Game Changer: Mark Zimny, Founder & CEO, Promation Engineering Ltd.

In 1995, Mark Zimny founded Promation Engineering Ltd., a company dedicated to delivering automation, robotics and tooling systems to serve the automotive assembly industry. A decade later, the company expanded to supply complex tooling and equipment to Canada’s nuclear industry. In this area, its reputation, knowledge, technical capabilities, project management and quality assurance programs have come to be highly respected. In 2012, Promation won a significant, built-to-print, long-term manufacturing contract as a dedicated supplier for essential and complex nuclear testing devices.

Mark Zimny

“Looking forward, I want to lead Promation to apply the combination of competitiveness and skills acquired from the automotive industry with technical, process and manufacturing expertise learned from the highly structured and regulated nuclear industry to serve needs in the aerospace and defence industry,” said Zimny. “This will capitalize on Promation’s core skills with integrated automation and robotics systems, complex equipment, systems and tooling, and developing additive manufacturing technologies.”

What is your role in your company today?

I’m the CEO at Promation, leading the management of three market-focused divisions – Aerospace & Defence, Nuclear, and Automotive – to understand customer needs and be innovative, responsive and ambitious to deliver exceptional products on-schedule. My job right now is to build solid foundations for the next phase of Promation’s accelerated growth by doubling our business again in the next few years.

What was your most challenging moment?

This is always to ensure delivery on-time and on-budget of innovative solutions for our customers. A prime example is the fully automated robotic material storage and handling system for front and rear bumpers delivered to Toyota in only four months while meeting stringent cycle time requirements. This huge and complex system became the flagship for Promation, and it helped Promation secure preferred vendor status at Toyota globally. The second example is our delivery of the modular automated mobile platform, carrying maintenance crew and large tooling systems used in maintenance and refurbishment of nuclear reactors. Promation applied innovative engineering and simplified the design of this highly complex system to deliver the system to Ontario Power Generation below budget and ahead of schedule. Promation has set a good example in the nuclear supply chain for delivery of innovative systems. Ontario Power Generation and Bruce Power are both repeat customers of Promation.

What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader?

The realization that simple things are the best solution. In 2017, Promation completed the first phase of our Accelerated Growth Plan, doubling our size in less than three years and reaching our record employment of 125 highly skilled personnel. I was thinking of the best opportunities to double it again. I knew that doubling the company revenues would pose two serious challenges. The first challenge is the size of current markets, and the second one is the current capacity of Promation, including our office and manufacturing space, IT system upgrades, etc. I concluded that there is one simple solution to both challenges. The solution is to improve the productivity of Promation by introducing lean practices so the company can beat the competition by delivering its products faster from the existing facilities. This approach is required for growth and further strengthens Promation as a viable, long-term supplier of custom equipment and tooling.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

Hiring, hiring, hiring. At Promation we rely heavily on our Human Resources, our people, to deliver complex products. Hiring a talented, experienced workforce is the proof of the business viability – the ultimate proof that Promation is an attractive company in the competitive HR market.

What is the best advice you received?

Get it done to deliver the job on time. Sometimes innovation or complex manufacturing needs can challenge the delivery and cost of a project. Difficulties can pile up quickly. Promation is always more than ready to commit all the resources required to finish the job as committed. Promation thanks returning customers like Honda, Toyota, Ontario Power Generation, and Bruce Power, some of whom have been with us for decades.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

The routine of recognizing people and employees for their achievements, for their ideas, and for their individual style of work. It is about making sure that they feel recognized either verbally on the daily basis or by the elaborate awards on the special occasions.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

People who demonstrate their passion can change their ways, they always try new things, and they are not afraid to fail. Organizations which invest in human resources, they have satisfied employees; they attract, develop and promote talent. People in such organizations create a rewarding culture of innovation, success and satisfaction for themselves and the company.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Through sustained continuing process improvement, leading to productivity and, through diversity of multiple industry sectors, leading to innovative solutions and new efficiencies for customers in a specific sector.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

The scarcity of, or insufficient, long-term investment.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

I tried to set the course at the outset of the engineering business by offering only innovative tooling solutions to our first customers. Innovation has been the core of Promation business since day one. I selected engineering and technical staff based on their innovation and creativity skills. Innovation has been in Promation’s roots, and it became a large part of proposed solutions. Promation growth and market diversification has been based on solid engineering and, always, on the innovation embedded in our products. Innovation at Promation has been optimized by restructuring to form separate business units focused on market-focused innovation. Profit and loss responsibility is effectively used to align goals.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

Technologies with the highest IT content will win. Even in robotics and automation, the IT content can be increased. Businesses that are agile and diverse, that can rely increasingly on data, and that can deal with small volumes of high-value custom products, will yield the most profits in manufacturing.

A good example of the beginning of the potential for product customization is purchasing a pair of shoes. First comes the selection of a style, then the choice colour, then the size and fit of the it, and finally there is a unique pair of shoes for each customer. These can be 3D printed in real time at purchase. The 3D printed pair is based on a digital model of the customer’s foot, scanned and emailed from an iPhone. Welcome to the 4th generation of manufacturing!

What is your parting piece of advice?

Never give up, set your long-term goals, and work your way through it. Change your tracks but keep your direction. Make something a passion in your life.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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