Incorporating traditional practices and family-run business values into modern markets and technological advancements is no longer like mixing oil with water. As a Canadian manufacturing company that balances family practice and tradition with state-of-the-art technology to create a successful and thriving business, Autotube exemplifies this combination.
Autotube is a tier-one Canadian manufacturer of automotive supplies. Its products range from oil and water tubes, to oil transmission indicator tubes and oil dipstick products. The company’s president and chief executive officer, Peter Hall, took over this family business from his father (Autotube’s founder) after completing his engineering and MBA degrees at Western University.
With 40 years of experience in the industry and an employee base that stays current with technological advances and market changes, Autotube ships directly to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) all over the world. Ninety per cent of its sales are directed toward foreign manufacturers in the United States, Mexico, South Korea, and Brazil, to name a few. The remaining 10 per cent of sales are shipped to major Ontario auto manufacturers in Cambridge, Woodstock, Oakville, and Oshawa.
The Hall family opened Autotube’s first location in 1975 in Strathroy, Ontario, an auto production hub at the time. Autotube expanded its client base from Ontario to manufacturers south of the border in Michigan, and later, Kentucky. The small Canadian manufacturer used the old-fashioned method of face-to-face interaction to acquire its American clients during on-site visits. In the company’s efforts to keep up with changes in the markets and the migration of engine manufacturing to foreign nations, the shift further south continued: Autotube expanded through North America and overseas to other parts of the globe.
A second manufacturing facility was built in Watford, Ontario later. Both facilities feature the latest technology and manufacturing techniques for car tubes and indicator products. These products are made with the aid of Autotube’s six welding robots and two “collaborative” robots.
THE COLLABORATIVE ROBOTS ARE CAPABLE OF COMPLETING MUNDANE TASKS WHILE STATIONED IN AN ENVIRONMENT WHERE OTHER EMPLOYEES CAN SAFELY WORK AROUND THE ROBOTS WITH MINIMAL GUARDING.
Hall speaks of the company’s plans to purchase up to six more of the collaborative robots. These robots reduce costs and the need for employees to perform repetitive tasks. Hall is certain the increase in automation will not affect the need for employment but rather, will reduce costs for the company, allowing it to maintain competitive prices and further expand the business.
The shift toward more automation is perfectly in line with workers’ changing preferences: today’s youth are looking for more cerebral work, and this is exactly the type of work Autotube will offer in the future. As manual labour plays an ever decreasing role in manufacturing plants, the hiring of cheap labour abroad is disadvantageous. Rather, local workers with computer programming skills and expertise in data entry and software will be sought to manage Autotube’s robots.
Today, Autotube stands as a major supplier in its niche market of automotive tube products. Hall is thankful for the success the company experienced following recovery from the 2008 recession. He predicts another bump in the road around 2021, when the economy will be due for a downturn. However, Autotube expects to ride out these bumps. The company’s efforts to innovate and switch to a lean manufacturing culture will help it adapt to future changes. Hall emphasizes the vital role of Autotube’s loyal and dedicated workforce in the company’s success. By investing more and more to provide in-house metrics and data to its workers, Autotube is looking to improve processes in as many areas as possible.
THROUGH IMPLEMENTING LEAN MANUFACTURING CONCEPTS, TEAM BUILDING ACTIVITIES, AND WASTE REDUCTION TECHNIQUES, THE COMPANY AIMS TO MAINTAIN A STRONG RELATIONSHIP WITH ITS EMPLOYEES.
Autotube has been successful in using select government programs to supplement training and quality for its employees. The company hopes to continue taking advantage of these programs, and earn more research and development (R&D) credits to expand its product line. Further, Autotube plans to dedicate increasing resources to R&D in the future through potential education partnerships and student internship programs. Its prototype shop is already in the midst of developing new, all-plastic tubes to be used in the lightweight cars of the future.
By maintaining the Hall family’s values of local business and employment while adapting to global markets and expanding in all fields of potential business, Autotube has achieved harmony between tradition and modernization. With projected growth of 5 to 10 per cent in the next three years, and potential plans for further expansions in Ontario, Autotube is building foundations to thrive in the years to come.
Read more about Autotube on their website.
Autotube Limited is a tier 1 supplier to the automotive industry that produces motor vehicle parts & accessories. The company has two manufacturing facilities located near Strathroy, Ontario, offering a full range of services from designing and prototyping to tooling & full production.
Headquarters: 300 High Street East, Strathroy Ontario, N7G 4C5
Other facilities: 7963 Confederation Line Watford, Ontario N0M 2SO
- Peter Hall, President
Year established: 1975
Number of employees: 180
Total plant size: 120,000 sq ft.
Expected growth: Between 5 to 10% over the next 3 years
Line of business
NAICS: 371201 – Automobile Parts & Supply
NAICS: 333999 – All Other Miscellaneous
Products include water inlet/outlet, oil/transmission indicator guide tubes, coolant tubes, air management tubes, & oil/transmission fluid level indicators.
Industry Sector: includes tubular & dipstick products & Prototyping & design services
Customers: major clients include: large manufacturers: GM, Chrysler, Toyota
10% within Canada: Auto plants in Cambridge, Woodstock, Oakville and Oshawa
90% of sales are outside of Canada: Mexico, Australia, Korea, Hungary, Thailand, Brazil
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Employees: most are local & live within an hour’s drive from the facilities.
- Floor workers: primarily on-the-job training
- Technical people: traditional skill trades (tool makers, millwright etc.) & programming or electrical skills.
- Looking for people with computer skills (Eg: programming capabilities to help with robotic system & automation)
- Looking for supervisors that have lean manufacturing experiences
Autotube was established in 1975 in Strathroy. The company has over 35 years of experience in manufacturing tubes & fluid level indicators for automotive applications.
Due to the niche-type products produced, the competition is limited, with 4 or 5 main competitors overall, all of which are located in the US
- Utilizes the IRAP program & SR&ED program offered through the Government
- No formal educational partnerships, though they are interested in exploring the option of hiring interns in the field of engineering (eg. electronics, robotics or industrial engineering)
- Located near both their customers & suppliers
- Very good workforce
- Comparatively low labour costs in Ontario
- Corporate taxes may increase soon
- Potential downturn in Auto industry (2021)
- Labour turnover
- Automation and robotics in the manufacturing process
- Ability to offset some labour cost by using robot automation
- Making new products