Q&A with Brett Froats

Vice President of Sales
Colonial Tool Group, Inc.


You purchased Advanced Cutting Tools in 2007. How has the transition been?

It’s been quite smooth. We recently moved them into our facility in Windsor. Advanced manufactures indexable broach tools, indexable cutting tools, special motion tools, and a variety of special cutting tools for engine and transmission components such as machine cylinder heads, engine blocks, connecting rods, bearing caps, etc. Sometimes acquisitions and consolidation can be disruptive to customers and employees. However, Advanced assimilated well into the Colonial Tool Group plant.

Tell our readers about Colonial Tool Group’s development south of the border.

Our facilities are international, with locations in Canada, U.S., and Mexico.  In 2010, we opened a service facility in Mexico as a conduit to our Mexican market. We have seen steady growth in the Mexican market. We trained personnel in Windsor and the U.S. to run the facility in Mexico, as well as to train the Mexican workers.
We recently finished our first Servo Driven High Speed Table-Up Broaching Machine, which is destined for a customer in Puebla, Mexico.  This is the second broach machine for that customer, LuK.

What’s the advantage of this type of broaching machine?

The Servo Driven High Speed Table-Up Broaching Machine saves a lot of energy, as opposed to the hydraulic machines that consume high energy during the idle and in-cut periods of the cycle time. The Servo Driven Machine is also capable of higher surface speeds.  When the machine is idle, there are negligible amounts of energy consumed. We expect this product to have significant sales growth due to its cost saving attributes of productivity increases and energy savings. The Servo Driven High Speed Table-Up Broach Machine is an addition to our other Multi Axis Servo Broach Machines we have sold to the aerospace industry.

Speaking of the future, how are you planning for the future of the company?

We will continue to develop and invest in our products, services, people, technology, and new markets. One other product recently introduced into our family of offerings is the Prismatic Work Holding Fixtures for CNC Machines. We have several large customers in Mexico who rely on our engineering expertise to concept and prototype our fixtures for their CNC production needs.

We have also recognized that our workforce is maturing (the average age of our workforce is around 40), so recruitment of new expertise is something we concentrate on. We have an apprentice program for our tradesman and we are continually looking for new raw talent to train.

What is a typical day for an apprentice at Colonial Tool Group?

For the first couple of months, they shadow a leader around. But they quickly get into hands-on activities, and the leaders watch them to make sure they’re making the best decisions. They do make mistakes, but that’s how they learn. You need people to learn and develop in order to expand and grow the business.

What kind of repair work do you do?

We repair all our products as well as our competitors’ products, but the largest volume of repairs comes from CNC Spindle repairs — although we repair all styles of spindles including motorized, gear driven, belt driven, etc. We offer machinery retools, broach tool regrind, and sharpening. We manufacture most of our new products in Canada and send them to our U.S. or Mexican sales and service facilities for distribution. We also have several foreign customer OEM relationships where we service all their special CNC spindles for their North American installations.

Our “trend” for this month’s issue is subcontracting. You all do quite a bit of your work in house, don’t you?

Yes, we are somewhat vertical. Our products are engineered, manufactured, heat treated, built, and repaired or reground in house. We have done that since the beginning. We do subcontract some overflow work out, or small details, but we attempt to retain most critical details or processes.

What other areas have you been growing?

Workholding has been very strong for us. We’ve probably been growing about 20 percent every year in that area. Mainly for CNC machines for machining engine blocks, manifolds, bearing caps — things like that. 
It’s still a pretty tough, competitive market out there. We offer a one-day turnaround and expedited service, but within a week we can have a spindle running and back to the customer. We manage our costs and quality in the only way possible — with in-house control on design and build, including heat treatment and surface treatments of our products.    

MORE INFORMATION: Visit Colonial Tool Group online at www.ctgi.co, or call (866)-611-5119.