Felton Brushes, one of Canada’s leading industrial brush manufacturers, sits in the heart of downtown Hamilton, Ont. Their facility covers 25,000 square feet, and employs 25 workers. This year marks Felton’s 80th anniversary. The 100 per cent Canadian-owned business pushed itself to become a world-class producer in its industry, and now plans on expanding further.
Since its inception in 1933, Felton has focused on gaining dominance over serving Canadian Industrial Distributors, and their end-user customers’ wire power brush needs. At first, the most dominant industries included the shoe manufacturing industry. Today Company President Tony Ponikvar, who took over Felton Brushes in 2004, explains, “Our biggest markets are in metal fabrication, oil and gas, and automotive. Geographically, Ontario, and now Alberta are most dominant.”
Felton Brushes sits in a small industry niche. Only four power brush manufacturers currently operate within North America. According to Ponikvar, “The industrial brush business covers every kind of manufacturing industry from metal fabrication to bakeries. Every industry uses a brush of some sort.”
In recent years, Felton’s focus has increasingly shifted towards Alberta. The province now constitutes 30 percent of Felton’s market. Felton is also beginning to enter the international markets. As the Canadian presence in the African and Middle Eastern oil industries grows more prominent, these regions require Felton’s products, as it seems Canadian workers are use to a high quality product, and often cannot find this quality in other parts of the world. Although Felton makes no active push in pursuing international sales, customers across the globe often approach the company with requests to ship worldwide.
Felton currently focuses on four primary products – wire brushes, strip brushes, tufted brushes, and flue brushes. Wire brushes are used in metal fabrication. The second can be used in nearly any commercial or industrial setting, often found lining the bottom of doorways to keep sound and weather out. Strip brushes, wound into a roll or spiral, are used in glass washing applications, conveyor belt cleaning, and a host of other applications. Tufted brushes include wire scratch hand brushes, and many utility brushes. Made on a five-axis machine, possibilities are endless. Flue brushes are long metal rods with a twisted wire ends, and are often used in cleaning small, circular openings. Felton currently services the automotive parts industries, cleaning out oil holes on engine parts and one would be hard pressed not to find a Canadian made engine without a burr removed with a Felton Brush.
The company updated its plant in 2008, and now uses the most advanced brush manufacturing technology in the world. “We’ve spent the past 10 years investing in new technology. We’ve been prepping for expansion,” says Ponikvar.
A study conducted at McMaster University recently revealed Felton’s products outperforming the world leading brands of industrial wire power brushes by throwing a fraction of wire of its competitors. Making the safest brush in the world means a lot to the team at Felton, where quality is second to none.
Ponikvar tributes Felton’s success to its commitment to quality and safety. “Our customers value quality. The quicker performing on task and more efficient the brush, the less our consumers need to spend on labour costs. Safety is also paramount – and we buy only U.S.A. and Canadian drawn wire, made to strict specifications, to ensure our brushes are the safest brushes on the market.”
The company is now in the process of developing a brush that throws absolutely no wires. The product is currently under testing to ensure performance remained uncompromised.
Felton keeps a positive presence in its local community. It currently supports Hamilton’s Good Shepherd Centre, a non-profit organization that offers food, shelter, and rehabilitative programs through donations of time and money. Ponikvar also aids his community through improving the lives of his employees.
“If we take care of our employees, we inherently help our community. I believe our biggest contribution is our commitment to employ Canadian workers and produce Canadian products. There is no better feeling than seeing our employees go home with happy and healthy, with a well-earned paycheque.”
Felton’s formidable employee retention shows the company’s success in increasing the quality of life of its workers. Employee Deloris Kielbowich joined the company in November 1949, and has worked in multiple departments over the past 64 years. She remains a productive member of the team, and currently holds the record as the company’s fastest manual wire twister.
“A big challenge for any company is keeping good people in a tight labour market,” explains Ponikvar, “We are proud to have so many long-standing employees.”
Felton’s commitment in remaining a true Canadian company can be seen in nearly every aspect of its business. Beyond its investment in Canadian talent, the company centralizes its image on Canada’s famous sport – hockey. For several years, Felton provided the Edmonton Oilers with the brushes and shovels used to clear snow during TV timeouts. They also use hockey sticks in the scroll-over of their online logo.
This year Felton is giving back to its Canadian consumers. As a thank you to its customers, random 10-pack of “original six” brush part numbers ordered, will receive a limited edition NHL Game puck celebrating the “Canadiana” of Felton Brushes and our national game.
Felton Brushes has big plans for the future. In the next 20 years the company intends to grow significantly. “By continuing to provide the highest quality products through our key distribution partners in Canada, and soon to partners south of the border, and in other parts of the world, we have a great future to look forward to. ‘Made in Canada’ is a great brand, and we plan on marketing it for many years to come,” concluded Ponikvar.