Founded in 1979 and headquartered in Richibucto, Imperial Manufacturing Group (IMG) is a conglomerate focused primarily on the manufacturing and distribution of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and building products for the residential and light commercial industry.

Andrée Caissie Savoie, Vice President – Corporate Affairs, says the company now has over 1,100 employees in 13 facilities across North America, occupying more than one million sq ft of manufacturing and warehousing space. Beyond New Brunswick, IMG now operates in Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, and the state of Illinois.

As part of our continuing look at world-class New Brunswick companies investing in productivity and seeing global success, we caught up with Andrée to learn more.

ONB: Can you talk about the key factors in your growth journey from a small shop to a global manufacturer? 

Imperial Manufacturing Group New Brunswick Caissie Savoie: Initially, growth was driven 100 per cent by our founder and CEO Normand Caissie. Norm’s goal was to build himself a career while being able to stay home in New Brunswick. He was driven, creative, and literally saw opportunity wherever he went. A key factor in our growth now is the ability to recruit like-minded people who possess the same work ethic, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit that he had and still has. It took a lot of work, but we were able to create something spectacular from rural New Brunswick.

It’s also about our ability to understand our market and industry. We can identify demand and opportunities and create a solid supply chain answering those needs. IMG is now strategically located across Canada and is growing in the U.S. It continues to invest in process improvement to be as efficient as possible.

As the organization grew both organically and through strategic acquisitions, Imperial became very diversified in its product offering. We have also grown vertically by entering the commercial real estate market and have just recently acquired a steel service centre, allowing us to provide ourselves with a very critical service.

What advantage(s) does the company see from operating in New Brunswick? 

The most obvious for us would be our people. While it has become challenging for us to find local employees in some recent years, we still find that New Brunswickers are among the country’s hardest and most loyal workers. We have managed to find and grow some of the best people in the industry from local talent.

Being in a smaller province, government support is more accessible and personalized. Since we have facilities located in other provinces and states, we know the difference between connecting with people in New Brunswick versus other jurisdictions. New Brunswick’s government seems more open to partnering with local businesses to figure out which channels will bring them more growth and opportunities. We have also developed great partnerships with our local universities, colleges, and suppliers.

You’ve moved to more automated processes and have invested heavily in productivity. What has that meant for your growth and success? 

Automation has been part of IMG’s strategy from its beginnings, really. Its first automated pipe machine and conveyer belts were purchased in the mid-80s.

More recent automated processes allow us to streamline key processes and relocate labour resources where they are more needed. Aside from the reduced manufacturing cost of those processes, we have been able to increase our manufacturing capacity on those same projects. Investing in automation has allowed us to investigate new business opportunities with some major North American retailers knowing that we would be able to supply the demand moving forward.

What advice would you offer other New Brunswick manufacturers looking at productivity improvements? Or for those yet to get serious about investing in new technologies?

Productivity improvement begins on the manufacturing floor with your employees. They understand the process and struggles. They can help your company succeed with any project implementation. Having their feedback is crucial for any process improvement or automation project. Keep in mind that you are the expert in the manufacturing field, while you may seek professional advice on robotics, technologies, etc., what the process will handle is your expertise.

Our manufacturers need to be ready to get involved in the project every step of the way.  They must practice process improvement before automation. It is important to ensure that the automation project they are working on is already a lean production line vs automating the inefficiencies. You must always start with process improvement.

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