Diversification has ultimately been a great business strategy for Lopes Limited. The Northern Ontario, Canadian SMACNA company started out in 1976 as a small sheet metal shop operating out of a garage. Now Lopes is a national, full-service contractor with a solid reputation for creative, cost-saving projects for large-scale industrial fabrication and industrial construction.
Early on, Lopes focused primarily on clients in the pulp and paper industry. When that industry began to struggle in the early 1990s, Lopes expanded into other sectors. Today, the list of the company's industrial markets is long: oil, chemical, nuclear, agriculture, transportation, pulp and paper, institutional, commercial energy, and mining.
Lopes has also diversified the services they offer. Over the years, the family-owned company added numerous trades to their sheet metal and HVAC portfolio. Now they can do just about everything from electrical and piping to structural steel and custom fabrication.
“We are a full-service contractor, but our company roots are founded on sheet metal,” said Greg Seguin, general manager. Seguin said the company was founded by Felix Lopes Sr., who emigrated from Portugal in the early 1970s with just a bag of tools. He is retired now, but his golden snips still hang on a wall in the company's board room. “We're carrying on with his legacy, and doing justice to his trade, albeit with more technologies,” Seguin said.
“Much of what fueled our growth can be summarized as a quest for ‘nimbleness.’ To be able to offer many services in-house and be able to turn on a dime for our customers,” Seguin added.
Lopes' facilities are close to Sudbury, Ontario, the nickel mining capital of the world. So, their portfolio includes a lot of opportunistic mining-related projects, many of which feature industrial sheet metal, ventilation, HVAC, and dust collection components. A full design-build turn-key 200,000 pound sulphuric acid interpass tower and a 400,000 pound acid converter tower are just two recent examples. Dust collection and ventilation projects are quite common for Lopes.
“We've installed hundreds of tons of dust-collection duct over the years,” Seguin said. “We use SMACNA’s Industrial Duct Construction Standards when we fabricate ductwork for abating dust in fugitive emissions for our industrial customers.”
One recent project for a long-time mining client, completed in November 2018, involved replacing two existing ventilation air handlers with a single unit connected to a large duct. The project featured 304 stainless steel 20-gage ductwork. The duct weighed approximately 4,500 pounds, mostly 4 feet by 5 feet in size and transitioned to 12 feet by 2 feet with several offsets.
“We assembled most of the project off-site and shipped in a modular assembly with structural supports, ductwork insulation, and piping pre-installed in one piece,” Seguin explained. “This eliminated a large scaffold and additional lifts and cranes on-site and many hours of site labor by doing the pre-assembly at our shop. It was also a lot safer and more productive to work 10 feet off the ground, instead of 40 feet.”
“What made this project particularly fun was the ability to pre-assemble it in our yard and move it in one big piece,” Seguin continued. “The customer thought there wasn’t lot of progress on the project along the way until one day, and 'bam' it arrived, was tied in, and the project was essentially complete.”
Lopes is known for taking a modular approach to fabrication whenever possible. Increasing prefabrication capacity was one reason for a recent investment in a new 12,000 square-foot structural steel fabrication facility, which helps the company be innovative and creative in the projects it does.
“We have invested in technology, tools, and equipment in the shops and in the field, to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. This enables us to stay agile and nimble, which is an important part of dealing with today’s customers,” Seguin said. He emphasized that Lopes core group of 185 employees are really the company's most valuable resource. They will be key as Lopes looks toward the future with plans to strengthen positions in the mining and transportation sectors.
“We’re focusing on industrial sheet metal and steelwork projects at the new gold mines coming online across northern Ontario,” he said. “We also expect to have more railroad bridge repair and infrastructure work.”
Railroad bridge repair, now that's diversification.