Every month, discover a Sherbrooke Company Profile…
Designing and manufacturing plastic parts and products using injection and blow molding
- Creation: 2012
- Sites: Sherbrooke and Richmond (Québec) // Howe (Indiana, USA) // Coldwater and Troy (Michigan, USA) // San Juan del Rio (Mexico)
- Number of employees: 700, including 32 at the head office in Sherbrooke
- Target markets: Automotive // Industrial // Consumer Goods
Possessing a combination of the drive and flexibility of youth and business maturity gained over the years… this is an apt description of the reality of Exo-s, a start-up company that already has 40 years of experience!
Exo-s was established in 2012 to accelerate the growth of the Thermoplastic/Polymer Solutions division of Camoplast Solideal, which has been in operation since 1982. Camoplast had been pursuing the injection molding activities introduced by Bombardier in 1968.
Moving into high gear
“Even with its 500 employees at the time, the Thermoplastic division represented only a small fraction of Camoplast Solideal, and had a corresponding impact on decision-making, which was of course based on in the best interests of the entire group. It became obvious that the best way to achieve the division’s full potential for expansion was to let it stand on its own,” said Emmanuel Duchesne, President and CEO of Exo-s and former General Manager of the division.
This is how the management team started out – on a quest for funding, which it obtained from Capital régional et coopératif Desjardins, an investment fund managed by Desjardins Venture Capital.
Now, two years later, Exo-s shows an annual growth of 10%, has hired an additional 250 employees, acquired a new manufacturing plant in Mexico, and invested more than $12M in its three other plants located in Canada and the U.S. The company manufactures injection- and blow-molded thermoplastic systems primarily for the automotive industry.
“All this is the result of Exo-s’ new decision-making power in terms of its priorities, which are more closely associated with its objectives, as well as the rich market and business experience it inherited from Camoplast Solideal,” explained Duchesne. “For example, our management and strategic thinking processes are largely based on theirs. Our progress in lean manufacturing is also based on the experience of Camoplast Solideal. As a start-up company, Exo-s is exceptionally fortunate to have a solid and proven foundation to build upon.”
Performance through innovation
Of course, it goes without saying that part of Exo-s’ experience can be attributed to its staff, most of whom are Camoplast Solideal employees who remained in place. “The loyalty and rallying force of the entire team were motivating factors behind the decision to create Exo-s, and today they are the key contributors to our success,” stressed Duchesne.
Some 30 engineers, technicians, designers, etc., work at Exo-s’ headquarters in Sherbrooke, where the company is focusing on R&D, innovation, and product design. “We must constantly be on the lookout for the latest developments, and remain at the forefront by testing new processes, materials, and technologies that meet the market’s needs. For example, car manufacturers are always looking for lighter parts; this is achievable by substituting metal with plastic.”
To support its innovation efforts, Exo-s is collaborating with the Université de Sherbrooke by developing new plastic resins and conducting acoustic studies, for example.
P.S. to UdeS students: This Sherbrooke company offers internships in various programs – engineering, human resources, finance, etc. “This way, we help train the next generation of workers, while introducing them to Exo-s’ culture. We are proud to say that many of our interns pursue their careers by joining our team.”
Leader in North America
In addition to its sales office in Troy, Michigan, Exo-s has four manufacturing plants in North America, located in Richmond (Québec), Coldwater (Michigan), Howe (Indiana), and San Juan del Rio (Mexico).
A significant part of the company’s production is involves manufacturing auto parts, mainly engine covers, HVAC ducts, and coolant reservoirs for GM, Chrysler, and Volkswagen. More than half of GM and Chrysler vehicles are equipped with parts manufactured by Exo-s!
The Sherbrooke-based company also manufactures industrial and consumer goods for various markets, including agriculture, utility and recreational vehicles; toys; and household appliances. Among other things, Exo-s manufactures snowmobile skis for Yamaha, doors for John Deere’s Gator utility vehicles, running boards for Jeep, wheels for children’s ride-on vehicles for Peg Perego, refrigerator duct and ventilation parts for Electrolux, etc.
Door for Gator utility vehicle (John Deere) and engine cover (GM)
A series of investments
The Richmond plant, which specializes in injection molding, mainly produces automotive components – a great accomplishment considering the geographical distance that separates it from major car manufacturers. “This challenge forces us to automate production to remain competitive. In fact, we have just invested in a new co-injection press. By continually specializing our processes and technologies, we are able to land contracts to provide work for our 230 employees. At the same time, we are working on identifying new growth markets to diversify production.”
With the acquisition of a new injection- and blow-molding plant in San Juan del Rio (150 employees) last September, Exo-s is establishing itself closer to many major players in the automotive industry in Mexico. “The objective is to become a local supplier for our current clients’ operations in Mexico. This new proximity will also give us access to other car manufacturers, such as Mazda and Nissan, which just happen to be looking for new suppliers in the area.”
Earlier in summer 2014, Exo-s announced that the expansion of its Coldwater plant (100 employees) had been completed. In addition to adding 25 000 sq. ft., the $4M investment was also used to purchase state-of-the-art blow-molding equipment.
A few months earlier, Exo-s invested $6.9M to move its operations in both Three Rivers and Centreville, Michigan to Howe (250 employees), Indiana, roughly 30 minutes away. The new and larger facilities has enabled the company to optimize production costs.
The three plants located in Québec and the U.S. are certified ISO/TS 16949:2009 (automobile industry standard) and ISO 14001:2004 (environmental management systems standard).
In addition to its operations in Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, Exo-s relies on partnerships elsewhere in the world – Spain, France, Poland, China, and South Korea.
“We have targeted partners whose values, technologies, and products are similar to ours. We provide them with our expertise, depending on the contract. This strategy gives us access to a local supply, which our clients based in these countries are actively seeking,” explained Duchesne, specifying that Exo-s is working to establish similar alliances in South America, notably in Brazil and Argentina.
Among the products resulting from these partnerships are ventilation ducts and coolant reservoirs for the Chevrolet Cruze, which were developed with partners from Europe and South Korea.
As for exports, 95% of Exo-s’ production is shipped outside of Canada to clients based in the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
Now in its third year of operation, Exo-s has already been the recipient of awards: in 2012, General Motors named it Supplier of the Year; in 2014, it received the Desjardins Entrepreneur Award for the Québec-Centre region.
2100 King Ouest Street, Suite 240, Sherbrooke (Québec) J1J 2E8
819 346-3967 (EXOS)
Photo credits: Exo-s
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