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Friday, January 11, 2008

Conforce International (CFRI) interview

Here are my notes from the Conforce International (combined links) interview with Marino Kulas today.

CFRI consists of two distinct operating divisions.

1) The container terminal depot with capacity of 5,000 containers in Toronto. Customers include Mediterranean Shipping, China Shipping, Maesk, and others.

2) Conforce Container Corp is in development of EKO-FLOR for containers and trailers.

I'll leave out stuff that's already been covered.

What are the trends lately?

The industry has downgraded the life expectancy and performance of container floors due to deteriorating quality. CFRI has seen this first-hand at the terminal depot. They've seen first-hand containers which have the floors fail on the very first voyage. "This is something that would have been an extreme rarity ten years ago." Tropical hardwood deforestation has been another big trend. Mr Kulas read some reports that show that the apitong wood species used in container floors is rapidly disappearing and that the country(ies) that supply apitong would exhaust their supplies by 2010.

Another ongoing trend is toward lower container weight for larger cargo capacity. EKO-FLOR has a 10% to 20% weight advantage.

What gives CFRI a competitive edge?

They've been in the industry for 30 years with an excellent reputation. 300,000 shipping containers repaired. They know containers well. They work on a day-to-day basis with the target customers to "feel the pulse".

They've finished making the core material and are ready to go from design/development to production readiness in only 90 days. The material lends itself to other applications that have been identified. Lots of suggestions from the design/development team [which are probably useless].

What are the new products?

Other applications replacing tropical hardwoods where higher performance is required [I noticed ATC works with both trailers and body builder gyms... UPDATE: charhorse says it's actually truck bodies not this type, I'm very silly]. CFRI has selected two applications to focus on. 1) flooring product for shipbuilding industry in mega yachts and cruise ships. They'll be exhibiting in a cruise yacht convention in Miami in March 2008. 2) Military containers. While they are working on flooring for military containers, this application is not a floor, but Mr Kulas can't eloborate any further.

How did the EKO-FLOR exhibit at the Intermodal show go?

The prior year's Intermodal show was the introduction of EKO-FLOR. This year, they went to the Amsterdam show to explain that they're ready to start filling orders. "As a result, we picked up new orders in our discussions with various segments of the industry." No details yet due to client confidentiality. Mr Kulas is very confident it will translate into ongoing business.

How about the field trials?

The VP of product development, Joe DeRose, and director of operations [someone] Kulas will be in China next week in advance preparations to fill trial orders as the product moves into circulation.

How about the press release about trailer testing?

Joe DeRose was in the Netherlands to witness the test firsthand and since he's in the office right now, he will answer the question (it sounded like he was there totally by coincidence). Mr DeRose: The most demanding loading requirement for a trailer or container floor is loaded fork lift traffic. The trailer industry uses ISO 1496 test standard to evaluate the resistance of flooring to fork lift traffic: specifies what kind of wheel, type of rubber, width, and weight. At ATC (a distributor of wood flooring to the trailer industry), they conducted a simulated test based on ISO parameters starting with the standard forklift to apply an ISO standard load. The employees were surprised that EKO-FLOR showed no signs of damage whatsoever because the other competitive composite products had been offered for this test, all of them collapsed under the load. After this, the ATC employees brought out their largest fork lift truck which would apply a load much greater. EKO-FLOR showed no sign of damage. A side-by-side test showed that wood and plywood both collapsed under the same load. "The employees were very excited." ATC is now going to conduct the same test at some of their same customers. CFRI believes ATC will be an excellent partner to develop the European trailer market.

Kulas then talked about the importance of the container industry, 90% of the things around us spent time in a shipping container. There is a void which is building momentum with respect to container floors. There was an article in World Cargo News in 2003 saying that whoever comes up with an eco friendly floor that can match the technical criteria for plywood should do extremely well in the container flooring market.

UPDATE Sat Jan 12, 2007:
In a comment to the previous post, "fryingpan" wrote the following. It's worth adding here to make it more visible.
Bruce, first time Conforce reveals that it is an extruded product. That explains some delay for modification and changes. Extrusion tooling with very specific profiles requires time. Tool shops doing this work usually have a backlog, the there are test runs for samples...which requires time. Changing extrusion machines over for samples with a special formula plastic takes time. The lead up to holidays probably made it difficult to get machine time. Now, except for the Chinese New Year, machine time should not be a problem. 6 weeks shipping time will probably be why initial revenue is pushed to 2nd qrtr. your thoughts?
I totally missed that it was extrusion. My thoughts are that this is good information and that I have no experience or knowledge about the method of manufacturing. Thanks!

I did manage to smuggle a secret photo of what I think might be the actual extrusion machine to be used in China.

a fancy prescription I take seems to
reverse Alzheimer's in a matter of minutes.

Bruce your work is great,
but I think ATC means truck body builders, not body builder gyms
Well, you have to admit, weight lifters would make sense because the weights are very heavy, they're dropped onto the floor from fairly high, and the weight is very concentrated in a small area.

Oh well.
It is not extrusion but rather pultrusion. There is a difference. Extrusion means pushed through a mold and pultrusion means fibers are coated with epoxy and pulled through a mold.
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