This Canadian success story is part of this week’s automotive sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please read Canada’s automotive sector is “bursting at the seams”.
SailRail Automated Systems Inc. evolved into exporting after multinational customers such as Ford Motor Co. started asking the company to build equipment for its U.S. operations. Others soon followed suit.
The company designs, manufactures and supplies material handling equipment, automation, conveyer systems, an entire line of ergonomic equipment including carts and dollies, lift tables and tilt tables and turn tables, and a host of custom-designed machinery for the automotive industry. What does that mean? In short, SailRail builds and sells the equipment that moves and handles display containers that house the parts automakers put on their assembly lines.
“Our equipment conveys and delivers parts to the assembly line,” said Ian Scarth, president and CEO of the company. “With those parts, they put together the cars. Without us, the part wouldn’t make it to the car.”
SailRail has been working with Ford for more than 25 years and Ford is still its biggest customer, but SailRail can also name Mercedes Benz, BMW, Fiat Chrysler, General Motors, Toyota and Caterpillar as customers. Most of its customers are in Canada and the U.S. but it has also made equipment for Ford Motor Company in Mexico. Other countries to which SailRail has exported include Brazil and Australia.
“Our export sales initially arose by supplying U.S. customers working in Canada,” Scarth said. “Then we were asked to bid for work at their export locations.”
Scarth and his partner, vice-president Danny Pitcher, bought the company in 1996 from their predecessor who founded it in the 1970s. In the early 80s, SailRail developed a product called Index Air, which uses patented technology that enables the movement of large groups of containers simultaneously.
“With Index Air, we had our first big hit with Ford Motor Co. in Oakville,” Scarth said. “From there, most of our business has been with automotive and we really haven’t looked back.”
In addition to SailRail’s traditional suite of products, it has more recently gotten into the supply of automotive shipping containers and racks.
“Our business and product line has grown by growing with existing customers to help them fulfill their material handling requirements,” Scarth said. “We solve a lot of our customers’ problems and provide a lot of solutions. They like the fact that SailRail is a one-stop shop for most of their material handling requirements.”
The company established a relationship with EDC in 2010 by buying accounts receivable insurance.
“Our individual purchase orders have high value, and EDC has given us the confidence to take on these orders and to take a more aggressive sales approach,” Scarth said. “They offer us pretty good business advice as well.”
Scarth can see expanding that relationship in the future as the company has a couple of “extremely large” export plays on the horizon. “We will likely need EDC’s assistance.”