Company Profile: Robust Gear

Robust Gear has been manufacturing high quality custom precision gears for over 25 years, and they aren’t slowing down anytime soon.

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Robust Gear was incorporated in August 1985, by Tarsem (Sem) Tak in the town of Oakville, Ontario. Tarsem‘s dream was to create a niche in the custom gear market that would be fulfilled and serviced by his company.

By the time of his death in December 2012, Tarsem had built up a solid reputation of honesty and lived by the company motto he had established – “Quality gearing at quality prices”.

“My father was a certified millwright by trade, educated and trained in England,” states Sem’s son, Anjan. “He apprenticed with the Aero-engine Division of Rolls Royce in the Midlands plant which was renowned for its impressive rotational apprenticeship program.” It was at Rolls Royce that Sem developed a passion for solving complex machining and gearing problems. The technical experience he acquired at Rolls Royce became an integral part of Sem’s knowledge base and approach to the manufacturing and has been the key factor in the success of Robust Gear. Being a self-starter, Sem was able to undertake jobs that required detailed processes and execute them with confidence.

Sem came to Canada in 1974, landing in Montreal, Quebec where he was employed at a custom gear manufacturer. He relocated to Oakville with the goal of using his expertise to open a gear manufacturing facility. After months of research and deliberation, Sem founded Robust Gear.

When he started the business in 1985, the shop was a mere 400 square-foot unit, per Anjan. In 1989, Sem expanded to a larger unit of 1,600 square feet. As equipment purchases deemed necessary, plant expansion was the natural progression. The following year, Robust Gear leased an additional unit, taking the plant to 3,000 square feet. In 2004, a 3rd unit became a necessity, with the purchase of a CNC Milling Centre. Total manufacturing space now exceeded 4,500 square feet. The logistics of this were very inconvenient as the complex we were in had two symmetrical buildings with garage doors facing each other. “We had two units on one side and one unit on the other, separated by a driveway and parking lot. We were constantly walking back and forth between the two buildings in the middle of winter,” recalls Anjan.

Anjan joined the business in 2007, on a full-time basis. Anjan had already spent his summers at the business during high school and University. Just like his father, there was no job that Anjan was not required to do. Being a taskmaster, Sem expected his son to sweep floors, clean machines along with learning every process from the ground up. Like his father, Anjan worked in all areas of the business, beginning his career as the plant custodian. Anjan completed his bachelor’s degree in honours economics with a minor in business from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. Anjan has emulated his father’s work ethic and integrity, along with Sem’s dedication and commitment to recognizing and meeting customer and employee needs.

Today, the company has grown to include customers in a host of industries, including aerospace, mining, OEM industrial equipment, pharmaceutical, packaging and more. Robust Gear has recently expanded into the oil and gas market, providing gears for a variety of pipeline-related equipment. This industry now contributes about 15 percent to total revenues. Robust Gear also has the capability of providing reverse engineering services for customers. When customers need to reproduce gears for which there are no specifications on hand, Robust Gear is able to provide assistance in creating proto-types as well as drawings. According to Anjan, Robust Gear has been able to remanufacture gears used in equipment ranging from cars to tractors to toy helicopters, not to mention complex clocks.

The company moved to their current facility in 2010 – a spacious 10,000 square-foot building complete with office space and an inspection room. With the help of plant manager, Stewart Lord, Anjan has been instrumental in adopting and implementing lean principles of manufacturing.  With the cooperation and commitment of its team of employees, the company hopes to see further improvement in quality, visual management, efficiency, problem elimination, a safer work environment and increased employee job satisfaction. Anjan believes adopting the lean manufacturing ideology is crucial in producing higher quality products more efficiently. Further, the message being sent to current and potential customers becomes self-evident: “Quality gears at quality prices.”

Robust Gear’s commitment to research and development has been ongoing since Anjan has been involved in running the company. Robust Gear specializes in shorter runs, with jobs ranging between one to 500 pieces. According to Anjan, “It is in our best interests, as well as our customers, to continue exploring ways of manufacturing our wide array of products more economically without sacrificing our commitment to high quality. Our goal is to be innovative in using unconventional methods and processes in churning out products manufactured on conventional equipment. For example, the company has spent a considerable amount of time researching on different ways to cut gear racks and worms on machines that are not specifically designed for this use.”

Robust Gear owes its success to a team of seasoned professionals who are dedicated to our company’s philosophy of making the best product at the best price. “We currently employ 10 people,” said Anjan. “As plant manager, Steward Lord has extensive experience in the manufacturing environment. Like my father, Stewart also completed his apprenticeship in England. He has worked in manufacturing environments in various roles and industries in both the UK and Canada. He has been a part of our team since February 2014 and has been instrumental in Robust Gear obtaining the ISO certification in July. The rest of our valuable team consists of gear cutters with 40 years of experience, CNC machinists and programmers with 25 to 30 years of experience, and a conventional machinist with almost 25 years of experience.”

Robust Gear has an apprenticeship program that provides employment opportunities to Oakville-area students whose interests lie specifically in becoming registered machinists. “Our company has been instrumental in hiring numerous student machinists over the years” according to Anjan. “We’ve provided extensive hands-on, vocational training to these students. We encourage all new employees, hired as general labourers, to enroll in an apprenticeship program at a technical or vocational school. As a result, numerous employees have received their trade certification while working with us.”

Robust Gear has been manufacturing high-quality custom precision gears and machinery parts for almost 30 years. Anjan maintains, “Our knowledge base and our list of products have grown in response to the market and its requirements. We are passionate about providing quality products: ISO 9000 quality while simultaneously maintaining competitive pricing without sacrificing the highest standards of service in the industry. No job is too small. We willingly cooperate with our customers in showing them and assisting them in developing calculations and drawings that will result in a precision product. In fact, we voluntarily provide our customers with necessary formulas and information, to make calculations required in the production process, and present them directly on our website at www.robustgear.com. I encourage your readers to explore this and other valuable information on our website.”

To learn more about Robust Gear’s products and services, visit them at robustgear.com, or call 800-661-4687.