May 2013 Edition

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New capabilities drive new business at Mariner Forge

Like most shops across Canada, Halifax-based Mariner Forge has been managing its way through several years of a fluctuating, fickle market. The Halifax-based fabricating business often runs full tilt with overtime, but as owner Chris Mackenzie notes, “nothing has been quite the same since 2008-09.” Mackenzie understands that to be a constantly valued element of his customers’ business, he needs to be able to offer a wide variety of services. For that reason, late last year he invested in a new waterjet to expand the company’s capabilities.

Mariner Forge ( is a true fabricating job shop. “When people ask what we do, I say we build everything from rocker panels to jet fighter simulators, and everything in between,” says Mackenzie. “When we originally started, the main focus was more fishing supplies and ductwork, but as the years went by, we just grew into doing all sorts of work for customers that needed the expertise we offer.”

The company’s 4,800 square foot main facility serves most of the company’s functions – manual and power shears, manual and power brakes, rollers, ironworkers, tube and pipe benders, saws and coping machines, and welding facilities for TIG, MIG and stick welding. The press brake can work material as thick as 3/16ths of an inch safely. “We don’t really want to get into anything much heavier than that because we want to be able to do everything by hand,” says Mackenzie. “We don’t want to have to deal with cranes and forklifts. We tend to stick to a quarter inch and under.”

Mackenzie decided to invest in a waterjet when he realized that the payback would be relatively quick. It is now housed in a separate, 2,400 square foot facility.

“The majority of our laser and waterjet cutting services were being done in Montreal,” says Mackenzie. “That may sound surprising, but the prices were very reasonable. But it came to a point where the mark-up we had to place on orders became a concern. We realized that if we could do it ourselves, we could save our customers quite a bit of money, so now we are doing it all in house.”

There are many benefits Mariner Forge is experiencing with the purchase. The price of work for their customers have gone down, which in turn has encouraged those clients to send more work their way. The other big savings has been on scheduling – it’s much easier to control the schedules on work you do yourself, after all.

The biggest benefit, however, is the expansion of work opportunities.

“Now, all of a sudden, we have opened up our doors to a number of new customers,” says Mackenzie. “We are getting plastic cutting, thick aluminum to cut, we’re getting foam, granite and all kinds of other products to cut – things that never would have come through Mariner Forge just because we hadn’t had the capability. On a weekly basis we’re getting calls from people we don’t know saying ‘I’ve heard you got this machine, we’d like to start talking business numbers.’”

When Mariner first put together a business plan for the purchase of the machine, they determined they’d need to run the machine for a certain amount of time each day to cover the cost of it. So far, the machine is delivering on expectations, without Mariner even announcing they have the capability – all the new business has been word-of-mouth.

Mariner invested in a MultiCam 3000 Series Waterjet with a KMT Neo 40 intensifier. It has a 5 x 10 feet table, with a four-inch cutting capacity, and runs at  55,000 psi.

“Waterjet pumps can run up to 90,000 psi today, but it came down to what we expected to be putting on that table. I’m not interested in running 4-inch steel on that machine. I really looked at the needs of our most important clients and based my decision on that.”

It was client need that led Mackenzie to the waterjet in the first place.

“The waterjet is the most flexible machine for our needs,” he says. “We can really cut anything on it whereas a laser or a plasma are really limited by cut quality over a certain thickness, and what materials they can actually cut. So while we may not be able to cut a quarter inch steel plate as fast as a laser, we can cut a two inch aluminum plate and it’s going to look like a million bucks.”

Regular customers have gained from Mariner’s ability to cut a variety of materials as well. “One customer that used to ship out plastic to be cut elsewhere is now able to come to us for that service, and they get their work back faster, with very accurate cuts.”

The choice to go with the MultiCam was made after visiting another manufacturer in Nova Scotia running the same equipment. “When we saw it, we really liked the gantry system on it, the rails going up both sides with the floating head on it. We liked the way the drives worked, and the computer system was really user-friendly. Also, MultiCam has operations here in Canada, so we knew it would be easy to get parts when necessary. In the end, though, we were mostly just really impressed with the quality of its cutting.”

The table has a Z-axis clearance of 10 in., Z-axis travel of 8 in., a resolution of .0001 in., rapid traverse of 1400 IPM, and a maximum cutting speed of 1500 IPM.

The KMT Waterjet NEOLine 40i Intensifier Pump is a low cost option for multiple abrasive waterjet cutting applications and pure water jet cutting. It is considered an ideal solution for job shop cutting, whether the shop is cutting metal, aluminum or titanium.

Running the waterjet, of course, has got Chris Mackenzie thinking what would be possible with a plasma or laser on the floor as well. If it will help his clients, count on him making it a priority to make it happen.


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