Taking Automation Integration to New Levels

RAMP, Inc.
Written by Pauline Muller

Specializing in custom automation design-build and equipment fabrication, RAMP, Inc. has turned itself into a veritable powerhouse of innovation, harnessing technology to fabricate next-generation manufacturing equipment and inspection and material handling systems for customers in industries like consumer goods, medical devices, transportation, and others around the globe. Recession-proof and self-sufficient to its core, this company is set to be around for many decades to come.

Based in Waterloo, Ontario, this respected name in the industry is known for sophisticated customer support and for delivering superb quality without fail. This explains its considerable list of longstanding customers, including some of the planet’s biggest fabricators. As RAMP is especially famous for its autonomous mobile robot technology, customers come from as far away as Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States, and beyond. It is also known for its planar motor technology, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA), and reporting alongside standard products and services like automated assembly and test equipment.

This leading Canadian automation systems integrator and product developer has a team of over 30 people who live, eat, and sleep systems integration, a skill that has led to the company’s reputation spreading by word-of-mouth. Combining forces with its parent company, Samuel Automation Solutions Group, in 2022 has given RAMP the presence and backing it needed to reach an entirely new level.

The team has a rare depth of expertise in the field, and its pioneering spirit drives the firm to continue pushing the boundaries of possibility. As a result, its clients are typically very pleased with its products and services.

“Our supplier partners benefit from having the products they distribute performing exceptionally in the field. This high performance becomes a showcase of their capabilities and ours,” says Mike Balzan, Director of Sales.

After welcoming its first customers in 2010, the company’s first large expansion happened in 2015 with a move to a new facility. Within the next five years, RAMP broke several more sales records, making it an ideal acquisition for Samuel Automation Solutions Group, North America’s renowned complex automation giant.

As developing equipment can take five months to a year, to provide customers with top-quality equipment performance, the design team, insists on conducting an in-depth conceptualization, gathering all the information needed. This phase includes gathering materials and components, defining the manufacturing process, and ensuring that the team has the capabilities to fabricate according to specifications. Thanks to the rapidly changing nature of technology, it is not uncommon in this industry to work with concepts for which the required materials do not exist yet; consequently, material sourcing typically precedes in-depth testing to ensure that what works in theory also works in practice.

Once all the preliminary work is complete, price estimations are followed by a complex design process, prototyping, and fabrication before integration and pretesting happen. Once the customer is satisfied, equipment is shipped and assembled again and the integration and pretesting process is repeated before the installation is considered complete and the project is signed off.

There are several benefits to partnering with RAMP, including the company’s significant investments in design and technological capabilities which create huge gains for its customers. “Our design capabilities guarantee the success of projects. This allows our supply partners to become part of the project specifications,” says Balzan. “This ensures repeat business and internal notability, which is very powerful when customer manufacturing engineering departments are assessing new projects and setting standards.”

It is important to use RAMP, Inc. equipment according to its specifications to ensure optimum performance and longevity. Failing to do this can cause problems as the aftermath of premature product failure due to the incorrect use of machines can be nothing short of spectacular—with dire consequences and far-reaching, unfair damage to the good name of well-qualified, respected developers.

The company’s close relationships with supply firms and the educational aspect of its work are, therefore, imperative to maintaining its reputation for excellence—another element at which the company has always excelled. RAMP, Inc.’s well-known endurance in all fields has garnered the firm significant recognition, recently landing it the nod for its two biggest projects to date.

Due to its customers’ continued success, the company has continued to grow despite the economic challenges of recent years. Part of its strength lies in its well-equipped, modern facilities, with over 20,000 square feet of workspace enhanced by a custom operations management system to ensure smooth workflow.

“We have exceptional talent here at RAMP. Having a small team, we must be leaders in our disciplines—both in senior and junior positions,” says Balzan. “Our hiring practices are very selective, and we have a great group of people here. The customer feedback I get is great and it feels good to hear this from all levels.”

Indeed, the company has a history of tenacity. Right in the beginning, its initial team of four completed an enormous order considering the company’s size at the time, chasing a near-impossible deadline with everything they had in them. As employee number four, Balzan was part of that team. Doing everything from applications engineering to sales, project management, and more, he came to know the company inside out.

“I recall drilling and tapping hundreds of holes to the point that I had to wear insulated gloves to keep my hands from burning because the hand drill I was using was so hot,” he says. The hard work paid off as that client’s business brought historical expansion to the company.

“Our whole team was assembling, under the direction of our Manufacturing Manager, Ken McDonald. Once we got all the assemblies ready, our Vice President of Operations, Tom Nitsche, drove the forklift and loaded the trucks to meet the deadline,” Balzan adds. Ready to roll at eleven p.m. on a Friday, suffice it to say that this small group takes great satisfaction in looking back on the value of that work and delivering a huge system that worked perfectly. Grit and innovation have continued to define RAMP to this day.

Its hiring process is thus one of great discernment, and retaining the workforce it has handpicked over many years is one of the company’s priorities. While training new staff comes with its challenges, the company finds that its engineering team’s hard-earned, industry-specific knowledge and experience go a long way toward building the expertise needed to outperform the competition.

In addition, the company puts a lot of time into supporting local colleges in producing the future workforce, with Balzan as an industry representative at Conestoga College. He also serves on two program advisory committees, chairing one. As part of these efforts, the company takes in co-op students from both the college and the University of Waterloo, and nearly all participants are employed following their internships.

Ensuring the continuous development of staff remains imperative. As such, salaries compare to some of the best in the industry. The company also creates a sense of ownership by working with staff to develop each person’s vision for their future career development. That not only provides people with a road map but makes the firm’s intentions in terms of promotion clear. By removing doubt and uncertainty from people’s career equations and adding the element of opportunity, the company goes a long way toward building staff retention and labour stability.

In addition, seeing that people live rewarding lives beyond their desks, workstations, and the field is a priority at RAMP. This commitment comes with a host of work possibilities, like flex-time, offsite office hours, and more. RAMP also offers a specialized incentive program whereby staff members are financially rewarded every year for their contributions over and above their day-to-day tasks. The outcome is that people are always willing to go the extra mile when the pressure is on.

With this focus to succeed, RAMP, Inc. continues to meet the future, fully focused on diversification. Balzan reports market projections from five years ago going as expected with regard to the increase of artificial intelligence and automation. As such, growth remains constant, and as the Samuel group continues to improve its capabilities and asset base in conjunction with the company’s sales, expanding its geographic reach will no doubt continue to prove lucrative.

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