Unirope Expands in Ontario7 February 2024
Mississauga, Ontario-based Unirope Limited has added 50,000 square feet of manufacturing space to its headquarters, improving lead times by as much as 400%.
Unirope is a specialist in the manufacture, distribution, testing, certification, and inspection of high-performance wire rope and rigging products. It has additional facilities in Quebec and Alberta; the three sites combine to deliver a service nationwide and to select customers in the U.S. and Europe.
The expansion represents completion of a journey that started in 2018, prior to ground-breaking two years later, and a major construction project that concluded in 2021. Since then, further investment has been committed to equipping the facility with a suite of state-of-the-art machining and fabrication equipment, centered on wire rope fabrication, synthetic sling manufacturing and computer numerical control (CNC) technology.
Justin Brown, president at Unirope, said: “At a minimum we have cut lead times in half, and in the best case we have seen a 400% improvement. We are moving towards modernizing the traditional rigging shop model. The words ‘rigging shop’ and ‘modern’ are rarely mentioned in the same breath. Many of the products are heavy and lined with grease, and most factories are stuck in the 1980s with equipment from the 1960s. Not us.”
He continued: “We have implemented material handling solutions to help with heavy lifting; installed modern machinery to make reeling, cutting, and fabrication easier; utilized technology to put work instructions at the fingertips of production workers; installed a full machine shop with modern [CNC] capabilities for custom wire rope end fittings; upgraded ventilation to keep the air clean; and fitted environmentally friendly plant lighting alongside fit-for-purpose test units.”
The majority of Unirope’s work is on customized rigging products; an interesting statistic, for example, is that 90% of all chain slings that it manufactured in 2023 were unique, either in size, length, or configuration. The business can proof test up to 1.3 million pounds, and the highest single vertical sling capacity in the portfolio is 600,000 pounds.
68 years in the making
Unirope, which has been servicing the industry since 1956, already had two warehouses in Mississauga, but it was running out of space to store growing inventory, and the situation was starting to impede production. It would have been impossible to navigate an aggressive phase of growth without expanding and streamlining operations.
Brown said: “With strategic machinery updates, we were able to eliminate certain labor intensive tasks, and ease the burden on production employees. The work is difficult, so anything we could do to make the jobs more efficient, eased the physical impact on our employees. Remember, unemployment is at an all-time low, so we have to optimize our workforce. The overall investment led to efficiencies that allowed us to eliminate bottlenecks, deliver faster, and increase our outputs.”
An automatic wire rope cutting line, plus additional swagers and upgraded annealing machines will be operated with an additional test bed and a third Twin-Path® machine. Additional warehouse space also meant that inventory could also be increased across all product lines, including Python® high-performance wire rope, Grade 100 chain, and range of Crosby rigging hardware. Python® wire rope is stocked in a wide variety of constructions for tower cranes, mobile and truck cranes, overhead cranes, and gantry cranes. These ropes are widely used in construction, automotive, and industrial applications. Unirope also stocks a variety of other standard and custom ropes, all meeting national and international standards.
Brown added: “We have built a diversified customer base over the last 68 years and continue to build on that strategy. Our customers, without exception, are looking for professional and attentive service. They want our input and expertise; they are not looking for the cheapest and untested; they want reliability and quality.”