Carriere Industrial Supply Limited (CIS) is a Canadian industrial steel fabricator with a global customer base. The company was founded in 1964 by its namesake, Armand Carriere; at the time, Mr. Carriere worked as a traveling salesman, selling a variety of industrial products and consumables to mining and forestry projects in areas around Ontario and Quebec.
Armand established his company’s roots in the small town of Cobalt, Ontario, in the early 1970s, and his son, Mike Carriere, joined the company after graduating from college, taking over management fully in 1974. The company moved locations to Sudbury, Ontario in 1990 due to the closure of its primary customers in and around Cobalt and has maintained its head office in Sudbury ever since. Since 2007 the company has also held a sales and distribution office in Timmins to support the local mining camp and recently expanded fabrication in the Quebec region.
According to General Manager Mickey Obradovich, Mike Carriere and the rest of the CIS team have experienced every up and down a business like this can bring, along with tremendous, continued success over the past five decades and counting.
Since its inception, the focus of CIS as a business has remained on the mining industry, which makes up over 90 percent of its overall customer base. Some additional diversity lies in the company’s work with aggregate, construction, and forestry outfits, both at the processing and production levels; however, most of its efforts have been focused on mining within the past dozen years.
CIS’s manufacturing efforts for the surface and underground mining industry focus on three key areas: wear protection for rock-moving components (buckets, truck bodies, chutes, etc.); design, build, and repair of rock-moving components (buckets, truck bodies, chutes, etc.); raise lining systems to create routes for escape, vent, and ore transfer. Carving out a unique set of products and engineering solutions has helped the business establish itself in the mining industry it knows so well.
When it comes to standing out in a crowded market, Obradovich feels that the people behind CIS are a major distinguishing factor of the company, as “they are just as dedicated as the company in providing the best quality service to customers.” Indeed, customer satisfaction is a company value that goes together with its high standard for product quality; as Obradovich defines it, “The success of our customers totally depends on our people delivering exceptional value… if we aren’t delivering value, there’s no satisfaction.”
To this end, CIS has recently returned to a boots-on-the-ground style of customer service, a traditional approach for the company as it had previously taken a more travel-heavy approach to operations and relations before both the advent of COVID and rise of online services. Now, CIS employees are trying to be face-to-face with customers as much as possible, as this approach leads to greater client satisfaction. This is key given that the mining sector is one that has not completely adopted online functionality and whose owners and investors operate on an old-school, personal basis.
“Our main focus is to provide the best quality products, on time and at a competitive market price,” says Obradovich, a goal toward which the company continues to evolve its manufacturing methods with augmented automation which enhances the skilled labourer’s capabilities and precision. These projects are overseen by a continuous improvement group, itself a part of a larger new technology group, which works on implementing new ideas and plans to improve cost and quality.
Aside from evolving its internal processes, CIS has recently invested heavily into an additional production facility located in the Quebec area with the purchase of land and buildings just outside of the town of Malartic. This investment originally took shape around four years ago, related to a sales channel to support the customers in the region. The company now sports sales offices and fabrication facilities in the area as well as substantial storage space to further support mining both in the town and the province at large.
“This is a significant investment for us,” Obradovich emphasizes. Although a long battle, at nearly five years, the evolution of CIS in the Malartic area represents even greater company and industry growth potential than could be achieved otherwise.
Like many businesses in the mining sector, CIS continues to contend with challenges related to the supply and demand of steel, which can be difficult to obtain currently. As well, many greenfield mining projects (projects with minimal to no previous exploration) continue to move forward in the company’s regular regions, en route to becoming full-production mines. Although the company’s budgets didn’t necessarily account for the coronavirus pandemic nor for the volatility of global steel availability, customers are moving forward with projects and CIS has not seen any reduction in fabrication or steel-making processes in over two years.
This is not to say that CIS has been unaffected by the pandemic, but its effects have thankfully been limited thus far. A fourth wave of the virus (along with an anticipated fifth wave to come) is hitting regions of Ontario and Quebec hard, but the 130-plus employees of CIS have managed to stay free of infection. This has allowed production to continue and project targets and budgets alike to be maintained.
“We’ve conquered the beast,” Obradovich shares, “but there’s still potential of [the virus] happening here.”
Aside from this more topical concern, CIS is constantly on the lookout for skilled labour in today’s job market. The company continues to develop recruitment campaigns to attract new workers. The business has seen initial success from the efforts of an international hiring program with new talent emerging from Mexico, and further efforts to improve and implement automated systems will look to aid this recruitment process and make the company’s inner workings a bit more user-friendly.
Looking ahead to a new year, CIS intends to stay the course with its current rate of growth, with plans to add new equipment to its existing facilities. The addition of the new Quebec facility will likely start contributing 20 percent of the company’s overall revenue by the end of 2022, which represents a significant jump. “The Quebec region is one of the hottest in the world [for mining] and has lots of diversity in [its] active mines,” Obradovich explains.
The company’s home regions of Ontario and Quebec are still quite active, with double-digit growth predicted to surpass that of fiscal year 2021. Indeed, the current potential for growth with CIS is practically immeasurable. This represents an exciting time for the company, as it looks to turn potential challenges into both internal profit and a high-quality product for its loyal customers.