A subsidiary of Germany’s FFG Flensburg, FFG Canada is located in Bathurst, New Brunswick and is a joint venture between the German business and Industrial Rubber Company Ltd. The company is currently hard at work producing 17 Wisent 2 Armoured Engineering Vehicles (AEV) for use by the Canadian Armed Forces.
Opportunities NB (ONB) spoke with Blaine Kyle, Deputy Production Manager, to learn more about the company and the Wisent 2 project.
ONB: Let’s begin with the Wisent 2. Tell us about this unique military vehicle being built here in New Brunswick.
Kyle: The Wisent 2 is based on the Leopard 2 main battle tank, which is one of the world’s most successful tracked vehicles. The key innovation of this vehicle is the multifunctional platform which involves converting the dozer blade into a mini plow.
This vehicle can move rapidly through obstacles and clear a path for other units. It can recover damaged, stuck, swamped or overturned vehicles with ease. It can also provide maintenance and service to other vehicles. Its functional tools include two winches, a modern hinged arm excavator for moving up to 300 cubic meters of earth per hour, a safe lane marking system, and a welding station.
(Watch the Wisent 2 in action in the video below.)
ONB: What lead to FFG—a German-owned company—investing in New Brunswick?
Kyle: Barry Kyle, my father, does tracks and wheels through his Industrial Rubber Company and had contacts within the Department of National Defence (DND). He also does plenty of international work including past projects with FFG. So between the FFG connection and the Defence contacts, FFG Canada was born.
ONB: What has ONB’s role been with FFG?
Kyle: The relationship with ONB has been great. They’ve provided us with financial assistance that helped create 26 jobs in Bathurst. Much of the financial support came in the form of things like payroll rebates based on job creation.
Right now we’re focused on the Wisent 2 contract but we’ve already got eyes on future contracts and are investing in infrastructure to help with that. We expect to continue working with your team on bringing more projects here to New Brunswick.
ONB: When is the final Wisent 2 expected to roll off the assembly line?
Kyle: We’re looking to conclude the project by 2017. Production of the vehicles is going well and it’s on track to be completed on time.
ONB: New Brunswick is home to 5 CDSB Gagetown, Canada’s second largest military base. Do you have a relationship at all with that location?
Kyle: At this point, we don’t have much direct contact with Base Gagetown itself but we do have a member of DND quality control working inside our Bathurst facility full time. I think greater contact with Gagetown may become more of a thing for us in the future.
ONB: What advantages have you seen from operating in New Brunswick?
Kyle: FFG Canada has managed to put together a highly-capable team in the New Brunswick facility. We have four Germans residing here permanently, and we work closely with our German colleagues at FFG Flensburg. We have been able to combine the best of both worlds with the parent company’s expertise coming together with our own homegrown talent.
There’s been great access to competent and proficient workers with the technical skills we need, many of whom worked in the mines here in the past. Having those people coming from that mining background has unquestionably been a benefit. They’re bringing experience in dealing with large machines and heavy equipment to their work on the Wisent 2.
New Brunswick also has a lot of open space, which is perfect for testing a large land vehicle. And of course, as we touched on, CFB Gagetown is right here in New Brunswick about three hours away. It’s a key player in New Brunswick’s economy and one of the province’s largest employers. We’re confident that land systems have a promising future here in the province.
ONB: You appeared in our NB Proud video. Let’s wrap with your thoughts on what New Brunswick should be proud of.
Kyle: It’s about the people here, really. The people of New Brunswick are extremely kind. I can’t say enough good things about the community here, which has been very supportive. We have such a tremendously skilled workforce here that only needs to be given the opportunity to shine. Projects like ours demonstrate the depth of the skills we possess here. The Germans have seen the results they’re getting from New Brunswick’s workforce and they’re impressed. That’s a great thing; Germany has a great reputation in terms of possessing a strong work ethic and is a real industrial powerhouse.
Written by Jason Boies
Cover image via FFG Canada