By Adelle Lamour
Quality workmanship and service is one of several philosophies that has kept Rector Machine Works Ltd. operating for more than 75 years.
Based in Sault Ste. Marie, this family-run manufacturing, machine and fabrication business has seen three generations upholding the Rector name and work ethic. It all began in 1933, when Hervey Rector Sr. and his wife began a humble washing machine and appliance repair service in Espanola.
Now in the hands of his son and current president Herv Rector Jr., the company continues to flourish under his leadership, with the help of his children, extended family and loyal employees.
“My wife and I often say that some day we’re going to find out what we’re doing and then we’ll be in trouble,” he jokes, knowing there isn’t just one main ingredient in running a successful business.
His parents were exemplary business partners, his mother being much a part of the business as his father, including the repairs and testing of the appliances. Even though Hervey Sr. had the opportunity to work for Algoma Steel for a couple of years, he “had more ambition to own his own business, which had a gamut of everything” from repairing machines, pumps, and motors to offering welding and pipe-fitting services.
From the basement of their St. Charles Street house, the Rector family grew the company to include equipment repairs and maintenance for lumber mills, bakeries, and private contractors.
Upon Hervey Sr.’s passing in 1967, Herv Jr. and his wife, Sandi, followed in his parents’ footsteps and took over the operations. In the same exemplary fashion, Herv has empowered his own children – David, sales and marketing manager; Mark, operations manager; and Michelle, executive assistant – to participate in and continue the family business.
Throughout the years, Rector Machine Works (RMW) has expanded to its present-day Sackville Road location where a 10,000-square-foot facility houses 30 employees working in five divisions: millwrighting, machine shop, welding and fabricating, RMW drive line and balance, and hydraulics and metal sales.
All of these services help meet the needs of a diversified clientele, including larger industries like Essar Steel, Flakeboard Company Ltd., and more recently, the mining industry. It has been this ability to seek out and expand its customer base that has helped the business through cyclical downturns in the economy.
Remaining technologically current has also helped keep services competitive. Within the last 10 years, Rector Machine Works has purchased computerized equipment, such as a CNC lathe, press brake and shear. These machines have promoted an area of growth in rebuilding and manufacturing new components.
Sustainability has been another value that has maintained steady employment throughout the years.
“We never overstepped our bounds,” Herv said. “We didn’t grow at a rate we couldn’t handle. We wanted to make sure we could sleep at night without worrying about finances.”
More than 75 years later, they continue to work within their means, and provide a safe work environment for their employees. As one of the first machine shops in Sault Ste. Marie to be ISO certified, health and safety is at the fore. It also belongs to the Industrial Accident Prevention Association.
Sponsoring apprenticeship programs has enabled Rector Machine Works to build a loyal employee base.
“We have a number of employees that have been with us for more than 25 years, and they started as apprentices,” Herv said. “We have maintained our training and just by example of what we’re doing, when these people finish, they know how to work.”
Although keeping skilled tradespeople has been a significant challenge in the last 10 years, Herv said they’ve had very few employees move on to competitors. The Rectors recognize employees are an integral part of the business, and that loyalty is built through positive working relationships and making people feel they are an important and contributing part of the business.
“I often tell my guys, I have yet to fire anyone who makes a mistake,” Herv said.
“We want to be profitable and successful, but it all boils down to the personalities and the people running the business, whether it is management or the people on the floor.”
Rector Machine Works
Video by Chris Elzinga