MRO Magazine

Industry Awards: It’s all about people

Fred Arcon, a 2000 recipient of the Ernie Bouchard Builder Award from Machinery & Equipment MRO magazine, which recognizes his lifetime achievement in the MRO industry, is a man who doesn't talk much ...


December 1, 2000
By Bill Roebuck, Editor

Fred Arcon, a 2000 recipient of the Ernie Bouchard Builder Award from Machinery & Equipment MRO magazine, which recognizes his lifetime achievement in the MRO industry, is a man who doesn’t talk much about problems. He’s focused on accomplishments. “I’ve always been very dedicated to my job and have had a strong commitment to succeed in life.”

Arcon, 66, is president of SEW Eurodrive of Bramalea, Ont., which assembles and services drives, gearmotors and electronic controls. His career with Eurodrive began back in Germany in 1962. Born in Egypt, Arcon graduated from Alexandria University with a mechanical engineering degree, and soon found work in the power station of a large paper mill. After a couple of years, he decided to look for work in Germany because a few friends had already moved there. He joined Eurodrive and soon was responsible for the export of products to non-German speaking countries.

In the mid-1960s, the head of the family-owned company had the idea of exporting unassembled modular drive products, so they could be put together locally, significantly reducing the time between order and delivery. The goal was to give the customer what he wanted in the shortest period of time, says Arcon. “They started with Sweden, then I got involved with starting up Italy and the United Kingdom.”

Arcon got the assignment to set up facilities in North America in 1972, and spent several weeks with a colleague scouting out appropriate locations, eventually settling on Bramalea, Ont., a suburb just northwest of Toronto. The first building, which opened in August 1974, had 33,000 sq ft of office, warehouse and assembly space. After three expansions, it’s now up to 100,000 sq ft, with an inventory of $10 million and production of 40,000 units annually. A sales office was opened in Montreal around the same time. “Coming to Canada was a lucky choice,” says Arcon. “The conditions here enabled us to build up the business.

“We were able to establish a good core of people. Without the right personnel, we couldn’t have grown.” Arcon believed in setting up a pleasant working environment. “That helped us have many long-term employees.”

The company’s earliest successes were in Quebec. “We found the market there was more open. Ontario was very conservative. I think it was easier because I spoke French.” Arcon, in fact, speaks six languages, picking them up as he needed them as a student and early in his career. “Languages were always a big asset for me.”

In Canada, Arcon found that no competitor had the concept of providing 24- to 48-hour delivery. “Our breakthrough came from the beverage industry, with Molson in Montreal in particular. They decided to go with us for a new expansion. Labatt’s was number two.”

Eurodrive sold directly to end users at the time, in the European tradition. Today, the company uses distributors for the aftermarket and deals with OEMs directly. “We still keep a close relation with the end user,” Arcon says.

Reflecting on his success, Arcon points out that he had “good management, the support of the owners, and lots of freedom.” With his retirement set for February 2001, Arcon plans to focus more time on his hobbies, one of which is flying. (He owns a Piper Arrow with three others.) “I’m sure I’m going to be around the company, in one function or another,” he predicts.

After being presented the Ernie Bouchard Builder Award, Arcon expressed his thanks to the gathered guests and took time to recognize the colleagues who have worked with him. “You cannot build a company without great people,” he concluded.