Pelican International Inc. is opening a second production facility in the province of Quebec to keep up with buoyant demand for its plastic kayaks.
“It made sense in the past year to go ahead with our own new plant,” said Pelican marketing director Vincent Bedard in a phone interview. Pelican's production capacity at its headquarters plant in Laval, Quebec, reached its limits, and the private company has been contracting out some of its work.
Pelican is sinking tens of millions of dollars in its second production location, in a former Dominion Textile plant in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, Quebec. Most of the money will be spent on equipment purchases to extrude high density polyethylene sheet and do twin-sheet thermoforming to convert the sheet to kayaks and stand-up paddle boards. Pelican also counts canoes, pedal boats and utility sleds in its fleet of products.
Bedard said the new facility is already employing some 50 workers and the crew should hit in excess of 200 in the next few years. At capacity, the plant in southern Quebec will include two sheet extrusion lines and six thermoformers, about the size of the original Laval plant. Currently, Laval employs about 450 at seasonal peaks, of which 100 or so are professionals such as engineers and administrative personnel.
Pelican claims to be the largest plastic kayak building operation in the world, out-producing rivals with thermoforming, rotational molding and blow molding factories turning out the slender, manoeuvrable craft. In 2014 it built its 2 millionth boat. Kayaks range from 6 to 14 feet in length and weigh up to 70 pounds.
HDPE's toughness stands up to the rigors of kayaking. Competing materials for the craft, such as fiberglass reinforced plastic, might provide more impact resistance but are much more expensive. Bedard said Pelican's thermoforming process is 14 times faster than thermoplastic rotational molding.
Bedard said Pelican has installed two thermoformers at Salaberry so far and is training operators for the plant.