Take the imperfection of the trumpets

The labor shortage has been in the headlines for months, but for certain categories of occupations, it reflects a reality well before the current crisis. If today there is a shortage of grocery clerks, bakeries, appliances or restaurants, companies in the manufacturing sector have struggled for years to hire welders, a rare commodity, but nonetheless essential to their survival.


Whenever I visit a company located in an industrial area, whether in Laval, Bas-du-Fleuve, on the North Shore or in Beauce, I am always amazed at the number of manufacturing companies that post on huge boards claiming their dire need for manpower and more specifically welders.

It is a phenomenon that does not go back to yesterday. For more than 10 years, Quebec’s manufacturing sector has lacked this specialized workforce, which forces many companies in this sector to use the Temporary Foreign Employment Program to fill a small portion of available jobs, but it is not. .

This was particularly the case with the ADF Group (Au Dragon Forgé) in Terrebonne, which specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of steel structures of a high level of architectural complexity.

ADF made the 450-foot steel antenna above the First Tower of New York’s World Trade Center, as well as the steel structure of the Videotron Center in Quebec City or part of the central landing of the new Samuel-De Champlain Bridge.

About fifteen years ago, the ADF brought about thirty welders – and their families – from Germany to meet needs that the local workforce could not.

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“Nobody left. When you come to work in Quebec at the age of 40, you don’t necessarily want to settle down, you want to go home. That’s what happened,” notes Jean Paschini, CEO of ADF Group.

Since the labor shortage has grown into the crisis we know today, all the specialists keep saying and repeating: Automation is the lifeblood of liberating companies from a part of this colossal scourge, and that is exactly what the ADF Group has pledged to do.

The company, which this week disclosed its third-quarter financial results, has a growing order book, as evidenced by its revenue of 110 million versus 47 million last year.

To meet the growing demand in the United States, which will be stimulated over the next five years by President Biden’s infrastructure investment program, the ADF has decided to strike a major blow with its all-welded assembly line robot from giant steel structures.

The largest in the world

“We decided to change the strategy. We are investing 30 million to turn one of our four assembly lines into an automated robot in our Terrebonne plant. We are achieving number one in the world, and it will be the largest robotic line in the world,” says Jean Pacini.

Groupe ADF invited an Austrian group to implement this technology first. The 65-foot-wide and 300-foot-long production line will be equipped with four robots that assemble and weld complex steel structures.

The entry into service of this automated assembly line will produce 45,000 tons of steel per year, which is the annual output achieved by 100 welders.

“Our automated line will produce in 50 minutes, which will take 7 hours from our welding teams. Despite these productivity gains, we will keep all our workers in place and will have to hire an additional 100 people over the next year.

“We will also have to call in workers who specialize in programming and electronic mechanics to handle our line of robots,” which puts the entrepreneur in context.

But he notes that the ADF Group will be able to better handle the expected increase in the order book. ADF makes 90% of its sales in the U.S. The group owns a plant in Montana that allows it to bid on federal projects, governed by Buy American ActEspecially bridges.

The next step would be to turn an assembly line into a robot in Montana like we do in Terrebonne to increase productivity there as well.

ADF Group has several projects in the United States, having just completed the new Los Angeles Airport and working on those in Salt Lake City and Kansas City. “We also manufacture steel for two 2.5 million square foot buildings for Amazon in New York and Seattle,” adds Jean Pacini.

“The 2028 Olympics are coming to LA, we will be very busy in California. But we also have a lot of work in New York, where we have already made steel for 15 skyscrapers, as well as in Florida. It is only in Quebec where it is calmer, but we are on At least we are working on building a new maintenance garage for STM ”, emphasizes the entrepreneur who is not a prophet in his country …

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