Finning’s Centre of Excellence builds for future

Finning Canada’s Centre of Excellence remains a facility in transition.

Finning Canada’s Centre of Excellence remains a facility in transition.

The 200,000 square feet of shop and office space that Finning acquired when it bought Collicutt Energy Services Ltd. nearly three years ago has undergone some $5.5 million worth of renovations and additions. And work continues.

Finning is in the process of dedicating all 12 bays in its south building to equipment overhauls.

This reflects the growing demand of Caterpillar customers to have their machinery refurbished rather than replaced.

“Caterpillar equipment is made to go two lives,” explained plant manager Scott Wakefield, adding that machinery like bulldozers, trucks and graders can be overhauled for about half the cost of buying new.

Not only are customers taking advantage of these economies, the timelines for overhauling equipment can be much shorter than buying new.

There are also environmental benefits to recycling machinery rather than replacing it.

A complete overhaul takes four to eight weeks, although Finning also contracts for rapid turnarounds in which staff works round-the-clock to ensure a bulldozer is removed from the jobsite for no more than 21 days.

The refurbishment of equipment involves stripping it down to the frame and Magnafluxing it to detect cracks and other flaws.

Repairs are performed as required, with new and refurbished parts and components added. Once painted and reassembled, the equipment looks and performs like new.

“The machine overhaul business has grown much faster than what we thought,” said Wakefield.

And with the strength of the Caterpillar brand and the volume of its equipment currently in the field, this segment of Finning’s business should continue to grow.

The Centre of Excellence’s second building, which has a larger shop, is where new equipment preparation work is being concentrated.

“We don’t sell a standardized product,” said Wakefield of the need for such post-factory modifications.

“Caterpillar manufactures a standardized product and that’s what we get from them. But our customers require customization.”

For instance, a bulldozer slated for use in an oilsands tailings pond must undergo a variety of changes. These include elevating its radiator and even installing an escape hatch for the operator to use in an emergency.

“There about 800 hours of assembly on these,” said Wakefield.

A third segment of operations at Finning’s Centre of Excellence is track frame and component repairs.

This work supplements that performed at Finning’s remanufacturing facility in Edmonton, which focuses on larger components.

Wakefield said that the Red Deer Centre of Excellence was developed to support Finning’s network of branches across Western Canada.

Previously, much of its work was performed at the branch level.

“It was kind of a gap we had.”

Looking forward, Wakefield anticipates that activity at the Red Deer plant will continue to increase.

“I do see us as needing more space in the next couple of years,” he said, suggesting that one option might be to set up supporting operations at other locations in the city.

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