If it wasn’t for the weather stripping, your car would give you a wet and windy ride. Milan Conception develops automated equipment and systems for assembling weather stripping for Ford, GM, Toyota, BMW and other popular vehicles.
Founded in 2007, the Sherbrooke-based company sold its first machine overseas just two years later, to a customer in the Czech Republic.
“We met them through a mutual business contact. Then we visited the company to see for ourselves the technical issues they could not solve with the technologies sold in Europe at the time,” says Cyriaque Eyquem, Business Development Manager for Milan. “Now they have two of our machines.”
Today, 95 per cent of Milan’s business is exports — mainly to South America, Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain), Russia and China.
Common Challenges with automated machinery
Emerging markets in particular pose two common challenges, Eyquem says. “First of all, companies there do not have easy access to spare parts. So we must foresee what types of problems may arise and prepare the necessary parts that may be important in the lifetime of the machine.
“The second problem is that many workers are not used to automated machinery. So we have to stay longer during the installation of our machine and give multiple training sessions to numerous technicians.”
As a relatively small company, Milan does not have any offices abroad so far. “We have one sales engineer who travels worldwide and knows our industry very well,” says Eyquem. “Once he meets with a potential customer, he can right away offer customized technical solutions to help with their production requirements.”
This kind of innovation and customer attention has helped keep Milan growing globally in its specialized segment of the automotive sector.
For example, the company’s clip-insertion machine is the fastest and most accurate on the market to install the plastic clips in rubber extrusion, which hold the weather stripping in place on your car. Last August the company received a U.S. patent for its high-speed technology.
“Our machine is also easy to use and versatile; our customers can easily put multiple types of weather strips in it,” says Eyquem. “They save a lot of money as they do not have to buy a different machine for each new car program, which may be the case with our competition.” These advantages have helped Milan and its customers overcome the difficult economic situation.
To continue developing new markets, Eyquem says “our customers always require bank guaranties. They want to be sure the down payment they put towards the manufacture of a new machine is used properly. Our bank does not take the risk for these kinds of requests, and this is how we connected with Export Development Canada (EDC) — to help us with bank guaranties on machinery contracts and performance. Otherwise we could not have exported.”
Export Tips from Milan
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes as long as you correct them in a timely manner.
- Be open to different ways of thinking. A little diplomacy helps solve problems, whether technical, international transport, or customs issues.
- Have effective after sales service, 24 hours a day, with easy internet connections to the machines.
- Stay close to your customers, as they will guide you through their own geopolitical challenges.
- Do not hesitate to export, especially if you sell value added goods, and be extremely proactive and patient.