Number of employees: 525
President: Daniel Pelletier
Primary markets: Canada, America
Furniture manufacturer bucks the trend
It’s no secret that Canadian manufacturers have had rough go of it during the past year. The rapid rise of the loonie, has been particularly hard on those who ship a large percentage of their output to the United States. But one Quebec-based furniture manufacturer pulled out all the stops in order to remain competitive.
“One of the areas that we were hardest hit in was labour costs. The currency swing vastly increased the relative costs of producing goods here,” said Daniel Pelletier, president of Granby-based Artopex Inc. “So we figured that the best way to adapt was to boost our productivity.”
Artopex bills itself as the only Quebec furniture manufacturer that produces a full line of furniture products in-house, including shelves, desks and cabinets. The company’s operations are housed in five facilities that encompass 575,000 square feet of production space. These are complemented with a vast distribution network that spans both Canada and the Untied States. Artopex’s 525 employees generated an impressive $70 million+ worth of sales last year and the number is expected to keep growing.
An increased focus on productivity
Pelletier’s productivity initiatives were spread among several fronts. For example one of the key effects of the loonie’s rise was to boost the relative advantage of investing in machinery and equipment as opposed to labour. But Pelletier invested in both. In addition to substantial investments in new technology and equipment from both the United Staes and Europe, Artopex also introduced new training initiatives so that employees could add more value to the production process.
In addition, changes were made to operations. The average production lot was cut, so that both delivery times and inventories were reduced.
The company also undertook a supplier rationalization to get better deals regarding raw materials and it passed many of the savings on to customers. The distribution network was also cut and as a result, Artopex products are now offered by fewer players that know the product better and that are better able to offer good service. Having dealers that are closer to the customer also aided in rationalizing product development.
Pelletier admits that the company’s extensive dollar hedging program was another key element in helping Artopex overcome the challenges posed by the loonie’s rise. But he remains optimistic about the future. “Our U.S. clients have remained extremely loyal to us,” said Pelletier. “They tell us that they are not just buying price they are buying quality too. We just hope that they will continue to do so.”
|© 2008 Peter Diekmeyer Communications Inc.|