Westmill Industries, the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of parts for wood veneer dryers, hasn’t been content to simply fix industrial dryers gone wrong. After having modified and rebuilt almost every type of dryer, the Vancouver-based company took this knowledge and created its own award-winning dryer system designs.
Founded in 1975, today’s Westmill group of companies provides dryer systems and parts for the majority of veneer and plywood plants throughout North America, with its inventory strategically placed in Vancouver, Oregon and Georgia.
In 2009, given the struggles in the North American economy, Westmill decided to search for growth in new markets, including Chile and Brazil. Since then, sales growth has been brisk for replacement parts, and the company expects consulting opportunities and capital equipment sales to grow too, as its brand name gets established.
“The South American market has helped us during the downturn in the North American market,” says Mike Crondahl, president of Westmill. “The potential for our growth in the Chilean market is tremendous. We’ve got the world’s largest players for our industry there.”
Westmill’s business was founded on the principle of providing excellent, honest and knowledgeable customer service, and Crondahl has found this philosophy works in the international marketplace as well. “Building strong one-on-one relationships is essential to doing business,” he says.
“The opportunity to talk with the heads of our potential customers’ purchasing departments, who help their people at the plant level with buying decisions, is critical. We’ve learned that if you’ve established a rapport with a senior in these companies, it will move you miles towards your potential purchase order.”
To get its foot in the door, Westmill took advantage of EDC’s matchmaking mission to Chile during Expocorma last fall. “The opportunity to meet with the heads of purchasing of the world’s largest forestry companies was too good to pass up,” says Crondahl.
“The Chileans told us in our one-on-one meetings that they like dealing with Canadian companies; they think our people are an honest lot. And Canada is one of the oldest plywood manufacturing countries, so it’s a tremendous opportunity for a Chilean company to access that type of knowledge.”
Turn credibility into cash
The face-to-face meetings also helped Westmill build trust and credibility, which help sell products. “You have to offer excellent quality and attractive pricing, but those aren’t the only things buyers look for when making a decision,” Crondahl says.
For example, Crondahl believes Westmill gains a competitive advantage in the Chilean market by being able to offer favourable financial arrangements through EDC. “EDC’s buyer financing is something I’ve already pitched to a number of our customers. The ability to offer financing of our equipment to a foreign buyer, even on multi-million-dollar projects, is huge. And it’s always a pleasant surprise as well for our smaller and mid-sized customers, who are very interested in finding out more about the financing options we can offer.”
“By providing us with the Expocorma venue and inviting customers to come, the matchmaking worked very well for us, like a one-stop shop,” Crondahl says. “After our meeting there with the plant manager of Tulsa S.A., a plywood manufacturer in Chile, we shipped three pieces of capital equipment to them, and we’re sure other companies will now take notice of our quality.