Back to Shawinigan
As it grew, Kalitec moved into successively larger facilities in Laval in 1992 and 2001. The most major expansion came in 2015, with the addition of a second business, Aten, in Lapointe’s hometown of Shawinigan, Que.
With the current configuration, the 1,301-m2 (14,000-sf) Laval plant comprises three main departments. In the first, metal—primarily aluminum—is cut with a computer numerical control (CNC) router, bent and welded with specialized equipment. In the second department, the company uses powdercoating for in-house paint jobs. And in the third, sign graphics are produced with a mix of flatbed and roll-to-roll (RTR) inkjet printers.
The 790-m2 (8,500-sf) Aten facility in Shawinigan, meanwhile, is dedicated to storage and assembly of products aimed at the burgeoning ‘smart city’ market. Solar panels and LEDs are sourced for use in a variety of applications, including a weather-sensing sign that warns pedestrians when a sidewalk may be slippery.
“In addition to aluminum, we have dies for manufacturing plastic frames for digital signage, as a cheaper option,” Lapointe says.
Together, the facilities are staffed by a team of 40 employees.
While the growing market for dynamic signage has fuelled much of Kalitec’s recent growth, the company also continues to find success in static applications. Its most recent launch, at 2016’s Sign Expo Canada, was Print Armor, a new brand for graffiti-resistant printed signs.
“The idea came from our existing municipal customers, who had long complained about graffiti on their signs,” says Lapointe. “I spent 10 years and thousands of dollars developing it. On two occasions, I wanted to quit, but my sales agent begged me not to.”
The resulting aluminum signs allow nearly all types of graffiti to be easily washed away with an alcohol solution, offering 10-year durability. Kalitec does the printing in-house, then supplies the signs to municipal governments or, alternatively, other sign shops that integrate them into larger projects, such as interpretive panel systems.
Going forward, Lapointe’s role as president will continue to focus more on mid- and long-term signage R&D efforts than on short-term matters. His two sons, Charles-Eméric and Anthony, now oversee most of the company’s day-to-day activities, including sales, marketing, finance and operations.
“My biggest challenge is getting good, new products ready at the same time as the international market is ready to buy them,” he says. “There are many opportunities out there and we have to keep focused on the synergy between our products. We’re not a large company, so we really have to plan carefully for our work to be successful.”