., Mississauga, ON, is a new machine tool distributor formed October 2012 by partners Terry MacAllister, Danny Brewer and Nelson Martins, who is also president and owner of DiPaolo CNC Machine Tools.

Controlling fire risk

Lincoln Electric has a new solution for controlling fire risks in welding fume extraction filter systems. The Guardian products are engineered to reduce the risk of fires in the metalworking and fabrication industry.

3 Ways to Optimize Your Turret Layout

by Thomas S. Weir 

Reduce downtime, increase productivity and get better punching and forming results

World's fastest trains 2017

Take a look at the top five fastest trains in the world. According to the video, these are official track records. 

Skilled Labour to the Rescue

By Michael Ouellette, editor

Nd:YAG or fiber laser for micro welding?

Choosing the best option for your application

By Geoff Shannon, Amada Miyachi America

Four lasers can be used for micro welding: pulsed neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG), continuous wave (CW) fiber, quasi continuous wave (QCW) fiber, and nanosecond fiber. Each laser type offers unique features that work best for specific applications. Here is a comparison of the pulsed Nd:YAG laser with the three fiber laser options, and a discussion of why and when one might be chosen over the other. In some cases, several options may work; in that case, cost of ownership and serviceability can tip the scales.

Solid carbide for extreme drilling

Walter USA LLC has introduced the Walter Titex XD70, a solid carbide drill for drilling of extremely deep holes.

Modig, Seco sign development partnership

Modig Machine Tool, Virserum, Sweden, has signed a multi-year agreement with Seco Tools, Fagersta, Sweden, for development of next generation machine tools. 

FIELD NOTES: Delta Machine & Design

Product: LPM VMC
Supplier: TRAK Machine Tools
End User: Delta Machine & Design

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn