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Innovation Award: Rezplast Manufacturing Ltd.

“Here we were, a little fibreglass company out of Sudbury, with a dream that maybe we could do something."

New ideas, a change of focus, and willingness to take risks have propelled Sudbury-based Rezplast Manufacturing into new product developments now recognized in the realm of national and international markets.

Since 2004, the quickly-expanding company has made its mark throughout the global mining sector with their newly-designed portable Mining Toilet and Polar Climate safety shower. These novel products led to the awarding of the 2007 Northern Ontario Business Innovation Award.

Specializing in the design, manufacturing and supply of corrosion resistant fibreglass reinforced plastic, and thermoplastic for industrial and commercial applications, this small family-oriented business acted upon requests from local mine sites to address high maintenance costs for underground human waste removal.

Keeping in mind principle owner Paul Villgren’s philosophy “give the best product possible,” Rezplast stepped up to the plate. With an open and creative mindset, they designed a mini-sewage treatment plant within a self-contained, self-operated unit that has resulted in significant cost reductions for the mines.

“We took the Greater City of Sudbury’s waste water treatment plant’s entire process and scaled it down to a portable unit, patented our ideas and philosophies behind it, and put the product to work,” says part owner and general manager Sandro Spadafora.

This new model has the capacity to store daily waste from use of up to 40 people per day, for as long as two years. It is all air operated with no moving parts. The unit works like a septic system with no smell, rot or corrosion due to its fibreglass composition.

“The air keeps the bacteria-base alive, which basically destroys all matter,” Spadafora explains. Its mobility allows the entire unit to be taken up to the surface to be emptied in a controlled setting. Consequently, it has eliminated weekly maintenance and environmental disposal fees, cross-contamination, and the manpower necessary for decontamination. It is a clean, safe alternative resulting in more than $80,000 of reported savings.

The Polar Climate safety shower, enclosed and insulated for sub-zero temperatures, provides an automated safety system in a climate-controlled atmosphere to prevent hypothermia. Designed for use in surface safety stations and required by law, the custom-built Polar Climate safety shower is targeted for colder climates. It can be found in places like Alaska, Thompson, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and Quebec.

Rezplast’s product development came about when Spadafora and Krista Villgren both stepped into ownership in 2003. They examined the company’s potential and where they could take it to “get ourselves on the map.”

Under Paul’s leadership and experience, within a year, they developed the Mining Toilet and Polar Climate safety shower, and took their products to the Las Vegas Mining Show, placing them on the map in the international mining circles.

“Here we were, a little fibreglass company out of Sudbury, with a dream that maybe we could do something,” says Spadafora.

Since that show, they have attended at least 30 mining shows with their products, kick-starting export sales, which have soared to approximately 65 per cent.

Although the mobile toilet was originally designed for the mining environment, Spadafora sees endless possibilities for the unit. The U.S. and Canadian military DART (Disaster Assistance Relief Team) have purchased several units.

“We are in the process of designing a fully enclosed unit they can use for major disasters.” They expect to launch this prototype at the 2008 Las Vegas mining show. Presently, they are also developing a “first of its kind safety shower system,” to be released by the fall of this year. “It’s a completely different system and will make everyone’s lives easier on the mine sites,” eludes Spadafora.

Increased demand also led to their new Notre Dame location. This 21,000-square-foot facility has allowed greater space for the expansion of the fibreglass and plastics divisions in export sales, in addition to the manufacturing, sales, installation and repair of plastic and fibreglass pipes and piping systems. The latter being the mainstay of the business, Rezplast maintains about 50 per cent of their sales in this area.

Aligning with Sling-Choker Manufacturing also owned by Paul, Rezplast has broadened their sales and distribution network from about three sales people to approximately 50 which has solidified connectoin in the mine industries.