Despite the myriad of daily responsibilities in her role as president of a company with global sales of $25 million a year, Éloïse Harvey still has the heart of a mechanical engineer.
“I love manufacturing,” she admits. “I love the whole technical thing – listening to clients and finding solutions with them and then bringing those back to the team to develop crazy engineering and design ideas that we can actually make happen.”
Harvey is president of Mecfor Inc., a Quebec-based company that designs and builds mobile and custom equipment for the aluminium smelting industry and other heavy industries.
“We don’t just do things on paper. We actually fabricate things, and mobile equipment is so cool because you actually turn the key and it starts and you can drive it around. I’m as excited today when I see equipment start-up as I was 20 years ago.”
That enthusiasm, along with sales and marketing acumen has helped Harvey transform her family’s small business into a global entity with growth aspirations.
When Harvey joined her father in the company after her 1999 graduation from McMaster’s Mechanical Engineering and Management program, Mecfor’s $2.5 million in annual sales were made entirely to Quebec clients.
“Today, we deliver equipment worldwide,” she says, with justifiable pride. “Over 50 percent of our sales are outside of North America.”
Harvey has also guided the company’s diversification efforts. Deep experience building for the harsh environments of heavy industry put the company in an excellent position to partner in supplying equipment for the nuclear industry.
Custom rail maintenance equipment is another new market for the company. While initially designing for the mining industry, Mecfor has expanded into the transportation sector, including the rapidly-growing light rail market.
The company’s most exciting new project is an autonomous electric vehicle for heavy industrial use.
Currently, in prototype form, the self-driving vehicle is designed to carry crucibles holding 30 tons of molten metal, while navigating around other vehicles, overhead cranes and workers in plants with high magnetic fields.
The prototype is slated for testing at a Quebec client’s site this spring.
Sales will initially focus on the aluminium industry, but the vehicle’s potential is vast, says Harvey. “If we can make it work there, it will have applications in other heavy industry.”
“It’s probably going to be a Canadian premiere because we haven’t seen anyone else doing the type of vehicles we are doing.”