Born in France, Raised in Canada

CNIM is an international company providing turn-key industrial solutions in several markets. The company is focused on four main areas in industrial solutions.

Eric Michaud, Executive VP of CNIM Canada, says that CNIM has always had to adapt to different cultures and markets – which is a key reason for the company’s worldwide success. “CNIM was born in France, but the company has had its enormous success in other markets than Europe, though Europe remains our biggest source of revenue. CNIM grew from a small start in the early 1900s, when the company had its place in shipyard development.”
The company has grown to rely heavily on its environmental services division to maintain its successful niche in Europe. CNIM’s waste treatment offering includes technologies developed to enable proven solutions to be provided to local government authorities with a permanent concern to protect the environment. The energy contained in the waste produced by large scale institutions is converted into electricity or heat without depleting natural resources – a practice that has been huge in the EU. CNIM strives to help clients contribute to improving quality of life and environmental sustainability.

The environment market
“We get most of our business from international markets that are very stringent on environmental laws and regulations. We are selling high-value and high-end systems to manage waste and some countries are not as advanced with waste regulations as others. A country has to have stringent regulations on smoke and waste emissions for our systems to be worthwhile for it. So our environmental services business is thriving in Europe but we are not present in North America.”

He adds that in order for the business to pick up here in environmental services, we need to be leaps ahead of where we are, similar to how Europe has moved in terms of environmental protection. “It’s going to take a fundamental shift for us to pursue the environmental side of our business in Canada. North America is still a landfill type culture because of the vast geography, whereas we are active in waste conversion technologies.”

CNIM also develops flue gas treatment systems for incineration plants under the environmental services umbrella of the company. Air quality, a growing concern internationally, is equally a concern for CNIM, a company committed its work on environmental initiatives. The LAB processes for flue gas cleaning make it possible to reconcile energy recovery from waste and ecology. CNIM contributes to preserving clean in a very demanding domain, and one that is constantly under scrutiny.

Getting people from one place to another Of the four sectors of the company, the remainder of business outside environmental services is split between energy, defence, and transportation – the driver behind the Canadian arm of CNIM.

Early on, CNIM bid on a contract for the Parisian subway system. In the 1960s, the subway was in need of escalators with a very specific design. “Escalators at the time couldn’t sustain the type of environment that exists in a subway system and were instead suited for malls and such. The time was right for CNIM to bid on a contract to provide these very specific machines.” CNIM developed the product suited for the subway system, and that’s where the transportation side of the company began. Twenty years later, the company was invited by the city of Montreal to bid on a modernization project, focused on the subway system. CNIM came highly recommended by companies around the world to do the work, and the company was awarded the contract. The Canadian branch of CNIM set up shop in 1996, and has enjoyed a prosperous period since. They now supply and manufacture escalators and moving walks in North America as well as Europe. The company also supplies elevators.

Landing at an airport near you…
In the earlier part of this decade, CNIM was hired by Pearson International to be part of an airport redevelopment project. Since 2000 the company has installed over 150 people-moving systems at the airport, and is maintaining all of the equipment ever since.

The success of the Canadian arm of CNIM has allowed the company to buy out smaller companies in recent years, ensuring CNIM’s local presence.

Will the troubled economy affect such a strong local presence? Not likely, says Michaud. “Business is at about $50 million for Canada. I almost feel ashamed to say that we’re going to be okay in an economy where so many other businesses won’t survive. It’s really a flip of the coin for our sector, but if you’ve got longer term contracts then you’ll fare better.

We’ve got contracts to sustain us through the hard times. Where there’s a downturn we are definitely affected, but being international means we’re somewhat safeguarded. The public transportation sector has been supported by the Canadian government. There has been a stimulus package into infrastructure and that’s of immense interest to us. However, of course like everyone else – we are being prudent and responsible and won’t be resting anytime soon.”

Michaud adds that although development has been good in the past few years, the declining economy means CNIM won’t be looking at buying any other smaller companies for a while: “It’s just too difficult to finance more buys. Now’s not the time. We are always strategizing but that won’t be part of our strategy for the New Year. In 2009 we’ll focus on the US and wherever there are investments.” In Canada, the company plans to focus on transportation, for which they have many contracts already.

Stable across borders, and cultures
“The key to being able to operate across borders and cultures is having comprehensive objectives and making sure you communicate them properly to all of your people. Equally important is communication with local markets, to make sure you meet local expectations of your operations,” Michaud points out. “I think no matter where our business goes, the best asset of our company is that we’re a great partner. We are in partnership with our clients, whenever we perform our business. We’re in a field that values long-term commitment, and CNIM comes in and stays for the long haul,” he adds.

CNIM leverages an important client relationship to keep a solid international business going strong, showing an aptitude for adaptability and reliability – in Canada and around the world.

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