Founder origin stories often have one thing in common, no matter the industry—the garage as rent-free office space. For Craig Harder, it was no different. That’s where he and his former partner founded Edmonton-based Raptor Mining Products Inc., a design and manufacturing firm specializing in high-quality industrial parts for mining, dredging, power generation and construction applications. The goal was to improve safety through the development of products and practices that would be cost-effective to both the customer and the company. Fifteen years later, you’ll find Raptor products on all types of industrial equipment, in more than 175 countries. “We are the largest producer in the world of chrome white iron wear parts,” says Harder, “and our GET (ground engaging tools)—the teeth that are found on buckets—are first-fit. That is, they are shipped from a Caterpillar factory with them on the machine, on almost every Caterpillar machine in the world.”
Caterpillar, the largest equipment company in the world, with machines in almost every country, was a brand Harder wanted to be in business with from the get-go—and then they came calling. “We developed this intellectual property, patented it, and it turned out to be Cat that took interest in it, which was very surprising to us!”
From there, business began to grow. Harder’s ingenuity for industrial design matched his ambition; even if the horizon kept shifting, the goal was always growth. Over the next 10 years, Raptor management and staff developed and implemented new technologies, practices and services in order to design the best products possible for their customers’ highly specific needs. In 2008, the company introduced its first robotically applied overlay service—technology that allows operators to apply a layer of a compound called tungsten carbide, literally the hardest material on the planet, to products in-house. This gave Raptor the ability to make specific parts last longer, wear better and crush harder as a value-add to the customer.
In response to its more isolated customers’ needs, the Continuous Improvement Service and/or Distribution Centre (CISC/CIDC) model was created in 2010. “It was becoming clear that we needed facilities in remote mining regions where customization was required. We adopted the mode of ‘manufacturing in the market, for the market,’ and soon after that the CISC name was created,” Harder says. The first CISC outside Alberta opened in 2012 in Barrie, Ont., followed by one in Miami in 2013 to service the Latin American market. There are now locations in Ontario, Florida, Utah, Peru, Chile and China.
Internally, Raptor also benefits from Harder’s innovative thinking when it comes to workplace culture. Longevity and loyalty are encouraged through education programs and staff events. Harder prides himself on being as visible as he can be; most of his travel is to meet employees around the globe, who tend to be hired right out of university. (“We have a very diverse group of young people who have just turned, or are about to turn, 30. I’m kind of the old guy on the block here.”) In order to create community within an international company, Harder created incentives that aren’t reliant on language. “ROAR, the Robotic Overlay Application Ranking program, was created in 2013 as a way to ensure skilled robotic overlay operators would stick around for the long haul. It’s both a retention and incentive program we use at each of our seven global operations,” says Harder. “The men and women who graduate to each level receive chevrons for their jackets and coveralls; it’s a level of respect.”
And although the facility is an industrial one, there’s still room to have a little (safe) fun. RaptorFest, an annual week-long, company-wide event is a highlight of the year, with learning events that include global management, customer meet-and-greets, a family barbecue and more. Building the culture is important to Harder. “It’s not a job, it’s a career,” he says. “Raptor Mining has a strong culture. It’s our GSD culture that drives us, and is the foundation of our value proposition. GSD stands for Getting S–t Done—but before you GSD you must have a Goal-Setting Discussion, so it’s both. You can’t have one without the other.”