Family history, changing industry

MTL Cool is a Canadian, family-run manufacturer founded in 1997 that specialises in point-of-purchase refrigerated displays. Founder Mark Bedard began working with his father in downtown Montreal repairing residential and commercial air conditioning units. The company was asked to design a refrigerated display to accommodate different products. It was that one custom request that kickstarted MTL Cool. The client list has since included brands such as General Mills, Danone, and Kraft Heinz.

The company opened a 4650 square meter facility in Chambly in 2017 and now has a second assembly plant in Plattsburgh, N.Y. Mark’s son Thomas has since joined the management, the fourth generation of family involved in the refrigeration business. “We’ve been through a few changes in terms of products since MTL Cool was created,” says Thomas Bedard, vice-president of production. “We were producing industrial chillers and heat pumps for a while. In 2014 we started importing a lot of material to build point-of-purchase refrigerators. As the supply chain can be unreliable, we decided to manufacture most of the materials ourselves.”

MTL Cool has always kept operations as streamlined as possible.

“We jumped head-first into the deep end with manufacturing,” said Bedard. “And it has paid off. We now import less than 10% of the material we use in production.”

Streamlined fabrication

MTL Cool works in cold-rolled steel, galvanized, and some aluminium; the thickest sheet it uses is 3.2 mm. With the variety of secondary features required in refrigeration units, a punch press was a natural fit.

The company invested in an LVD Strippit PX-1530 punch press, which allows it to punch, bend, tap, and form parts with flanges up to 75 mm high. Its tool changer features all-tool rotation to a full 360 degrees and can hold up to 200 tools. The punch is equipped with a tower that can facilitate lights-out operation.

To ensure that the press brake could easily adapt to order changes without concerns about tool changes, MTL Cool equipped itself with an LVD ToolCell 135/30. All of the tool loading/unloading is automated. It is equipped with LVD’s Easy-Form® Laser, which monitors the angle of the bend in real time to provide instant feedback to the controller.

The metal fab department is managed by three team members during the day. All programming for both machines is done offline in the office using LVD’s CADMAN software. At night a two-man crew keeps both machines going. This is the only area at the facility that runs two shifts. In addition, the company has its own powder coating and foam injection machinery, such that it can build panels for its refrigerators.

Shifting priorities

Since the company first invested in its equipment, business has increased such that it has had to change its approach in the production department.

“Ideally we would purchase more equipment, but we don’t have the square footage available,” says Bedard. “Instead, we are outsourcing our higher volume, cheaper parts, keeping in-house complicated, critical parts and prototyping.”

The flexibility of its automated machines means that running highmix, low-volume parts is relatively straightforward for MTL Cool. “We used to have subcontractors doing our prototype parts,” explains Bedard. “Now, if we know we will be cutting parts in a certain thickness on a certain day, we will include prototype items on those nests. Having that flexibility is a real benefit because prototyping new products takes a great deal of time.” This flexibility is ultimately helping the company grow.

“Since MTL Cool began to market and sell our own products made in Canada and the USA, the growth trajectory has been very strong,” says Bedard. “We are making significant strides with major retailers in the grocery industry and look to continue to bring needed, innovative, and quality products to the market. We continue to implement actions to increase the use of our existing facilities and are looking at strategic plans to take it to the next level.”

Canadian Fabricating & Welding - April 2022