Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Business Review Canada
Quickmill delivers unique CNC drilling and milling solutions to an international customer base
Quickmill of Peterborough, ON may not be the largest manufacturer of computer numerical control (CNC) milling and drilling machines on the global stage, but it certainly ranks among the most innovative and customer-centric.
Incorporated in 1984 by engineer and current company Vice President Dave Piggott, Quickmill designs and builds large gantry milling and drilling and bridge-type machining centers used primarily in the metal cutting industry. The company has approximately 50 employees and, as a true one-stop solutions provider, its machines are used across a variety of sectors including the structural fabrication, oil and gas and power generation industries as well as the job shop market.
“Our machines can be used anywhere they are producing large components where they need metal removed,” says CEO and President Gordon Buchholz, who joined the company in 1991 as a machine assembler and service technician and worked in every phase of operations before his appointment to his current position in May 2010.
Piggott ran his own machine shop and Quickmill’s genesis can be traced back to his invention of the small machine to save on in-house labor by producing parts for some of his customers. “When they had seen what he had designed and built they said why don’t you build a machine for me? He did that for a few customers and basically saw there was a business need to build machinery for certain industries and he started to sell a few machines a year,” Buchholz relates.
Piggott shut down that machine shop and founded Quickmill, fabricating machinery for the structural steel and heat exchanger industries in the early years. The company moved into its current facility about 10 years ago and along the way has forged a sterling reputation for honesty and openness. Purchased in 2007, it is now a largely autonomous subsidiary of the Batliboi Group in India.
“We are not a big player and we are going against some major players. Our focus is to do a good job for our customers, to respect our customers and to always look after them,” Buchholz says. “What sets us apart is the way that we cater to the customer because we are not too big.”
The power of branding
Unlike many competitors, Quickmill had the foresight to brand its machines with unique names. The Intimidator line is a low-end drilling machine, the Eliminator a higher-end milling machine and the new Annihilator a complete machining center.
“Branding has been key to our success. People notice us because our brand image is different. We are unique. You know when someone says brand number 2525 it doesn’t really ring a bell. But if you say Intimidator, people think of that. We want people to remember our product and relate it to our company,” says Buchholz.
In branding the QUICKCARE service program that provides clients with ongoing training and assistance, Quickmill took a page from much larger corporations.
“You want to have a program instead of just saying ‘Well, here’s what we do in service.’ QUICKCARE is our technicians and is the value-add for our customers. We offer phone and field support, new machine warranty, spare and replacement parts, machine retrofits, tooling, and application support. It’s a whole business structure instead of just service. QUICKCARE is another way we brand our Quickmill name,” Buchholz notes.
Quickmill continually re-invests in research and development and new machines are designed with the intention of rendering older equipment obsolete. When new equipment is introduced, the company immediately begins brainstorming ways to improve upon it.
“When we bring out a new machine or re-design a machine and make improvements, we always want to make it so the other product really doesn’t have any more use. It’s still a great product but we’ve figured out a better mousetrap, something better and more economical for our customers,” says Buchholz.
The company has focused on the development of complete turn-key solutions for the past five years. When a client provides a sample part, Quickmill engineers the required solution.
“When it’s finished and on your plant floor, we’ve supplied you with a machine, the tooling, the fixtures, the training, and all the peripherals. There’s typically a learning curve of about six months with big machinery like this. We try to get the people good at it in about 30 days,” says Buchholz.
Unable to elaborate on specifics, Buchholz did mention a new Quickmill machine to be rolled out later this year that will complement the existing drilling line and is viewed to be the company’s most efficient product to date.
“This year we brought out the Annihilator because we needed a product in between our milling and drilling lines with a little bit bigger volume but not as heavy. We’ve sold three or four of them already. It does almost the same work as our higher-end machines. Instead of doing 100 percent of the job, it does 80 percent [for] significantly less in price,” says Buchholz.
In May, the company shipped an Eliminator R2515 boiler-making machine overseas to be used to fabricate high-temperature boilers for the energy industry. Buchholz says Quickmill started a concerted push into the international market in 2000 and sales are now split evenly between North American and global clients. He proudly points out that “our repeat sales can be as much as 45 percent for very expensive machinery.”
Quickmill purchases most of its raw materials and components in Canada and the USA although some are shipped from Taiwan and Japan.
People and training
Quickmill’s management team strives to empower its staff as much as possible, giving employees the authority to make decisions in the field.
“We try to give as much power as we can to the staff managers and employees to make decisions to run their departments like a business. They each basically run their own business and are accountable for their numbers. We try and get them to find ways to improve their efficiency and bring forward ideas to create and generate revenue,” Buchholz explains.
While the company seeks job-specific skills when recruiting both professional staff and hourly employees, new hires receive ongoing training.
“We do a lot of in-house training here because a lot of the work is specific to our industry. We have had guys that had no experience come in and they’ve trained them up and they’ve been technicians for 15 or 18 years and made a career here,” says Buchholz.
Already strong in South America, India, and the Middle East, the company anticipates further growth into Europe and Southeast Asia in the coming years. Quickmill plans to add sales staff and bolster its international distribution network.
“We’ve got new products that are coming out and our focus this year is on our marketing, doing international trade shows and getting more exposure in the international market,” Buchholz says. “We are a tight-knit group and we rely heavily on our staff to show our image to the world market.”
Kevin Doyle, Senior Editor