Innovative Processes Driven by Innovative People

Innovative Automation
Written by Claire Suttles

Innovative Automation’s rise to success has been supported by a deep knowledge of the industry, experience and exceptional technical capacity. The company was founded in 1989 by three gentlemen with a great deal of expertise and a drive to create a company all their own. They succeeded in an industry that they knew quite well.
As a result of the drive, industry expertise and abilities of James Carnegie, Paul Tyndall and Stephen Loftus, Innovative Automation was built into a world-class manufacturer, system integrator and automation solutions provider.

The trio left the machine builder for whom they had been working to start Innovative Automation. The goal was to identify potential customers with a demand for smaller equipment, test equipment or other projects.

“We all became sales guys instantly,” joked Stephen Loftus, president of Innovative Automation. “We had absolutely no work, no customers. We had a business plan of what we wanted to accomplish and set out to fill the building with orders.”

Within six months, they had obtained some substantial orders – much larger than they had initially anticipated. “We were able to secure a contract that was maybe four times the size of what we were going to do, with an unrealistic delivery timeline, which we were able to meet.”

Their hard work paid off, and to this day, that same drive needed to achieve that first order is displayed by every member of the team. Innovative Automation has grown through repeat business and the strength of a reputation based on quality delivery and consistent, on-time results.

The company offers a range of automation equipment to suit its clients’ diverse needs. From standalone cells to complete turnkey solutions, it works closely with its customers, listening to and understanding their every requirement. In doing so, Innovative Automation can guarantee the delivery of equipment that fully satisfies project goals.

Innovative Automation specializes in the design, fabrication and development of mechanical and electrical systems of automation cells. Its portfolio includes robotic assembly, welding and handling cells, automated assembly, automated testing, vision inspection systems and electrical control systems.

Customers represent a diverse range of sectors such as automotive, consumer products, electrical, electronics, pharmaceutical and plastics manufacturers. Innovative Automation has provided customized solutions for many Fortune 500 companies worldwide and has installed its systems in Canada, United States, Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom and the Czech Republic.

“One of the things we’ve always prided ourselves on is being a true custom machine builder,” Loftus noted. “We do not build a type of machine; we build to fit the application.”

To facilitate growth, Innovative Automation has rented a second location which is roughly one kilometre down the street from its main facility in Barrie, Ontario. This arrangement is only temporary as it has acquired over four acres of land from the City of Barrie and is currently in the preliminary stages of development at that property.

“The goal here is to build a building that is twenty-five percent larger than both facilities combined. That will be our initial building on that property, moving everybody under one roof to generate the efficiencies that come along with everyone being in one location,” Loftus explained. This property also leaves room to grow.

In the past, Innovative Automation had to turn away work when there was a belief that deadlines could not be met. The new facility will total 65,000 square feet and will help to streamline operations, improve communication and efficiency and greatly increase capacity. The space will also help the company to accommodate its next wave of growth.

Innovative Automation’s dedication to project delivery, meeting deadlines and achieving client satisfaction is of paramount importance. Though the market has experienced a downturn, Innovative Automation has remained steadfast and positioned for continued growth with an increase in demand for its products and solutions.

“If you look back to 2008, as a company, we never really had a recession,” acknowledged Loftus. “We were slow for about a month but, unlike most of our competitors, we did not have to reduce our staff size, which meant everybody that was here in 2013 to 2014 were the same people that were here in 2008.”

Remaining strong has enabled the company to retain its talent and expertise. Over the last eighteen months, Innovative Automation has added over fifty new employees to accommodate the rising demand. This growth has been possible given the strength of its long-term, highly-experienced and proficient team of employees.

“We really had a team that was built with upper level, intermediate, senior level employees. We did not have a lot of junior staff, so when the economy kind of exploded again, for us to grow was substantially easier than our competitors,” explained Loftus.

“The technical competency of our people is as good as you will find,” Loftus proudly stated. “Our people are specialists but they are specialists in multiple areas.” He noted that at larger firms’ highly-specialized employees are often restricted to one department. “We realize that we can’t have a guy that’s just a robot guy, a PLC guy. We can’t have a guy that’s just a motion guy.”

Innovative Automation’s employees are highly trained across various areas of expertise. “Our software guys are experts in the whole field of the control spectrum which our customers just love.” An employee who has a broader knowledge of the entire process results in less risk of a communication breakdown. More versatile employees have differentiated the company from others in the market.

“When you have an individual that is charged with the overall package, and is technically competent in the overall package, the process is much more streamlined, much more efficient and that’s the type of employee we try to develop,” Loftus explained. “We really spend a lot of time developing our employees.”

Innovative Automation attracts industry-leading talent through a strong commitment to co-operative education. The goal is to develop and foster long lasting relationships with employees to retain the experience and skill sets they bring. It exposes students to the work environment and takes stock of the next generation of industry employees.

“That’s part of our mandate. We’ve always really supported the co-op education model because it really lends itself to us. We can kind of test drive the employee and make sure that as much as the employee has to fit the company, we need to also fit the employee.” This summer, Innovative Automation will welcome a new wave of co-op students and potential employees.

There is great emphasis on training and continuous improvement. Training has been made an ongoing priority and as a result of this program of employee development, the company has further reinforced its reputation through its greatest asset: its people.

As we spoke, Loftus mentioned that a third of the employees were learning new guarding practices in a lunchroom-turned-classroom. Each month, Innovative Automation conducts a series of training programs and courses to invest in its people and bolster its technical abilities.

“Last month, we ran three training courses on the new robot standards. So, it’s not just the guys in design; we train our applications people, which are our sales guys. We train those guys to make sure that when they are quoting and communicating with the customer, the customer understands what the requirements are.”

In 2011, Innovative Automation was one of five inaugural winners of the award for Canada’s Safest Employer. The award is presented by Canadian Occupational Safety magazine and recognizes a company’s occupational health and safety elements, employee training, OHS management systems, policies, procedures and initiatives. In 2013, it received silver in the manufacturing category. In 2015, Innovative Automation was the proud recipient of the Gold Award for Young Worker Safety.

Sharing ideas is encouraged, and as a result, employees feel as if they have a stake in the processes and output. The company achieves success via its worker feedback process through which employees provide input that is considered and even implemented to improve safety and operational efficiency. In creating a culture where sharing ideas is encouraged, Innovative Automation fosters and encourages innovation at every level of its operations.

The company strives to be a leader in all that it does and goes one step further to support the community in which it operates. Innovative Automation is a major contributor to The United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters and a number of sports organizations in the community.

“Every business has a responsibility, socially, to their community. So, in my mind, what that is, we need to create healthy individuals. I like to think of youths. If you create a healthy young person, you are going to have a healthy adult.”

Innovative Automation is firmly rooted in the present with a strategic focus on the future. Once the new facility is complete and operations are all under one roof, Innovative Automation will be poised to have an even greater impact on the community and the markets of which it is a part.



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