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Meeting with a manufacturing company in Saint-Laurent, Sandmate

07 October 2020

This week, discover Sandmate, featured in our manufacturing rubric, in this interview with Stanley Tran.

 

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Presentation of Sandmate

For over 30 years, SANDMATE ® has been a leading manufacturer of products used for sanding, including premium quality polishing abrasives. The company focuses on innovation, as many new products are constantly being developed. Products such as hook and loop fasteners, abrasives, accessories, backing pads, quick-change holders and quick-change discs.

 

History of a company takeover

"Originally, I'm a mechanical engineer with a background in aerospace. I decided to acquire Sandmate with my partner, recognizing that many baby boomers were retiring and didn't always have a successor. We went through the whole process of taking over a business.

 

Sandmate was founded in 1982 and manufactured all velcro strata (especially for clothing and shoes). Over the years, the arrival of China in the textile market has led to many job losses in this field.

 

Therefore, we decided to reinvent the company with the abrasive side, the velcro system with sandpaper.”

 

The DESTL Buyout Table brings together entrepreneurs from manufacturing SMEs who have acquired a business in the last 3 years and those who have a plan to buy in the next 3 years, but also managers who are minority shareholders and who would like to become owners of their business.

 

How would you say your participation at the DESTL buyout table was beneficial?

"A DESTL commissioner told me about the Buyout Table because I expressed the need to interact with buyers who had bought a business to benefit from their experience. I found the activity very rewarding because there was a great deal of participation and productive exchanges between members. I greatly appreciated the interventions of various experts (lawyer, accountant, etc.) and Investissement Québec, because I was able to clarify the process of buying a company. Finally, in order to acquire Sandmate, we decided to use the services of a business acquisition broker.”

 

What did you think of DESTL's coaching and networking services for manufacturing companies?

Our Economic Development Commissioner, Joseph Tuccinardi, introduced you to several local companies for strategic alliances, including potential suppliers for your supply chain.

 

"Joseph Tuccinardi's advice was very valuable to me because he knows the Saint-Laurent area and the companies in this territory like the back of his hand, so I was able to benefit from his influence, his network and his experience in the field. Most entrepreneurs don't know how to find local suppliers, or even don't know that it is possible. In addition, the meetings with these companies were very beneficial because I was able to introduce Sandmate and build relationships with other companies in Saint-Laurent.”

 

How would you say your participation in the Innovation Roadmap in 2018 has benefited your company?   

The Innovation Path created by the City of Montreal's economic development department includes training activities, personalized support with 20 hours of coaching, participation in C2 Montréal as well as concrete tools and solutions.

 

"Thanks to a former DESTL commissioner, I had the opportunity to participate in a cohort of 40 companies in the Innovation Path. I found the process very interesting, focused on our business objectives, and I greatly appreciated the coaching as well as the many meetings with experts. I was able to take some training at HEC as well. This path allowed me to update the company's branding, establish a new marketing strategy focused on product quality and the development of new services. Also, I learned how to make room for employees' ideas, and to encourage teamwork in order to create new products. For example, visors and masks were an internal need from employees that we then marketed. Innovation tends to be seen as the development of a new product, whereas I see it as a service with a long-term strategic vision.”

 

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Has the covid-19 pandemic impacted your business?

"It's true that the pandemic hit us hard, especially with the confinement. As a business leader, we had to readjust because we were entering the unknown and the future was becoming uncertain. At Sandmate, we were fortunate because we have several customers in the hospital and food industries, and since they are considered to be essential services, they continued to order materials from us. Looking back, I think Sandmate did well and the crisis was less difficult than I would have imagined at first.”                                 

 

Where did you get the idea to develop a new biodegradable mask with changeable filters? 

"It all started with the visor project, I realized that there was a real need for protection against COVID-19 and that everyone was buying masks and visors from China. We have even experienced a shortage of N95 masks. I already had some raw materials internally, so we started making visors for schools and other organizations. Then last March, a friend called me to offer me to develop a biodegradable mask project for which we did a lot of Research and Development. We observed that it was very difficult to find filters with a good breathing and filtration capacity. 

 

Moreover, like many, we noticed the pollution generated by disposable masks. Before developing this new biodegradable mask, we studied the irritants found in commercially available masks. Here is a non-exhaustive list of elements that could be improved: difficulty to wear glasses with a mask, the slits on the sides or the valve at the front can let the virus pass through when breathing, some fabric masks are only 11% effective.

 

We have therefore designed a reusable, ergonomic, durable mask that protects both the wearer and the people around them. The mask we have developed is 99.7% effective and consists of an easily washable shell and exchangeable and recyclable filters. We offer a special bag to send the soiled filters to a specific place, these will be transformed into nano fiber to reinforce mechanical products. Within a month, the product should be launched on the market. It is intended for the general public to protect themselves from coronavirus, as well as for construction workers to protect themselves from dust (cabinetmakers, masons, painters, etc.). We have tested the mask in multiple situations and found that dust remains in the mask's filters. I tested it myself while wearing it to mow my lawn. I usually suffer from pollen allergy and thanks to the mask with the filter that purifies the air, I had no symptoms.”

Finally, what are Sandmate's future plans? 

"Together with my partner, we are trying to turn Sandmate into a one-stop shop. As soon as we acquire machines to manufacture new metal or plastic parts internally, we offer this service to other companies in Quebec. This creates local jobs and Sandmate becomes a major manufacturer. This allows us to make our machines profitable and expand our horizon. In the future, we may develop a new company specializing in the production of masks.”

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