Carter Will from BRC Engineering sat down with the team at GibbsCAM this week to discuss current challenges in the machining industry and the importance of investing in the future.
Have a read of the GibbsCAM article and see what Carter had to say about our finding our niche, supply and demand and the kind of projects we’re working on today!
Every shop wants to stand out from the crowd and differentiate itself in a tight marketplace with a fresh approach to the metalworking industry. Sometimes it works, and sometimes you have to revisit your original ideas.
BRC Engineering is a great example of this. The Calgary, Alberta-based shop keeps busy today doing complex precision parts primarily for the oil and gas industry. But that wasn’t always the case.
BRC was founded by Brian Will and his sons Riley and Carter in 1997. Brian had a history of working as a problem-solver for the oil & gas industry, so he’d witnessed the ups and downs characteristic of the industry. BRC was started because the three family members wanted to work together. With the engineering and technical skills the three had, a precision machine shop was the ideal venture. But BRC didn’t want to be just another oil and gas supplier because of the volatile nature of the sector.
“We started the shop with one mill and one lathe and thought we’d specialize in difficult work outside the oil and gas sector,” Carter says. “We soon found that this was a flawed business model, but we got through it.”
Rather than stating what they did or did not want to do, the three reframed their business plans in terms of who they wanted to be. Carter puts it pretty succinctly: “We try to leverage our engineering training to be problem solvers for our customers. We can speak directly to other companies’ design departments. We understand what is important to them and can offer design-for-manufacturability options if required, and our customers really appreciate that.”
By reframing their approach, BRC has watched the work come in and find its own market balance. The company currently has about 80 percent of its business focused on serving the oil and gas industry.
“That 80 percent encompasses a lot of different niches in that market,” Carter explains. “Those niches for us can be divided in two – components that stay above the surface, and those that go below. For instance, we do flow control products – high-pressure valves, chokes, and manifold components that remain above ground. We also produce what those in the industry consider the “jewelry” that goes down the hole – working exotic materials to produce MWD (measuring while drilling) and LWD (logging while drilling) tools. These require lots of deep drilling, and tight tolerance seal fits down deep inside parts made of materials such as Inconel, titanium, ToughMet, and Nitronic 60 stainless steel.” Among other products the company makes are wireline and coil tubing, as well as completions (which we explore later in this article).