Welding centre finds its stride
MaJIC wins industry acceptance
After four years of operation, the Materials Joining Innovation Centre, more commonly known by its acronym, MaJIC, is close to breaking even on service revenue.
From 2010 to 2012, according to CEO Evan Butler-Jones, MaJIC has doubled revenue from service, worked with more than 60 companies, and either trained or provided guidance to 200 individual welders.
Established in 2008 with $3.1 million in start-up funding, including $1.5 million from the Province of Ontario and close to $500,000 from the federal government, MaJIC provides a wide range of consulting services relating to welding techniques, material properties and quality control.
Mining companies and suppliers in Northern Ontario and northwestern Quebec constitute the bulk of its customer base, but MaJIC has also performed work for national and international clients in the power generation, forestry, automotive, aerospace and oil and gas industries.
In the absence of MaJIC, mining companies and suppliers with welding related problems “would have to figure things out on their own, or search around through their own personal networks for a solution,” said Butler- Jones, who joined MaJIC in March following the retirement of founding CEO Don Decker. “For example, let’s say you’re getting cracking as soon as your component goes out in the field. You can fix the problem by trial and error or you can go straight to a source of expertise and solve the problem immediately.”
MaJIC’s unique blend of academic expertise and industry experience puts it in the position of offering unbiased advice based on the science of material joining and an understanding of material properties. While MaJIC evolved out of Northern College’s welding engineering technology program, its staff are steeped in industry experience and understand the rate at which industry needs to move, said Butler-Jones.
“We make sure that MaJIC is not just an academic or government institution, but a very responsive organization.”
MaJIC helps its industry partners develop welding procedures and select materials for specific applications – “all of the things that you’d expect from an internal R&D shop, but provided on demand,” said Butler-Jones.
“The mission is to have the capability to help our industry partners with every aspect of their business that relates to welding because, very often, welding is just one piece of a broader business. A company may have expertise in manufacturing or mining services, but may not have welding expertise in house.”
MaJIC helps to set up quality control procedures, performs failure investigations, inspections and destructive and non-destructive testing in its well-equipped laboratory in Kirkland Lake. It also offers training and works with the Canadian Welding Bureau to host welder certification testing.
A successful Northern Welding Trade Show, held in September 2012, featured exhibits and product demonstrations by welding suppliers as well as seminars and a skills competition.
Butler-Jones, who has a degree in Aerospace Engineering from Carleton University and some 15 years of experience in the aviation industry, sees MaJIC scaling up to keep pace with the rapid growth it has experienced in the last few years.
“We need to make sure we can provide the expertise, quality of service and turnaround that our industry partners expect,” he noted.
While much of the work MaJIC does is one-on-one with a business, Butler-Jones would like to offer industry as a whole broader educational programming, including special courses on advanced welding techniques.
The best welding technology for steel isn’t particularly new, but there are always challenges joining dissimilar metals and achieving longer service life, he noted.
“For example, if you’re using abrasion resistant plates, you want to make sure that you’re not ruining the wear resistance by welding them improperly, so in some cases, yes, there is new technology out there. In other cases, it’s a matter of applying the existing technology and understanding the science so you can refine what you’re doing.”