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SBWW Hamilton Spectator Article October 25 2008

Manufacturer finds room to grow

Superior Boiler Works is opening a new plant to keep up with rising demand
 

October 25, 2008

Meredith Macleod
The Hamilton Spectator
(Oct 25, 2008)

The only limit on growth for Superior Boiler Works and Welding was the size of its manufacturing shop.

The company was turning away jobs because it couldn't build tanks and vessels big enough for the petroleum, petrochemical, steel, water treatment and energy sectors.

But any size restrictions on what it can fabricate disappeared when the family-owned company more than doubled its space with a new plant in Stoney Creek.

"We are able to build bigger and heavier things faster," said David DeFaveri, vice-president.

That will open new markets domestically and internationally, he says.

"We really have unlimited capacity here in terms of weight and height," said Loris Gazzola, a company vice-president who looks after the manufacturing side.

"We're quoting jobs now for 600 tons."

Where once management and office staff were crammed two to a desk and squeezed into an outside trailer, they now stretch out in sleek and spacious offices. There is even a fully loaded employee gym and change rooms in the basement.

The company's 88,000-square-foot facility will be officially unveiled and celebrated today.

"This is a very good news story for the Hamilton manufacturing sector," said Neil Everson, executive director of the city's economic development and real estate division.

"Superior has been a strong business in Hamilton and this new facility is proof that manufacturing is still a vital component of our economy."

Yesterday, crews were busy erecting signs and putting the finishing touches on the sleek structure. But it's not technically new and neither is most of what's inside.

The manufacturing shop, with its soaring 12-metre-high roof, was once a steel plant in Owen Sound. DeFaveri spent months trolling demolition yards for light fixtures, furniture, office doors and glass.

Even the two, 90-ton overhead cranes that lift and move giant pipes and tanks are used.

"We really saved a lot of money and we recycled, too," DeFaveri said.

Superior is enjoying its busiest year ever. Ten per cent annual growth has been routine over the last decade, but that's boomed to 25 per cent in each of the last two years.

There are now 140 employees, a hike of about 15 per cent since the new plant opened. DeFaveri expects that tally to hit 200 by next year.

Inside the plant yesterday, workers were assembling energy panels for a district heating and cooling system to heat 170 homes in Markham. Across the shop floor, a welding torch blazed as a worker repaired the inside of a high pressure pump casing. Sparks flew as another employee cleaned a weld seam on a giant oxygen vessel for a local steel mill.

Superior engineers, designs, manufactures, installs, repairs and maintains its products, which also include heat exchangers, refrigeration systems and electrical control panels.

The construction and service side is busiest now, but DeFaveri predicts the manufacturing side will grow fastest as the company explores international markets.

Despite higher labour costs, Superior believes it can compete with offshore manufacturers with modern equipment, custom capabilities and more talented employees.

"Our employees are key to what we do," DeFaveri said. "It's their skills we're selling to customers."

The company's biggest job to date has been Hamilton's Bunge edible oil processing refinery, which opened this year.

Superior worked for 18 months and laid 12,800 metres of piping at the Burlington Street plant.

Superior Boiler Works dates back to 1962 when it started as a small welding and boiler shop on Superior Street just off Barton. It was founded by Frank Feltrin.

First cousins and Superior employees Valerio DeFaveri and Gianni Gazzola (along with now-retired partner Mario Mazzocato) bought it from him in 1969.

There were about a half-dozen employees then.

Their sons, both 38, started helping out at Superior at 12 years old, doing odd jobs and sweeping the floors after school and on weekends. Both got trade licences and went to school.

David DeFaveri is an engineer, steam fitter, refrigeration mechanic, gas fitter and welder.

Loris Gazzola is an engineering technologist, steam fitter, gas fitter and welder.

"My father always said that if you didn't know how to do a job yourself, you could never lead anybody," DeFaveri said. "And it gives you an appreciation for how hard your employees are working."

mmacleod@thespec.com

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