The flexibility to adapt
Diversification and relationships are an unbeatable combination for Champ industries.
David Bridges had always been a bit of a cowboy. He often walked the shop floor dressed in blue jeans, a cowboy hat, shirt and boots. Certainly, he wasn’t your typical businessman. But he knew metal fabrication inside and out. He also realized the value of relationships and diversification.
The Canadian company that evolved into Champ Industries began as a manufacturer of glass washing machinery for restaurants and bars. Before Bridges bought the company in 1992, he was one of five employees. The company manufactured excellent products, but not in high volumes.
The business needed to branch out. Bridges turned to an acquaintance who worked for a local original equipment manufacturer. Through the relationship they developed, Bridges gained the opportunity to do work for the large manufacturer. He delivered high-quality work in such a timely, cost-effective manner that the company gradually gave him more and more jobs.
As the work grew, so did Champ Industries and its relationship with the large OEM and other local manufacturers. Champ needed laser cutting machinery to keep up and turned to TRUMPF Canada. Another mutually-beneficial relationship formed. By 2004, Champ was humming with TRUMPF lasers, punching machines, and press brakes. The company was expanding rapidly. That’s when Bridges asked his stepdaughter, Lise Baker, to join the organization.
Bridges wanted someone he trusted to lead the growing business. A nurse for seventeen years, Baker had proven leadership skills, running an adult mental health program at a large teaching hospital. “We have sheet metal experts,” Bridges said, “You just need to know how to lead people and provide them with the tools that they need to do their jobs well.”
Technology to Meet Needs
New TRUMPF technology facilitated the quality work done by Champ employees. Champ’s bond with TRUMPF was so strong that as Baker moved into a leadership role, Bridges made sure she understood the value of TRUMPF equipment in maintaining quality products. Baker concurs, “TRUMPF technology plays a huge role in our success. It helps us stay one step ahead of the competition by fabricating parts with greater speed, precision and cost -effectiveness.”
A TruLaser Tube 7000 is among the newest tools that Champ employees use to ensure customers get what they need done. The tube laser machine trimmed the time and labor required for one particular job from three hours to seven minutes. Additionally, the machine allowed Champ to expand beyond flat sheet laser work and to diversify into the tube market.
“The tube laser was a calculated risk, but the speed, precision and ability to redesign parts to reduce costs were worth it,” explains Baker. “We were one of the first job shops in the area with laser tube cutting technology. It gave us a tremendous opportunity to diversify and cultivate many new customer relationships.”
Maintaining the Legacy
Although Bridges died in 2007, Champ employees still embody his spirit – ready for a challenge and having fun, but serious about work. The growing staff of one hundred and seventeen employees is busy covering what will become a 24-hour, seven days a week schedule. Champ typically has parts ranging from half-inch brackets to large welded assemblies for the transportation, commercial and agricultural equipment markets.
“We always try to honor customer requests and do whatever we can to meet the urgent needs of our customers,” Baker emphasizes. “Our growth and success is largely attributable to our skilled employees going above and beyond to satisfy the customer. If a loyal customer says, ‘I’m in a jam. I need this part or I’ll have to shut down the line tomorrow,’ we do what we can to be as responsive as possible. There is a long list of employees who’ve worked during a vacation or in the middle of the night to ensure a job gets done.”
Flexibility to Adapt
The company continues to cultivate strong customer relationships with a variety of local OEMs. For Champ, adapting to customer requirements has meant advancing technology and software, gaining ISO certification ten years ago, and even adding a new facility in the United States.
Champ prides itself on having the flexibility needed to fit urgent customer jobs into the production schedule. “Our equipment, for example the TRUMPF press brakes, allows us to do timely and rapid tooling changeovers to accommodate urgent customer needs,” Baker explains.
To meet the increasing US content requirements of one of its largest customers, Champ opened a 10,000 square foot facility five hours away, across the border in Jamestown, North Dakota. The US-based operations expanded into a 37,000 square-foot facility just three years later.
“It was a big risk, but we recognized it as a stepping stone toward further diversification opportunities,” says Baker. As in Winnipeg, the North Dakota facility is filled with TRUMPF laser cutting, bending, automation and punching technology to ensure company standards are met. The North Dakota production manager upholds Champ’s dedication to quality, responsiveness and cultivation of strong customer relationships.
Champ Industries realizes the symbiotic nature of their relationships with customers and suppliers. “Our investment in new technology, such as the tube laser, and our diverse and growing customer base reduces our risk and strengthens the company,” Baker says.
Business is booming and Champ Industries expects continued growth from their loyal customers and new business in Winnipeg and North Dakota. Thanks, of course, to the dedicated staff and advanced technology which help Champ continue to meet customer needs.
Contact us: MastersofSheetMetal@trumpf.com
This article was first published in autumn 2012.