FSI Welding celebrated their move forward with a groundbreaking moment on Wed., Feb. 23, in the field that will soon be the location for their manufacturing plant in Winchester. Pictured left to right are: North Dundas mayor, Tony Fraser, business centre manager Catherine Leteinturier Guissé of the Business Development Bank of Canada, (BDC), FSI Welding founders, Curtis Fortin and Joseph Stark, Rose D’Amato BDC senior account manager, and Stephan Mann, North Dundas economic development and communications officer. Morin Photo

WINCHESTER – The food chain that brings products from the farm to your table has many moving parts.

From the dairy cow to the dairy producer and then on to the grocery store and your refrigerator, it is a carefully designed process to ensure the dairy product is safe for consumption.

Lactalis in Winchester has been around for a century or more, bringing their dairy products to Canadian families.

They process milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter as well as many other dairy products, and do so with confidence that their processes result in safe and healthy products.

Creating all those products involves transporting milk through miles of pipes in their facility. These pipes are the infrastructure that gets a farmer’s milk to your refrigerator. The pipes have to be as bacteria free as humanly possible and that is where Fortier Stark Industrial (FSI) Welding becomes one of the moving parts that make processing milk into a healthy product.

Welding pipes together so that bacteria cannot find a place to grow is a specialized skill. FSI Welding is planning to build a new shop in Winchester, so that they can serve their clients better with manufacturing and servicing capabilities that have been the vision of Curtis Fortier and Joseph Stark for years.

The two along with their employees have been working at Lactalis for the past five years.

“We have been at Lactalis in Winchester for five years and have not left. We have had three to five employees pretty much working there every day,” said Fortin.

“When we started out, we were doing just about everything,” said Fortier.

On Wed., Feb. 23, Fortier and Stark celebrated the beginning of their vision with a ground-breaking ceremony in the field where they will be building their manufacturing plant.

The partners who live in Metcalfe, and Russell started up their company only five years ago. They eventually began specializing in welding related to the dairy industry and food processing.

Their projects were big enough that they would have to set up a mobile shop in the business they were working for.

Fortier said, “Once we got into some of these factories, we would set up a shop. Our projects last up to six months sometimes. They are not little jobs; they are big contracts.”

FSI Welding worked commercial construction. They would install railings and stairs.

“We did high pressure welding for mechanical contractors who did boiler rooms,” said Fortin.

Processing plants like Lactalis have to ensure that the pipes it uses to transport its raw materials are bacteria free at all times.

The systems used to move material around in the plant is referred to as Clean in Place (CIP) systems.

Fortin explained, “Basically we build systems, CIP systems that washes equipment after it has been used. These systems are like a series of tanks and pumps that divert wash water throughout the plant. We install a lot of piping and pumps and valves and tanks. Almost everything in that end of the world has to be welded together, and it has to be sanitary.”

The success of FSI Welding and the scope of what kind of projects they will be involved with is the reason Fortin and Stark want to go ahead with their building in Winchester.

“The projects we are taking on are larger and larger and we are getting into more turnkey projects. Before, we were just installing, and it gradually evolved into supplying tanks, pumps and valves. We had to buy the tanks and items from other companies who compete against us. So, we would buy these tanks from Toronto, for example and the lead times on these things would be months and months.

By doing this we will be able to manufacture all our own tanks and equipment,” said Fortin.

Having a manufacturing facility in Winchester also opens the door to having products that can be exported.

“We have felt the pinch of supply chain issues. It really slowed things down for us.”

FSI Welding also has been doing some work in the micro brewing industry.

They work on water treatment equipment and all kinds of stainless-steel fabrication.

Their new building will be 6,000 sq. ft., with room for an administration office as well as more employees.

“It will have a two-story office in the front and an overhead five-ton crane. We will be putting in the basic equipment you would see in your average steel shop plus new technology like an orbital welder.”

Fortin and Stark are hoping to begin construction on their manufacturing facility in April.

“This is a long-term plan; this is the backbone of our business providing services to these big facilities. These are contracts we already have that we are buying stuff for that we can now make.”

It’s crazy what we have taken it to in five years.

It’s hard to believe we have come this far.

The job of sanitizing pipes that are used in the food processing is never ending. Fortin explained, “When you make any dairy product, you usually run for 12 hours and then you wash for 12 hours. That timing may fluctuate depending what product they are making. Every time they make something, they have to wash to make sure there is no left-over product in the tanks or the pipes. So, those welds have to be perfect. The tools to build a food factory are very precise.”

FSI Welding is a member of a small club in their industry.

“Winchester is very central to our marketplace. We have clients in Kingston, Ottawa. Winchester has always been a kind of home base. It just makes sense to be in Winchester.”