Conveyor manufacturer started in basement and grew into a factory
FROM THE MM&D MAY/JUNE 2012 PRINT EDITION:
A Canadian materials handling equipment manufacturer is celebrating a major milestone.
Wecon Systems Ltd, which both manufactures its own conveyor systems and distributes those produced by other companies celebrated its 15th year in business.
For company founder and vice-president of operations, Will Egerton, it’s an anniversary he never expected to reach. Actually, he never expected to start a business at all and only did so after he was goaded into it.
Egerton, a licensed millwright by trade, was working at another materials handling company. His job had evolved into one that involved sales, service, management, troubleshooting and pretty much every other task that needed to be done.
After leaving that business, a friend of his recommended that Egerton start his own company.
At that point, Egerton turned his basement into an office, using an old picnic table stored in the cellar as a desk. Then he began subcontracting himself out to perform service work on materials handling equipment.
Eventually the contract worked picked up enough that Egerton could buy a used truck and hire his first employee. That employee, hired in September 1997, is still with Wecon.
His second employee, who is also still employed by Wecon, was hired the following spring in a sales position because by that point Egerton had been borrowing time in small fabricating facility from a friend and using it on weekends and in the evenings to manufacture products.
Pretty soon, Egerton’s parts and conveyor manufacturing business grew to the point where he needed his own facility, so he rented 560sqm (6,000 sqf) in an industrial strip mall in Mississauga, Ontario.
“I was scared as hell. How was I going to pay the rent? There were lots of questions, but there was no business plan. It was just by the seat of my pants, but I had enough work and knew enough contacts that I thought, ‘we’ll make a go of this somehow.’”
This move led to equipment purchases and more employee hirings. Today, Wecon employs 22 people, with eight of those having worked for the company for ten years or more.
Over the years, Wecon has taken over four additional units in the same industrial complex and now has over 1,670sqm (18,000sqf) of office, storage, fabricating and testing space.
Egerton is especially pleased with the testing area, as it allows his current customers to come to the office and see the system they are buying.
“We’ve set up an entire cell for them here. That allows us to run and test and commission everything on-site. We now provide the customer with the ability to come here and view this piece of equipment before it hits their floor, to smooth that transition. We set it up here, we wire it, we test it, invite them over to view it. They sign off on it here, we disassemble it and take it to their place.”
Currently, Wecon manufactures a flexible conveyor line, a gravity conveyor, both roller and skate wheel conveyors, a belt conveyor, and a heavier-duty unit load conveyor.
The company does all its own assembly, service, installation, design and programming work. It also offers product lines from major North American manufacturers and can integrate proprietary pieces with those of other brands.
“Most of our business is derived from repeat customers, but that limits us. There is only so much people will spend on conveyor systems. Ongoing service and maintenance is something we’ve really ramped up in the last year or two, recognizing there is a large demand for quality service and accountable maintenance.
“We’re not done growing yet. We want to grow the business and get it up to another level. We want a little more exposure. We want to become a common name in the industry.