Apr 9, 2019
By Rob MacLeod – The Informed Boater
Ben Pilon, CEO of Kingston Anchors and its parent company BPE Group of Companies (BPEGroup.ca) in Kingston, ON grew up in manufacturing. By the age of 15, Ben was sweeping floors in his parents company. After graduating from University of Guelph with an Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree, Ben’s first thought was to go into manufacturing. What he found was, Canadian banks were less receptive than he had hoped, so he started BPE Development at age 24.
Working on what would become a strength of each of BPEs investments, Ben started by bringing together a unique team that grew and evolved.
BPE Enterprises website states:
“Ben values collaboration, dedication and diversity. It is with these principles that he runs his business, developing a group of companies, which thrive on preservation and innovation. Motivated by those around him, he now owns properties in the city of Kingston, Guelph and Niagara Falls, fueling his ever-expanding vision.”
How does this translate to manufacturing in the marine industry? Very well, as a matter fact. At Kingston Anchors, Ben has put together both a strong team of individuals and a set of strong intercompany connections. Housed under one roof are Kingston Anchors, Kingston Steel and Fabrication, and Kingston Automation Technology. These three companies work in their own industries and with their own unique customers. They are brought together to ensure the high quality and production efficiency possible in a small shop.
Kingston Anchors uses only U.S. stainless steel and manufactures and assembles all of their products in their Kingston, ON facility.
The company was started in 1977 by engineer Ed Peterson following the 1976 Olympics that was hosted in Montreal, with the sailing events being held in Kingston in Portsmouth Harbour. Portsmouth Harbour was developed for the Olympics and continues to be Canada’s national sail racing centre. In 2015, Ed retired and Ben was able to purchase Kingston Anchors from him.
Although a smaller manufacturer, Ben knew that to compete in the global market, he would have to build the right team, then develop processes and tools that would reduce time and increase production. Ben knew that if the staff had confidence in the product and in their tools, they would want to produce the best product and provide the best service possible.
Talking with Ben Pilon, it became clear he clearly understood what has made some of the largest companies great at manufacturing. In addition to maintaining quality using strategies such as six-sigma, continuous improvement like 5-S and production efficiency right out of the Toyota Production System Muda (eliminate waste), Mura (unevenness in an operation) and Muri (overburdening equipment or operators).
Originally the company made anchors to order. Ben instituted both an inventory control system that triggered production when inventory reached a pre-defined minimum and a way to share resources with Kingston Steel and Fabrication. With this production, workers could flex between the two companies to ensure all customers received what they wanted when they needed it.
David Plumpton joined the company as Sales Manager in October 2018 to grow the sales organization. The first step was to create a network of distributors across Canada. Kingston Anchors does not sell direct, but will talk with any potential customers then direct them to the distributor in their area. Next, Dave started on the U.S. network and Kingston Anchors has established a U.S. warehouse to eliminate cross-border shipping.
The other part of the growth strategy is to ensure the that company’s customer service was the way it used to be. Dave, Ben and other high performing organizations understand that if your service is not strong, then you will devalue the quality of your product.
Kingston Anchors’ products are original equipment on many North American manufactured boats. Some OEM partners include Baja Marine, Cruisers Yachts, Henriques Yachts, Hunt Yachts, Key West Boats, Larson, Marquis Yachts, Carver, Nordic Tugs, PowerCat, Everglades Boats, Rossiter Boats, Sabre Yachts, Yellowfin, Contender, Tidewater, and Viking to name but a few.
Speaking of product, in addition to the one-piece general purpose anchor Kingston QuickSet, Kingston Anchors produces a wide-range of bow rollers designed specifically for their own anchor and many of the popular new-generation anchors such as Rocna, Vulcan and Mantus, as well as more traditional CQRs.
Since they were building rollers for their own bow rollers, why not build replacement rollers for other applications. The roller wheels are made of Acetal, a strong superior dense polymer material that is UV resistant. Bow roller wheels are precision cut on Kingston Anchors’ CNC lathe and won’t yellow, fade or crack. The bow roller and components carry a 5-year warranty against breakage. Kingston Anchors carries a variety of roller wheels and can customize wheels when necessary.
Finally, Kingston Anchors offers a dinghy davit system. Using reversible booms, KA’s dinghy davit can be set for extra height or for long reach. They can also be either rail or transom mounted.