Some success stories get their start in times of adversity. That’s the case for Advantage Machine & Tool Inc. of Mitchell, ON, about 90 minutes’ drive west of Toronto. The company was founded in 1992 as a sole proprietorship, during the economic downturn of the early 90s. At the time there was strong demand for quality machining thanks to a serious shortage of skilled machinists and widespread downsizing across many industries. Founder Mike
Kelly saw an opportunity to leverage the reputation and broad
network of contacts he had developed over many years.
It didn’t take long for his decision to be vindicated.
Starting out in rented shop space, within a year Advantage
had to move to a larger space at its current location. In 1999,
after steady growth, Advantage bought the 10,000 sq ft
premises outright, expanding the office and plant facilities
to accommodate growth.
Advantage was incorporated in 1996 and ISO 9001:2000
certified in 2004. In the last few years the company has
purchased a number of high production machining centres and
hired 20 new employees, bringing total payroll to 60.
Advantage’s main customer base is in automotive, aerospace
and agriculture, says general manager Adam Zurbrigg.
“Customer demand is very steady. In fact we’ve added a full
weekend shift in order to run seven days a week.”
The aerospace and automotive markets account for the
largest volume of business, Zurbrigg says, though the volume
of agriculture and medical work is also significant. Advantage’s
repertoire includes tools and dies, jigs and fixtures, welding and
light fabricating, prototyping, and complex gauging.
The company has seen significant growth in automation
projects. “We’ve definitely grown that side of the business,”
Zurbrigg says. “We’ve done projects as large as over $1 million,
in terms of modifications or rework projects. We have a
complete controls group here that does our programming: full
PLC-based automation projects.”
Assembly machines probably account for the largest portion
of automation projects. “The customer will come in and have
three or four parts that need to get nested together, that need
to get staked or glued. We’ll look at improving their efficiencies
so that an operator in their plant isn’t doing it; we assist them in
getting some automation in the process.”
Advantage has been doing prototyping for a long time,
and includes work for an automotive supplier’s new parts
R&D. “When it comes to the prototyping, we do pretty much
everything,” Zurbrigg says. “We provide brackets, inserts... all
www.shopmetaltech.com OCTOber 2017
16 | COVER STORY - JOb ShOPS | Ontario
Made to Measure
From its inception in a tough climate, Advantage has been
increasing its high precision and automation repertoire
by ANdrew brOOkS
Advantage Machine & Tool Inc.,
years in business: 25
services: design and prototyping,
machine types: Swiss turning,
VMCs, horizontal CNC lathes
Machinist Jordan Court, left, with Adam Zurbrigg. The company has seen
significant growth in automation projects with some projects valued at more
than $1 million.