Boating Industry Canada was at Mars
Metal in late February to see a later
and visibly different version of the
Southern Winds 100 keel. This is a
fabricated steel fin section with a
45,000 lb. lead bulb attached. We
watched as a crane loaded it into a
container for shipment to Capetown,
South Africa via ocean-going freight.
production are plainly important customers for MarsKeel, it’s really the
naval architects and designers of parts
like the specialized America’s Cup
winged keels that come from around
the world to Burlington, looking for
the knowledge and skill to pull off
such a championship design.
When Kevin Milne and his father
started Mars Metal, they specialized in
cast lead. They have competitors, but
apparently few equals.
The take-away here is that in the face
of the rise in value of the Canadian
Loonie from $0.70 US to parity, when
other companies are suffering…and
when the price of lead triples as it has
done in the past three years…and when
the huge US market slows down dramatically …the internationally recognized expertise at MarsKeel keeps the
orders coming in and the shipments
We all know that the market may
slow down by 10% or even by 20% but
recently, we have seen unrelenting
strength in the higher-end market.
Custom yachts continue to be commissioned and built and the goal for
your company, as it is for MarsKeel, is to
be the business that is so in demand by
that resilient high-end market, that
slowdowns in the mass market business
do not bring the company down.
In fairness too, Mars Metal is not that
large a business, and owner Kevin Milne
can be flexible and responsive to those
rapid market changes.
A key way they have done this is to
start MarsShield, another division that
makes lead shielding for x-ray facilities. Another diversification is producing lead products for use in nuclear
Mars specializes in lead but they have
taken their skilled workforce into new
areas that require their specialty – lead
fabrication. With access to CAD/CAM
techniques and systems, this company
can tackle a wide range of non-marine
manufacturing and fabrication to minimize the negative impact of those occasional marine industry downturns.
Marine is still half the business but
with other new products coming on, a
20% downturn gets moderated significantly – then again, the skill and specialization seems to be protecting Mars from
the economic slowdown that is hitting
some other businesses.
We think this is an inspiring story
and an encouraging one for other
Canadian manufacturers. ●