Hard-Line’s story begins in 1996 on a deck in Sudbury, Ontario, with six friends who had a vision to optimize remote control technology for the mining industry. With their first office being one founder’s basement, the company grew quickly and continues to consistently expand into new markets and new product lines. Walter Siggelkow, president and founder, always says, “There are only two ways to grow a business. You can get more clients or more product.” At Hard-Line, they believe the best approach is simply do both.
Fast forward 23 years later, Hard-Line’s headquarters remain in Sudbury, with a 33,000 square foot site located in Dowling, employing 110 people in the area. Hard-Line also has offices in Peru, Chile and the USA for sales and service, along with a distribution network with presence across most of the globe.
Changing the Culture
The company began exporting almost immediately. In it’s first year of operation, Hard-Line installed systems in Ontario and Quebec and, in 1997, won projects in Manitoba. Within its first five years, Hard-Line was exporting to seven countries.
Hard-Line is a global leader in the design, manufacturing and installation of automation, tele-remote operation and radio remote controls for heavy machinery. Their core products include RRC (radio remote controls), Teleop (tele-operation and automation) and the LP401 (remote-controlled low-profile loader).
Teleop is a tele-remote control system which allows the operation of heavy machinery from a distant location (such as on surface) that can operate on a client’s existing network or Hard-Line’s Backbone Networks. The system allows for continued operation during shift resulting in increased productivity. Teleop’s core functionality can be upgraded using Teleop Multi and/ or Teleop Auto, allowing operators to operate multiple machines from one control station; manually or with auto steering, braking and speed. Hard-Line is gearing up to release its newest upgrade option, Teleop Assist.
Teleop Assist enhances the base system using lidar technology for easy, reliable 3D scanning. Controlled steering with Teleop Assist is easy and only requires the operator to indicate when to turn the machine onto a new path with collision avoidance assistance.
Diversifying: Exports and Industry
Although Hard-Line primarily works in the mining industry, their technology has been used in a variety of industrial applications like demolition, construction, ordnance clean up, landscaping and marine.
The development of the LP401 low profile loader has been an important product for Hard-Line’s expansion into industries outside of mining in the USA. The LP401 is built to fit in confined spaces where traditional skid steers won’t, and operators cannot safely go. It’s fully remote controlled and is compatible with any standard skid steer attachment. Although the potential applications are almost limitless, the machine is quickly gaining popularity with municipalities in several states who are using the machine primarily for culvert cleaning, as well as for slope mowing/ landscaping. Clients also include construction companies in the US and UAE. Recently, Hard-Line’s first LP401 with an enviro package was delivered to a construction company working near riverbeds. This unit was designed to run using biodegradable fluids for minimal impact to the waterways the company is working around.
The community in Greater Sudbury and its support has played a vital role in Hard-Line’s growth and ability to export over the years. With the strong presence of world-class schools, mining companies, NORCAT’s innovation centre, industry associations and government support, the relationships built within this network has positioned Hard-Line with a solid foundation for international growth.
Hard-Line has a long-standing partnership with NORCAT. NORCAT’s Underground Centre, an operating mine used for testing and training, has been an invaluable resource for the company who has a permanent presence with its Teleop control station set up there. The space is used for development and testing, as well as a place to provide demonstrations to potential clients. With Hard-Line’s Teleop, operators have controlled equipment at NORCAT’s Underground Centre from as far away as Australia, not only proving the technology, but also illustrating Sudbury’s global reach in mining tech.
The company works closely with Laurentian University’s Bharti School of Engineering and Cambrian College. Last year, Hard-Line and Laurentian announced the company contribution to the Hard-Line Mechatronics, Robotics and Automation Lab, supporting lab renovations and upgrades, new computer work stations and furnishings and multimedia equipment for interactive teaching. The company also supports Laurentian’s capstone projects annually, like the 2018-2019 Golf Bot project, an automated greens keeper tool designed and built by a group of students.
With Cambrian’s Applied Research and co-op programs, local companies like Hard-Line have the opportunity to work with the next generation of workers to help highlight where industry is heading and what skills are or will be required. In a time when tradespeople are in short supply and the industrial landscape is changing so quickly, maintaining active involvement in training and development is a priority for Hard-Line.
Hard-Line’s Technology Centre
As the company continues to expand its reach internationally, the core of its development team remains in Sudbury. This summer the Hard-Line Technology Centre will open its doors downtown. This space will be a centrally located space dedicated to technological advancements, designed to be an innovation ‘think tank’ where the team’s programmers, designers, network specialists and technicians will work on new product development and enhancements. Hard-Line is confident that the new location will help attract even more top talent, with access to all the benefits of being downtown. Sudbury’s reputation as the technological hub for the mining industry is growing and with all that the area has to offer, there’s no doubt that this will only become more prevalent. With the new location, Hard-Line is aiming to encourage further collaboration amongst the local network to gain more momentum and enhance the North’s status as a leader in innovation.
Published by: ‘Biznes Magazine