From sketch to reality for Langley firm

There’s a ray gun in the offices of Method Innovation Partners, a manufacturing firm located in Langley’s industrial north-western district.

It’s one of a number of odd items that sits on shelves in the conference room, including a tablet covered with Egyptian hieroglyphs, a snow board binding, replicas of human vertebrae, and a prototype for a new vodka bottle cap.

All the items are mementoes of previous jobs done by Method, which has just rebranded itself after 33 years under the name CSL plastics.

The firm is branching out into a new area with its creation of a new type of modular building construction, but is still hanging on to its core business – making almost anything, to order, from plastic and metal.

Carl Philibert, a vice president at Method, said the firm is focused on small to medium sized orders of goods. If companies want a plastic widget produced by the tens of thousands, it’s usually cost effective for them to send the manufacturing overseas, usually to China.

But for just a few hundred or thousand items, it often makes sense to keep things in Canada. For companies here in B.C., it means the opportunity to talk to the folks at Method face-to-face.

With the rise of Chinese manufacturing, the firm has had to concentrate on its local advantages.

Some are obvious, such as much cheaper shipping costs for local goods.

Others include hands on help bringing a design to life.

Philibert estimates that about half of the clients who come into the offices are engineering types, who bring CAD files or diagrams. They know what they want and how it needs to be made.

“The other 50 per cent, it’s people with a sketch on a napkin,” said Philibert.

One client came in with the idea sketched out for a new kind of planter. It had to be made of two pieces of plastic that would then be sealed together to become watertight.

The ability to bring in designs and see them realized out of a durable material has brought Hollywood productions a number of times. The ray gun and a plastic belt in the conference room are from action movies like Chronicles of Riddick, while the Egyptian tablet is a prototype of a prop for one of the Night at the Museum movies.

Athena Green, the sales and marketing manager for the company, said face to face interaction is one of the reasons people come to the local firm. It’s a lot easier to check in repeatedly as a product moves from the original design to being finished if the factory is in your backyard.

The company is now trying to turn its expertise with plastics and metals into the creation of a new type of building.

Company members had seen quakes in Chile and Haiti, and the devatation they caused.

The company began looking into the creation of a modular plastic, foam, and metal building structure.

While it hasn’t yet been used in disaster areas, the new buildings are now being installed as an alternative to portable classrooms.

Holy Cross Regional High School in Surrey has installed several of the buildings and will open them soon.

The buildings have thin wall panels with built-in insualtion. The panels screw together quickly, and are free of wood or other products that can decay.

The idea is to create something that will outlast a traditional portable classroom by several decades.

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