Ajax Textile


Ajax Textile is a family-owned commission dyeing and finishing operation that began in 1954, inside a small, post-war maintenance building. Founder Tony Serra, a seasoned dyer and businessman, thought Ajax, Ontario was the perfect location to start the business, due to its proximity to Toronto and its accessibility to steam and water—necessary elements in the dye process.

During his leadership at the company, Tony spent a lot of time grooming his son, Harold, to take over the business, which he did when Tony passed away in 1966. Holding to his father’s ideals and philosophies, Harold led the company into further success for over four decades. Harold’s recent passing saw one of his sons, Terry Serra, take the helm of Ajax Textiles as president.

The family’s dedication to the business has certainly paid off. Over the last 55 years, the company has become a leader in the Canadian textile industry and is one of the most modern and diversified commission dyeing and finishing operations in North America.

Ajax Textile’s operation has also become one of the largest operations in North America with high-temperature, high-pressure, computer-controlled dyeing and finishing facilities to process all types of fabric and fabric blends. Far from its humble beginnings, the company is now located in a modern 120,000 square-foot facility with annual dyeing capabilities in excess of 27,500,000 lbs.

Competing offshore

There are only a handful of dyeing operations left in Canada. In fact, Ajax Textile is the last major dye house between Montreal and Vancouver. Ten years ago, the local competition was fierce; there were at least seven dye houses in the GTA. It used to be an industry that employed in excess of 100,000 people, but currently sits at under 50,000. They have all since closed their doors. While regional competitors aren’t an issue for Ajax Textile, there is another, more serious issue to contend with.

“One of the industry’s biggest struggles is the final stage of processing where our labour costs in Canada are significantly higher than they are offshore,” says Joe Schmidinger, CFO. “If our customers are making a t-shirt, for example, it might take three them minutes of labour. A winter jacket, on the other hand, might take 30 to 40 minutes of labour. Minimum wage here would come out at 15 cents per minute; compare that to a tenth of a cent in China.”

Ajax has seen this coming for quite some time, and the company has been responding successfully in different ways. “We have invested significantly in equipment that improves our manufacturing efficiencies,” says Terry Serra, president. “We have also been heavily involved in scientific research to develop new processes for dyeing and finishing to use less energy.”

Another way the company sets itself apart is by specializing in niche markets where it can develop new products and materials, such as soya, bamboo, and Nomex® hemp fabrics. “If we can’t compete on the commodity prices, we can compete in other ways—in offering specialized fabrics and short production runs, for example,” says John Chiusolo, general manager. “The only way to survive is through innovation, quality and service. That’s what Ajax Textile has built its reputation on and it’s what Canadian textiles are known for— emerging, high-quality fabrics.”

If there aren’t many Canadian dye houses left, it stands to reason that a lot of the garments we purchase in North America were made offshore. “We are the intermediary between fabric manufacturers and apparel manufacturers for processing in Canada—we consult all levels of manufacturing and retail in order to take fabric, make it beautiful and send it to people who make apparel, etc.,” says Skip Kann, director of business development. “Chances are, if it doesn’t come through our dye house, it wasn’t made in Canada.” Kann goes on to encourage Canadians to support a made-in-Canada product and consider apparel purchases as investments in our wardrobes, economy and planet.

Committed to the industry

Ajax Textile is concerned about what’s to come, but the company has the skill and experience necessary to thrive. “Creativity is our strong suit,” Chiusolo says. “Development is what we are good at, so we’re always moving to the next stage. It is a commitment to the industry—we have been reinvesting in equipment and development, and stand behind our quality.”

“There will always be a need for a domestic supply chain in North America,” adds Schmidinger. “It still takes about four to five months to place and receive a minimum-quantity order from China. If an offshore supplier ends up short on product, it would take months to restock the shelves. That is where we become a secondary supply source. It’s just another way to thrive in a niche market, because we can provide fast service in smaller quantities and crystallize that oft-forgotten “last cost” to the retailer that is inherent to importing.”

The company is also using its green program to market itself, and, ultimately, Canadian-made apparel. Unlike the offshore producers, Ajax is environmentally conscious and habitually monitors and treats emissions, refining the processes to the point where discharge levels continue to exceed both federal and provincial standards. “We are trying to speak to the major brands of the world to convince them that our Canadian product has less impact on the planet,” says Kann. “We are much further ahead on environmental issues than any offshore producer, and of course, our quality is much higher for the consumer. Most of what we process in Canada is lab tested for performance and compliance and, as a result, the ensuing product has the highest standards possible, while leaving the smallest environmental foot print possible.”

The team at Ajax Textile is doing all the right things to stay competitive and to keep its doors wide open. Canadians should be proud to see such commitment to keeping the domestic industry alive.

Setting the green standard

Canada has implemented very stringent rules and regulations covering the dye and finish industry, which monitor and control what is applied to fabrics and what is discharged from a facility.

Ajax Textile has long been sensitive to the environment and the concerns directly affecting the industry both domestically and globally. As a result, its philosophy is a proactive approach.

In-house treatment systems and policies are continually upgraded. Monitoring, testing and treatment of effluents and emissions are conducted on a continual basis and have been refined to the point where our discharge levels far exceed both federal and provincial standards.

Specialty performance and organic fabrics
We work diligently with our customers to develop and establish dyeing and finishing processes and procedures on traditional and new emerging fabrics as the marketplace demands.

The global demand for renewable and environmentally friendly fabrics is growing and Ajax Textile has become the leader in processing these fabrics in a similarly sustainable fashion.

As a result, we have become the leader in processing a number of specialty, organic-based fabrics and blends using soya, bamboo, organic cotton and hemp as base materials.

Specialty performance fabrics, applications and capabilities
Spandex and Lycra
Stain Resistant / Soil Release
Fire Retardants
Antimicrobial – Ultra-Fresh®
Organic Garment Dyeing
Silicon-Based Softeners
Water Repellent