FTLComm - Tisdale - September 27, 2000

The former Fripp building is now fully operational as Northern Steel "West" plant has stepped forward with new production techniques. Though renovations and modifications to this huge facility continue the plant now is in full production and is turning out underground tanks at a furious pace.

Northern Steel Industries consolidated their operation in their main facility on the
North side of town and when
they acquired the Fripp
building they sold off the parts fabricating shop.

A large building like this one is deceptive as you look at from the outside but inside this place is huge with its smooth floor surface offering excellent work space for the production of underground tanks. Only the small tanks are completely fabricated on this site while all the large ones are rolled and the segments produced at the main plant and brought over to the West plant for assembly and completion.
The size of the West plant is
clearly seen in this picture as a truck is used with a small hook to move around parts for assembly right on the work floor.

To move this facility from its earlier use to a steel tank manufacturing production factory has meant that some minor modifications have been carried out. The lighting has been improved and work is in progress to winterise the building with insulation being added in some areas, improvements to air handling and the installation of radiant heating systems to improve the comfort levels for workers as the temperatures lower outside.

Northern Steel Industries has been working flat out to get production out of the plant for several new contracts that have taken the company beyond its former customer base. The company is now one of Saskatchewan's leading exporters as products from these two plants are finding their way out into the North American marketplace.

The latest set of underground fibreglass coated tanks have been disappearing from their West plant's storage yard as deliveries are moving along steadily as tank after tank is loaded and shipped to
locations across Canada and
into the United States.

The primary source of success seems to be the company's "can-do" attitude and high skilled loyal work force who can get the job done and find ways of doing it better each and every time.

The small parts fabrication section of the production line is still getting into shape as the giant metal forming machines pump out trimmed sheets, steps, handrails and everything in between. As I moved through the operation Tuesday I asked the operator of the huge press making floor plates if this was a new press for Northern Steel or was it moved from another

"Don't know" said the workman "only been here a couple of weeks."

Two fellows were shifting large slabs of steel into a cutting machine cleaning up the edges.

"Is this a new machine or was it moved from the other plant?" I asked.

Both men smiled and shrugged. "Don't know," said one "I haven't been here very long."

From those two encounters it is clear that North Steel is making good on its word to increase its skilled work
force as the demand for its
products continues to grow.

Over at the pipe saw an older worker explained that this equipment and the very large brake and other forming machines were transferred from the parts fabrication plant. He was very pleased with the new facility and felt that it was getting more and more organised as the new workers became familiar with the machinery and lay out. He proudly pointed out to me that small work force of this division and their remarkably high level of
But the big story that had brought me to this facility was the new fibre glassing technique Northern Steel has been able to get into operation in this new plant. Up until now fibre glass and resin was applied with a spray unit and skilled hands over at the North plants paint room. But this set up is new.
Plates are installed on the
centre of end of each tank and the whole tank is suspended in the air and rotated with a giant system hung from the ceiling. The plate is bolted in place and allows the tank to turn freely and with precision in place.

Running along the length of the glassing production room is a track that guides the spray and material application equipment. The operator feeds the material onto the revolving tank producing an even perfect surface as his spray unit, computer controlled creeps its way along, back and forth as the operator regulations its direction as material is applied to the new tank continuously and with a level of precision never possible before. A huge tank like this one is completely finished in six hours with its initial barrier then the layers and layers of fibre glass and resin are applied with one worker carefully setting the fibres into the hardening resin on the opposite side of the revolving tank. This is a remarkably impressive and efficient production process and moves Northern Steel's level of manufacturing and competitiveness well out in front of other manufacturers.