"Anyone can have a good idea; the challenge is in making it actually work and bringing it to market, and that’s where we shine."
Can you provide a brief history of Ionic Technology Group and the companies that make up the group?
Ionic Engineering was started by Steve Matusch in 1998. Twenty years later, it’s a group of six companies. Ionic Engineering is now Ionic Mechatronics, which specializes in automation for mining as well as for heavy and medium industry. Ionic Automation, which started as a satellite office in Cambridge, Ontario, has its own assembly shop and focuses on medium and lighter automation for the auto and medical industries. Over time, we also developed Variant Mining Technologies, which designs and supplies mine loading chutes and rail haulage solutions. Additionally, Ionic’s engineering group was spun off as Black Rock Engineering in 2014. Ionic Tecnologias in Chile serves the South American market. Finally, Synaptic Technologies is the company’s newest branch, which focuses on custom electronic devices and software development for mining and other industries.
Ionic’s business model and philosophy is that when a product or line or business reaches a certain size, spinning it off into a specialty division helps maintain a specialized focus. That is what we plan to do with SafeBox, which is currently part of Ionic Mechatronics.
What led Ionic to expand its workshop facility in 2020?
Ionic Mechatronics’ and Ionic Automation’s facilities consist of an office at the front and a large assembly shop at the back. They were always designed to be expandable as the companies grew to need more space. Ionic Automation doubled shop space a few years ago, and now it is time for Ionic Mechatronics to do the same. The plan has been in place for over a year and we have decided to go along with it despite the pandemic and the wider business context. The decision came down to space, which we need to execute multiple and larger projects.
How would you describe the profile of your mining clients, and how do you supply to foreign markets?
Our client base is varied since we work with majors, mid-sized companies and juniors. In times like these, diversification is essential. We work for clients all over the world. We determine what our mining clients’ needs are and provide custom designs to meet those needs. The equipment is built in Canada and designed in a modular fashion that facilitates shipping. We set it up as close to the final layout as we can and conduct Factory Acceptance Tests with the client directly.
Do you think the pandemic has accelerated the implementation of technology at mine sites?
Certainly, as a lot of the tasks that were deemed impossible to do from home are now being done remotely successfully. Automation and remote work are opening the door to opportunities. Much of the automation that Ionic has done over the years has eliminated dangerous tasks and processes.
What is your strategy for growth in the next two years, and do you have a final message regarding why Ionic is a valuable partner to mining companies?
Ionic Technology has an office in Chile, as well as partners in the United States, India, China and Africa. We found that having global offices and local partners is a good way to expand our business scope and product offerings. In the coming years we would like to see Ionic Mechatronics’ and Ionic Automation’s shops full with interesting projects. Variant’s sale of chutes is in an upward momentum and we wish for this to continue as well. There is a lot of optimism for 2021, especially for Synaptic and Black Rock.
A lot of people talk about innovation, but Ionic takes it to heart – innovation is our business. Anyone can have a good idea; the challenge is in making it actually work and bringing it to market, and that’s where we shine. We are a creative group of people determined to find solutions for hard problems. We have a track record of succeeding where other companies have failed and are stubborn and determined to provide our clients with real, practical solutions.