Canadian Metalworking Magazine about Metaline

The line-up of luxury cars, including BMWs, Mercedes, Lexus, Cadillacs, Range Rovers and Hummers—regular and stretch versions—are what you’d expect to see along a red carpet in Beverly Hills, not inside an industrial space in North Toronto. But it’s in this space, where these vehicles are either stretched and customized or armour clad (or both), that an upstart metal fabricating business with high aspirations of its own is equipping itself to become a major player in the fabricating business. Launched at end of 2012, Metaline is a division of the INKAS group of companies, a privately-held Canadian business specializing in security and protection ser-vices. The Metaline division was started up to fabricate sheet metal parts for other divisions of the INKAS group, which include the manufacturing of armoured vehicles, limousines and safes.

Armoured vehicles is the group’s largest division and has been growing for the past five years. “Since 2012 we have doubled our production, right now we produce more than 35 vehicles per month,” says Roman Shimonov, manager business development with INKAS. “And our goal next year is to double our production.”

The company designs and manufactures heavily armoured personnel carriers for armed forces the world over, as well as retrofitting those luxury cars often seen in presidential cavalcades. INKAS used to outsource its metal fabricating, but once its volumes began reaching over 30 cars per month, they elected to invest in their own fabricating machinery. The entire INKAS operation covers about 170,000 sq. ft., with the Metaline business occupying about 70,000 sq. ft. To outfit its metal fabricating business Metaline elected to go with Bystronic technology.

“We conducted our research, and in terms of service, quality of products, delivery times and maintenance issues, Bystronic was much better, not only on the laser, but also on the bending machines,” says Shimonov. The initial technology installed included a Bystronic Bystar 3015 CO. laser cutter and Xpert 150 press brake, followed by a Bystronic Xpert 650, a 650-ton press brake. For the armoured vehicles and the safe manufacturing businesses, Metaline works with 5.5- to 8-mm ballistic steels. The ballistic steel is designed to absorb energy and be able to stop bullets. Over time the company has learned how best to handle this special material, bending, cutting and welding it in ways that will not compromise its integrity. They have a local shooting range where products are tested with different calibers, speeds and distances. “We don’t take any risks,” says Shimonov. “Our role is to save lives, and that’s a huge responsibility.”

A walk around the production areas reveals the vertical integration of the INKAS companies’ vehicle production. For every limousine the company manufactures the side pan-els, doors, roof and floor areas along with the leather seats, along with having a woodworking area where they match the interiors of the luxury vehicles and an entire electronics area to further customize the vehicles. To keep up with internal production demands the capacity of the Metaline business was further enhanced in early February with the addition of a new Bystronic BySprint Fiber 3015 fiber laser cutter for thin to medium gauge sheet metal and a Bystronic Xcite 80 E electric press brake. Although in operation for a short period, Shimonov has been impressed with the new additions. “The performance of the 80-ton press brake Mite 80 El has been unbelievable. It’s very fast, and it looks good with its small footprint,” he says. He’s also been surprised by the speed of the new machine tools. “When you add another machine, logically you think you’re going to increase your production by 100 per cent. But here you increase it by 300 per cent. On paper it looks nice, but to see it actually cut-ting the metal, it’s really exciting. You don’t believe it’s metal. It’s like cutting through butter.”

The improved speed helps meet the tight deadline demands of their clients, and the shorter production time also benefits Metaline by reducing the need for extra work hours. Shimonov also points to the advantages of the precise laser technology. The clean cuts require less post-process grinding, and with small gaps between the parts combined with efficient nesting programs the amount of sheet metal waste is greatly reduced. “The technology we’ve purchased allows us to produce much more than we need for our internal use, so we have decided to expand and provide our fabricating services to other companies as well,” he says. Currently about 40 per cent of the Metaline business is dedicated to internal work while 60 per cent is external, servicing clients in various sectors including industrial, retail, medical and automotive.

“Our goal is to make the internal usage not more than five per cent,” he says. He points to a company that INKAS used to outsource to that is now sending work to Metaline because the speed of turnaround allows them to be more competitive. Metaline has a very aggressive sales structure, and is determined to continue expanding its business. “Within two years we want to more than double our production capabilities,” says Shimonov. They have already increased their crane capabilities, adding a magnet in order to load larger parts with less worker intervention. They’ve also engineered and constructed their own heavy duty shelving units to support heavy is metal sheets. According to Shimonov they’re able to hold three-times more than prior units. He also adds that the company is planning to install a Nitrogen generator, allowing it to produce nitrogen to feed the COs laser. With all the rapid changes, it’s the area of human resources that is proving to be a limiting factor to Metaline’s growth. The company is actively recruiting people to qualify them or to bring experienced people in and make them even more qualified. ‘This is the biggest challenge that we have. Because we’re growing fast, we need to have employees whose professional skills grow as fast as we do. We expect to be hiring a lot of people,” says Shimonov, noting that they have open positions for mechanical engineers, sales executives, as well as laser and bending operators. The company is ISO 9001 certified, and places added emphasis on process because of the standards it must meet for its internal clients.

“For us, it’s very important to build a structure with extra controls at every stage to ensure all clients are receiving the best quality parts.” The nature of Metaline’s work allows for no compromise. Safety is also an ongoing process internally, with weekly meetings and a dedicated person in the shop ensuring safety on the floor. Security is also ingrained through every aspect of the INKAS Group of companies. Metaline has built user-friendly and transparent ordering system that provide visibility from the shop floor to finished products and delivery. And as part of the larger INKAS professional security business, Metaline has developed secure systems to manage their inventories and all client files. When Shimonov describes the Metaline business, from the design engineering through to the shop floor and the finished products, he’s proud of the blend of technology and craft. “Our operators and engineers are like artists,” he says. “To the outside world metal fabricating looks like a very industrial sector, but when you have the right machines combined with the right knowledge and experience, it’s not so industrial but more of a high technology business.”

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