Innovative Automation Inc.
Innovative Automation Inc. has been providing customized automation solutions for a range of industries since 1989. Established by Stephen Loftus, Jim Carnegie and Paul Tyndall, the business has grown rapidly over the last quarter century. While Carnegie and Tyndall have since retired, Loftus continues to lead the business as company president. With a team of 95 employees in Barrie, Ontario, he works on a daily basis with customers in the commercial and industrial sectors to build innovative machinery.
“When we started this company, we were working for another automation company,” Loftus recalls. “Of course, we did our due diligence – we finished our work on a Friday and left. The next Monday, we went to an empty rental unit, and said, ‘Let’s get at it.’”
Integrating sales and manufacturing has long been a tenet of Innovative Automation. In the early days of the company’s history, Loftus and his partner built relationships with customers by knocking on doors – everyone worked in sales. “We did that for six months until we had some volume of work,” he says. “At that point we were able to get our hands on some nice sized contracts. We got one our first year for $250,000 that launched us out of the starting block and we never looked back. Once we had that job, we got out, built up our equipment for the machine shop, hired people and moved forward from there.”
Loftus still considers every member of his staff as part of the sales team. “What you’re doing for work here is selling the next machine,” he explains. “That’s our philosophy; everyone understands responsibility in our corporation to ensure the next sale happens. We do that by making sure the customer is satisfied this time so that next time the choice is easy.”
The Innovative Automation team knows that its customers have options when it comes to machine work. To set themselves apart, Loftus and his colleagues approach machine building from a different angle than most in the market. “We’re quite a bit different from standard machine builders,” says Loftus. “We start every project with a clean slate and go in without any expectations.”
The team embodies expertise in machine building for diverse applications, including plastics and metals, the automotive industry, appliance manufacturing and everything in between. Therefore, the business is able to draw from experience in all areas to improve performance, durability and safety of final products. By bridging the gaps between customers’ industries, Innovative Automation is able to offer more creative solutions than its competitors.
“Our primary focus is assembly and testing,” says Loftus. “We’re dong the machining, welding, riveting, pressing together, and using all different technology to assemble our products. Beyond fabrication, we have very sophisticated testing capabilities.”
The technology Innovative Automation uses for testing is as diverse as that the team uses in assembly. “We might be testing something new, such as a supply component,” Loftus notes. “We do functional testing and data collection and manipulation so we can look at trends within the product. Many companies test pass/fail; we trend to see what’s happening inside the product and make changes proactively.”
This level of attention to detail is unusual in the custom fabrication market. Often, Loftus and his team find themselves educating clients about options they never knew they had. Much of the technology used in the testing process can also be applied for preventative maintenance. “Some people want it, some don’t,” says Loftus. “But there is a lot of value in providing that information to our customers. We feel that it is important to our relationships to serve s partners throughout development and implementation of each job.”
Loftus and his colleagues have been involved with a number of complex fabrication contracts over the years. The team recently completed a project for Gojo Soap, fabricating liquid soap dispensers. Other work includes a series of large, robotic production lines for a manufacturing customer in Mexico.
“Everyone has those milestone jobs,” Loftus adds. “One of the most memorable for us was our first laser welding job. It was also one of our largest projects, and it was a good example of how the customer could have bought this machinery from other fabricators in North America but in the end, they came to us because they wanted something a little bit different and more innovative. That machine had large uptimes versus what the competitors had offered. There can be a lot of maintenance involved with laser welding, but our system cut the maintenance substantially. That was a large project on a tight timeline, in a new industry, but it helped us build an inroad to that market.”
Innovative Automation is also looking out for the next challenge. Whether building soap dispensers, robotic auto manufacturing lines or one-of-a-kind custom projects, the business continues to grow while maintaining relationships with clients, suppliers and strategic partners. Loftus expects significant growth over the next year as Innovative Automation Inc. provides a high level of service and innovation to customers in new markets throughout North America.