ARCHIVED - Innovation that is music to a manufacturer's ears
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Upland Technologies Inc
March 07, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario
The next time you hear a powerful automobile engine purring away, spare a thought for the sophisticated equipment that created a muffler system capable of taming this noise.
In fact, the latest generation of muffler components are lighter and stronger than ever, and Mohamed Gharib can take some of the credit for this progress. His firm, Upland Technologies Inc., has made it possible for companies to adopt advanced metal-forming methods and efficiently produce these components.
With offices in Brantford and Cambridge, Ontario, Upland employs a small, critical mass of experienced, talented engineers. Working with a number of parts suppliers throughout southern Ontario, the company has addressed issues such as lockseaming, a technique for shaping and joining metal to form a secure seal.
According to Gharib, most of the machinery available for this kind of work has been designed to meet the needs of mass production activities, with a repetitive, narrowly defined series of tasks. That can make for a costly investment if those tasks must change to accommodate different styles of vehicles or the changing demands of transportation safety and emission regulations. Upland has been adapting this kind of machinery to allow it to function more flexibly, enabling manufacturers to cope with the changing demands of their industry.
"With our knowledge of engineering and machine design, we can design a more effective solution," he explains. "And we can re-engineer that design for different applications."
The key, he says, is a matter of innovation and technology development. Those factors can appear to be risky for many established businesses, but Gharib has turned them into the central elements of success. Since Upland was incorporated in 2000, it has carried out some $1.3 million worth of research and development, building a technical capability that now generates more than $2 million in annual sales.
He attributes much of this success to the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), which provides a range of both technical and business oriented advisory services along with potential financial support to growth-oriented small and medium-sized Canadian enterprises. Delivered by an extensive integrated network of Industrial Technology Advisors, a group of some 260 professionals in 100 communities across the country, NRC-IRAP works directly with clients like Upland to support innovative research, development and commercialization of new products and services.
NRC-IRAP has backed seven separate projects with Upland, opening up new possibilities in areas such as laser welding and hydroforming, the use of fluid to mould materials with intricate patterns. For Gharib, this early seed funding was vital to the technical success of these ventures, which became the basis for industrial collaborations with firms in Canada and the United States.
In addition to these accomplishments, though, Gharib is particularly grateful to NRC-IRAP for providing a better understanding of the market that Upland serves, as well as the aggressive competition in that market from countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Italy, and Spain.
"As a result of our partnership with NRC-IRAP, customers recognize us as a leading technology company, and we have obtained contracts from Canada, the US, and elsewhere," he says. "And thanks to this experience, we are engaged in an even more strategic approach to maintaining a competitive edge in the global marketplace."
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