Firing On All Cylinders
What started off as a hydraulics and machine company has become a force for Indigenous employment in Saskatchewan, and it’s only getting started.
Robert and Katherine Tebb are owners and operators of Xtended Hydraulic & Machine Inc., a full-service machine shop specializing in hydraulic cylinder repair and hard chrome coating.
For the uninitiated, what exactly is a hard chrome coating and what is it used for? “Hard chrome coating is a specialty chrome that you put on a hydraulic cylinder rod to make it stand up and last longer,” says Rob Tebb. An intricate part of the mining industry, every piece of mining equipment has up to 30 hydraulic cylinders on it, working in very corrosive conditions (underground, with dust, salt, water), which take away from their life span.
“We focus on extending the life of the hydraulic cylinder, which is where we got the company name, Xtended,” continues Tebb. “We are capable of doing almost anything in terms of machine fabrication, but because we’ve focused on this one specific area, it has made us very good at what we do and our quality exceeds what is the norm.”
Apprenticeship and training program
Tebb purchased the existing company with wife Katherine five years ago, reopening as Xtended in September, 2013. Tebb is Metis, and his family heritage goes back eight generations in Saskatchewan. By opening Xtended, not only did Rob and Katherine hope to build a strong company, but to also build a strong commitment to Aboriginal youth in this province.
“One of the ways to do this is to boost the apprenticeship and training program in our company,” Rob says. “We try to give opportunity to Aboriginal Youth in the province by working with other Aboriginal companies it is our way of giving back. What we’ve found in the past five years is that these people and companies have done more for us than we could have ever thought, we have ended up with a very resilient, hardworking, and honest staff that will go above and beyond for us. The commitment from our employees is second-to-none.”
Tebb goes on to say one of the reasons the company has been able to do such a good job with its apprenticeship and training is because of people like Dick Wilson former Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology (SIAST—now Saskatchewan Polytechnic) instructor, who also taught Rob as a student. “He’s been one of our employees from the start, and you can’t get a much better trainer than [Wilson] and it put us in a great position to be able to do what we do.”
What started as a three-person staff is now 18-employees strong. “Part of that commitment has come from Nutrien Ltd. and The Mosaic Company, who been very strong supporters of the work that we do,” says Tebb. Xtended has become a part of The Mosaic Companies supply chain, recently and they are looking forward to continued work in the future
Xtended will complete its new and existing customers work in its new, 16,000-square-foot manufacturing facility, which doubles the work space of its previous facility, with new equipment which will augment its capabilities substantially. “Because of our new manufacturing facility and commitment to the staff and education program, not to mention the quality of work, companies like Mosaic have been interested in us. We have been very fortunate for us the way things have unfolded for us,” says Rob, who helped with a traditional smudging ceremony to bless the Earth before the construction on the facility began. Before any equipment came in, another smudging ceremony was performed to bless the spirit of the building and thank Mother Earth, as per Metis traditions. “We feel it is important to give thanks for everything we receive”. Giving thanks is a recurring theme for the Xtended narrative: Thanks for its employees, instructors, customers, facilities, Mother Earth. It is heartwarming to hear.
Going forward, Rob and Katherine hope to continue to be part of the development of an Introductory to Machining program through Saskatchewan Polytechnic to address the lack of skilled labour in the province. “Saskatchewan is rich in resources, but the one we overlook is our people,” says Tebb. SIIT (Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies) will facilitate the classroom learning, with Xtended donating the use of its facility during off-hours, led by the formidable Mr. Wilson.
With the projected demand of potash in the near future, not to mention the province’s supply of uranium, Xtended hopes to increase its capacities as mining demands grow. Tebb says his goal is to “keep supplying good product to those customers at an affordable price,” and believes the company is on track to double in size in the next five years—which goes to show, good things happen to good people.