Hamilton, Ontario is well known for its steel plants, fruit farms and waterfalls. Today, this quiet community located just west of the province's capital city of Toronto is also at the heart of a global technology giant's expansion strategy.

In May 2013, Toshiba International Corp. in Houston, Texas – a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba Corp. – acquired Elettra Technology Inc., a Hamilton-based custom manufacturer of industrial electric motors. It was the first motors company acquisition in Toshiba's 138-year history.

The goal behind the deal: to grow Toshiba's industrial motors product lines by leveraging the Ontario company's 17 years of experience in designing and manufacturing large motors for complex and specialty applications. Three years after the acquisition was completed, the new business – named Toshiba Industrial Products Canada Ltd. – is building larger and more sophisticated motors in a renovated state-of-the-art 63,000-square-foot facility.

The company has, for instance, built several specialty large motors for reciprocating compressors on natural gas pipeline and storage projects. Toshiba has also landed a number of new contracts for municipal clean water projects in the U.S., as well as for public transit systems in major cities such as Toronto and New York.

"We've expanded," says Walter Silva, managing director of Toshiba Industrial Products Canada. "With larger cranes and more space in the new plant, we have opportunities to work on larger motors than we did at Elettra. And because Toshiba has a larger sales force, we are able to get a lot more work in a range of industries, including water and waste water, oil and gas, power generation, mining and agriculture."

Four people from Toshiba Canada presented with innovation award
Toshiba Industrial Products Canada (TIPCA) receives Innovation Award from Toshiba International Corporation (TIC) in Houston.
Pictured from left to right : Shuji Hombo, TIC Chief Quality Executive, Walter Silva, TIPCA Managing Director, Kyle Kem, TIC Social Infrastructure Group President, Anna Herrera, TIC Quality Systems Manager.

Skilled labour a key factor in investment decision

Toshiba's decision to invest and stay in Ontario was driven by a number of factors, says Silva. The city and province's pool of skilled labour was definitely a key consideration. Toshiba ended up hiring all of Elettra's roughly 35 employees and has since added about 15 more workers to the company payroll.

"The Hamilton area has a lot of skilled labour with experience in the industrial sector," says Silva. "The other thing that was very appealing to Toshiba was the fact there are a lot of universities and colleges in the area. We make engineered products, and a lot of good engineers are coming out of the McMaster University and the University of Waterloo, while colleges such as Mohawk College are producing good machinists and other types of skilled workers."

Transportation hub: Easy access to customers was a major selling feature

The front of the Toshiba building in Hamilton
Toshiba's Hamilton plant

The Hamilton plant makes products for customers in Canada, the United States and to the Middle East. Its Ontario location was a key selling feature for Toshiba, says Silva, because this ensured the company could easily transport its products to where they needed to go. He notes that the city of Hamilton is close to the U.S. border and has quick access to major highways, a rail line, and two major airports – one in Toronto and the other in Buffalo, New York.

"Hamilton also has a big port," says Silva. "It really is a transportation hub."

With its focus on constant innovation, Toshiba is well situated in Ontario. Being in Hamilton also puts Toshiba in a prime spot for collaboration with other innovative organizations, says Silva. The city is home to the McMaster Innovation Park, part of a dynamic ecosystem that supports start ups and R&D.

A dynamic ecosystem that supports innovation

Toshiba is also located along Ontario's technology corridor, which stretches from Toronto in the east and London in the west. This corridor is fed by a constant stream of graduates from Ontario's 44 colleges and universities.

"There are definitely opportunities for partnerships with other innovative organizations," says Silva. "We've been working closely with some groups from the McMaster Innovation Park."

Toshiba has already made significant investments in technology and processes in its new Hamilton location. Its new facility includes 58,000 square feet of manufacturing space and more advanced technology. The company also recently launched a Six Sigma innovation program and now boasts a number of employees certified as Six Sigma Green Belt, a designation based on the ability to solve quality problems and implement quality improvement projects.

"As part of one of the Green Belt projects we implemented last year, we lowered our non-conforming parts and reduced our costs by investing in new equipment for inspections," he says. "As we try to enter new markets, we're always looking for ways to cut costs and improve efficiency. We've invested in capital expenditures every year and will continue to invest in this facility."

Sector/subsector: 

December 9, 2016

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