Raydan Manufacturing experiences unprecedented growth

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NISKU, Alta. – Nisku, Alta. is little more than an industrial hub on the opposite side of Hwy. 2 from the Edmonton International Airport. About a 15-minute drive south of Alberta’s capital city, nestled inside the tiny community is where Raydan Manufacturing has made the base for its production of air suspensions which have made their way into trucks around the world.

The company has serviced logging trucks in South Africa as well as trucks in the Siberian oilfield. The company’s Air Link suspension is standard equipment in all truck cranes built in North America and is available in nine out of 10 North American fire truck manufacturers, with the final manufacturer set to come on-board. Not bad for a little manufacturer from Nisku.

When the company was established in 1992 Ray English, president and CEO, knew they had a product which would be highly sought after.

“That thought was always there,” he said. “Naively we thought it would be a three-year project.”

With a focus on specialty vehicles paving the way, the company was working in the background with truck manufacturers to bring its Air Link suspension system to a wider market.

At Truxpo 2004 in Vancouver, Raydan teamed up with Mack to unveil an all air-equipped mixer truck. The truck was meant to be used as a factory demo unit, but was soon purchased by a construction company.

“In the course of all this a year and a half ago we signed a licensing agreement with ArvinMeritor,” said English. “What we did with them is we signed a licence agreement specifically for what would go into the rear axles of your Macks and Internationals.”

Three years ago the company had just one engineer on staff. Now with a group of five engineers, the company is working with a number of truck manufacturers to incorporate the product into the trucking industry.

“What’s happening now is these guys need a second strong axle because of the weights they need to haul,” he said. “It saves on maintenance to pay a little more up-front but you definitely make it back quite quickly.”

The manufacturing business began with the production of a sliding kingpin system.

The Easy Slider would allow axle weight distribution to be optimized by adjusting the kingpin position even on a fully loaded trailer. The company soon moved into the market as a manufacturersof rear and front suspensions as well.

“While doing this we started equipping our trailers and retrofitting our own trucks with the suspension,” explained English. “There was never really an air system warranted for 100% off-road use. We noticed after a year typical maintenance issues were gone.”

At the time it was incorporated, Raydan Manufacturing was a portion of Raydan Transport, which operated in the oilfield trucking business. English credits his 28 years of experience in the oilfield industry as aiding in the success of the products manufactured by Raydan.

“What you come out of the oilfield with is you know by experience what is going to break and what’s not. Oilfield transportation was a good background for getting into this,” he stated.

The company began small, supplying the systems to people they knew, but by 1995 started receiving inquiries from strangers. It was at that time they loaded up their air suspension system and headed to a trade show in Las Vegas.

“We started going into the States in 1995 and got some recognition, but it was in 1997 when we started to get into the cranes, truck manufacturers and the military,” noted English.

With its success the manufacturer kept its focus on specialty markets, like over-the-road cranes and emergency vehicles, which typically could not use air ride suspensions.

But a unique feature of the Air Link suspension is that it will work with or without air.

“The reason we’re popular with the military is they don’t want anything hanging in front or behind the axles because it may get ruptured or something else, which may cripple the truck. Everything is tucked in eliminating the exposure factor,” explained English. “No grease or application is needed for these. It doesn’t lend itself to exposure to get penetrated and doesn’t cripple the truck without air.”

In September 2005, Raydan along with APM Diesel were awarded a $12.5 million contract for an extensive refurbishment program by the Canadian Department of National Defense. The aim of the project is to extend the life of a fleet of Heavy Logistics Vehicles by repairing the effects of corrosion, age or operating environment.

“We strip the trucks right down to the frame and build them back up, right down to the weather stripping on the doorframe,” said English.

In 1999 the company went public and moved into its facility in Nisku, with about a dozen employees. The whole operation was under one roof and in just a short six months the first expansion to the building was added.

“In the first three years we expanded as much as we could,” noted English. “When we first came in, everyone had a multitude of jobs. You weren’t just a salesman you were anything to make it happen. It was a small group who did a whole lot of job-sharing.”

In the past seven years the company has grown from its roots of a dozen employees to just over 70 employees. English noted they have been playing catch-up for the past couple of years but are set to expand operations further.

“We coasted for the last couple of years getting our base built up and engineering caught up. We’ve done that and are ready to expand out of the province,” he said. “We’re looking at expansion into Eastern Canada with a facility like we have now. We have plans of expansion on the existing property and are exploring opportunities in the US and in Eastern Canada.”

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