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Leading by Example:

Leading by Example:

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Redwood Plastics and Rubber engineers, manufactures, fabricates and distributes cost-effective industrial plastic and rubber components that replace steel, aluminum, and wood.

“My father was a true pioneer in the plastics business,” Graeme Fraser, president & CEO, says. “His company was one of the first to introduce industrial plastics into Canada in the 1950s. My brother Duncan and I grew up working in the family business from a young age. When he sold in 1967, Duncan transitioned into a salesman for the new owners.”

With this experience and knowledge Fraser, who was 18, and his brother, who was 23, felt confident about opening their own business. In 1971, with a $2,000 bank loan, they opened Redwood Plastics and started producing PVC fabricated parts.

“In the first month we had sales of $4,000. The next, $2,800. Then $1,800! We were going broke fast,” he laughs as he reminisces. It was scary to see the red.”

Despite a rocky start, their hard work, and a lucky break, paid off. A local company went out of business and the brothers acquired the equipment that got them into pouring polyurethanes and machining plastics.

From there, things took off. Fraser explains, “During the 1970s we started developing innovative products like the plastic wear strip for under chains, and nylon and polyurethane for bushing applications. We were the first to introduce plastic sprockets into the forest industry.”

By 1978 Redwood was just under a million in sales. It was then they made what was, at the time, a radical decision. They computerized.

“We spent $75,000 on a computer. It allowed us to be more effective. The computer sat in a 100 square foot room, the only room in the building that was air conditioned. It had two disk drives that looked liked LPs, and each drive held 5MG of information.” The leverage and early adoption of tech is a theme that continued for the next 50 years, enabling rapid growth and success. “As we continue to look at what we need to do to remain competitive, we continue to invest in new equipment and technology. We’ll be introducing robotics soon.”

In the 1980s, Duncan left the business and Fraser became the majority owner, and the company branched out into Edmonton, following a successful move into the American market. From there, Redwood diversified not just geographically, but also through a series of acquired businesses and product developments. In mid 2017, after a careful look at their entire group of companies across North America, they amalgamated under Redwood Plastics and Rubber.

“We are unique as a company because we can offer a series of different materials and we have such a broad product line. Our focus is always on the customers’ needs and providing solutions,” says Fraser. “And without a doubt, one of the most contributing factors to our success is our people. I have not done this alone. One of the things we did early on was to promote from within. We always created a culture of opportunity for our team. We have over 200 people and more than 25 with 20+ years or longer of service.”

COVID-19 has provided another opportunity for Redwood Plastics and Rubber to better meet consumer demands.

“We are seeing the decentralization of manufacturing to be more responsive to the customer and the industry,” says Fraser. “We are very optimistic about this future. Despite what is going on in the world, the trends are bringing manufacturing back to North America. We are excited about continuing to participate in our markets.”

It’s more than market participation. Redwood intends to be a leading force in the industry. Fraser was the first non-American and the youngest member to become president of NAPD, now IAPD (International Association of Plastics Distribution), and was instrumental in linking the European and North American associations. Redwood is also recognized annually for their marketing awards; Fraser thanks Angela Rodenburgh, VP Marketing, for her creative campaigns that share their industry knowledge with other businesses.

Redwood Plastics and Rubber is not just customer facing. They also have a strong presence in the community. In addition to supporting numerous charitable causes, the company sprang into action to help restaurants when COVID-19 took a toll. Fraser says, “Once a month, across all our locations, we pick a local restaurant. The company co-pays for lunch for everyone in the building. It supports the restaurants and treats the team.”

Redwoods Plastics and Rubber has much to celebrate as it turns 50 this year. An industry leader and community supporter from the start, this company is changing the way products are produced and distributed, one innovative product at a time.

Fraser concludes, “No matter what industry, they all have moving parts and they all have wear and tear. The right plastic in the right application can address this.

7035 56th Ave. Edmonton, AB T6B 3L2
T 780 435 7700 |1 888 554 7700
edmonton@redwoodplastics.com
redwoodplastics.com

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