Ebco Industries Ltd. has a long and venerable tradition of meeting manufacturing and technological challenges that few other companies in the world are willing — or capable — of tackling.
Based in Richmond, British Columbia on Canada’s West Coast,Ebco boasts 27,900 square metres of manufacturing floor space that is filled to capacity with massive pieces of machinery that some might liken to the engines in a Star Destroyer — the imperial ships of the fictional Star Wars universe.A family run-business since 1956, Ebco is led by CEO and PresidentRichard Eppich and chaired by family patriarch Helmut Eppich. In the past six decades, Ebco has been the go-to company for monumental manufacturing challenges for a variety of sectors and industries that include mining, nuclear energy, defence, pulp and paper, oil and gas and aerospace. “We provide a one-stop operation for our customers, serving small companies as well as world-class suppliers of equipment and machinery,” says Richard.
Getting Things Right the First Time
Corporate behemoths, from Boeing to the U.S. Air Force, have commissioned Ebcoto apply its famed ingenuity and skill to unique manufacturing projects. These have included hydraulic lifts that enabled Boeing to hoist aircraft wings up to a plane’s fuselage, where they were bolted on; and manufacturing of large melt chambers for Retech Systems, a global leader in the supply of metallurgical process equipment for melting, reefing and casting of refracting metals like titanium & titanium alloys. In the past years, Ebco created the launch platform for the U.S. Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic MX Missile as well as manufactured key components for the International Space Station, a habitable artificial satellite located in low Earth orbit. The company also built the massive tunnel borers, or giant drills, that were used to chew through rock to create the Chunnel linking France and the United Kingdom. “Creating a new technology is always risky and as we don’t have the deep pockets of financial resources — as do some of our major competitors — we need to ensure that we get things right the first time,” says Richard. “We are not intimidated by technological difficulties or challenging and obscure products,” Richard adds.
Highly Renowed Innovations
Ebco is held in high regard by corporate clients and is especially renowned for creating cyclotrons through its sister company, Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc. (ACSI), located on the same manufacturing site in Richmond. ACSI cyclotrons are internationally recognized for their leading edge technology which was acquired by the Eppich family from TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science. ACSI’s cyclotrons are installed in national Research Organizations as well as several internationally known hospitals all over the world.
More recently, ACSI developed a cyclotron specifically designed to optimize the production of technetium-99m, a silvery, radio active metal called an isotope. Technetium-99m is integral to modern medicine. Radioactive for just a short period of time, it can be injected into the human body to provide an unparalleled look at the human body’s inner workings in order to diagnose diseases like cancer or heart disease or internal injury.The machines detecting these images are commonly known by their acronyms: PET, or positron emission tomography, and SPECT, single photon emission computed tomography. What makes the cyclotron so important for such scans (an estimated 20 million are performed annually around the world), is that they provide an alternative to conventional sources of technetium-99m, which are currently produced in nuclear reactors.
Most of the world’s nuclear reactors are reaching the end of their lives and governments are grappling with whether to replace these billion-dollar facilities, which are unpopular among some members of the public and environmental groups due to potential radiation leaks. By comparison, Ebco’s cyclotrons — averaging less than $10 million each —are turn-key, safe and easily installed in medical facilities.
Overcoming the Enormous Challenges
The founders of a technologically advanced company like Ebco would — you might think — have come from the world of academia and hold advanced engineering and physics degrees. This is not the case with Ebco founder Helmut, who was born in eastern Europe in what is now Slovenia before the Second World War, nor is it the case forEbco’s CEO Richard. Helmut’s family survived the Second World War and afterwards, he trained as a young man with a tool and die maker in Germany. When Helmut immigrated to Canada in 1954, like many immigrants, he had virtually no money or resources to his name: just a suit, a small suitcase, Old World manufacturing skills and a determination born of great hardships. Such resolve helped Helmut overcome enormous challenges over the ensuing years as he grew his own modest tool and die shop into the go-to source for extraordinary technological inventions.
Such ingenuity is carrying Ebco into new fields, including industrial robotics and advanced composites. “We know there will be great challenges ahead but the satisfaction we get from creating positive and new innovations that make the world a little better enables Ebco to have the energy and stamina to propel ourselves forward,” Richard says.