Innovating Seamless Steel Pipe
Bri-Steel Manufacturing proudly serves a number of demanding industries, including oil and gas, petrochemical, construction, resource and civil engineering. As a top-quality manufacturer of seamless steel pipe, the company remains committed to meeting the specific needs of customers, both in Canada and internationally.
First becoming involved in the steel pipe distribution business back in 1997, President Neil Rasmussen has been an integral part of changes in the industry. Rasmussen and his team scoured the world for high-quality producers, developing solid relationships with manufacturers. Bri-Steel was formed in 2003 and soon grew to become a respected western Canada-based importer and supplier of pipe products across North America.
The growing company was faced with a number of challenges, including the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 and limitations being imposed on pipe products being imported into Canada and the United States. To remain competitive, Rasmussen and Bri-Steel investigated building a modern pipe manufacturing facility in North America and relying less on supply from other countries.
In 2010, the company, then known as Bri-Steel Corporation, embarked on a joint venture with a manufacturer from China, and Bri-Steel Manufacturing was created. Securing a large Edmonton-area plant and outfitting it with equipment and skilled staff, Bri-Steel produced its first pipe less than a year later, in July of 2011.
The process of establishing a Manufacturing facility in North America was the result of hard work, dedication, proper planning and meeting the right trading partners. Following feasibility studies, outfitting its facility with the necessary equipment and finding sources for the necessary raw materials, Bri-Steel Manufacturing was created.
The company made history when it imported patented seamless pipe manufacturing technology from China to North America. By moving its operations into 114,000 square-foot building, Bri-Steel became North America’s premier producer of large diameter seamless pipe products. The company is proud to be North America’s only producer of seamless pipe up to 36” diameter.
Bri-Steel, in 2013, produced 36” diameter seamless pipe for the first time in North America. “This was not only the largest we made but the greatest expansion, over twelve inches,” said the company at the time. “This now opens the doors for opportunities to produce not only thirty-six inch, but also thirty-two to thirty-four inch, creating even more options and opportunities for the consumers when they engineer their jobs.”
Traditionally it has been a challenge to manufacture large diameter seamless pipe in thinner walls, but Bri-Steel’s technology allows accurate production off wall thickness as thin as .375” and up to 2.375” thick. “I take great pride in being part of such a great team of professionals here,” said Rasmussen in a statement. “We are the new generation of pioneers in the steel pipe industry, and it is exciting to be part of it.”
It has a total of 78 staff – sixteen in the office and sixty-two in the plant facility. The company runs 12-hour shifts, giving its employees a four-day work week. With long weekends every week as a result, staff retention is high in a very competitive labour market.
Indeed, Bri-Steel Manufacturing seeks to hire and retain the best possible employees. The company also has an apprenticeship program for millwrights and electricians ,allowing career advancement for dedicated, motivated employees.
Bri-Steel Manufacturing has maximized its operations for utmost efficiency and optimal production. Instead of using old-fashioned gas furnaces, which take a long time to heat, need to be in operation constantly and waste energy, Bri-Steel uses induction coil technology to produce pipe.
“Induction coil technology is great for our purposes,” comments Rasmussen. “When production starts, you turn it on, and when production is complete, you flip the switch and turn it off, and there’s no wasted energy. With the traditional type of furnace, you have to keep it running all the time, whether you use it or not, because it takes so long to heat it up. We can get to temperature in twenty minutes with our induction coil, so it’s very efficient.”
As the first company to introduce Thermal Pipe Expansion (TPE) to North America, Bri-Steel’s manufacturing abilities are more flexible than those who manufacturer the traditional way. Manufacturing pipe in the traditional methods requires considerable time to change sizes, and large orders are necessary to make a profit. Bri-Steel Manufacturing’s unique TPE process allows a change in pipe size in just three hours, making production more flexible.
The TPE process is beneficial when quick deliveries are required. The TPE process requires less quantity to start a rolling, thus giving distributors more control over product and the ability to carry unusual sizes previously unavailable.
Although TPE technology has been utilized in China for years, it is new to North America. Bri-Steel has taken the existing and proven Chinese technology and reworking it into a North American style. “Our facility is unique in the thermal pipe expansion world. It is automated, with more of a production layout than our peers,” says Rasmussen.
“Thermal Pipe Expansion (TPE) is a process performed by heating an engineered-size mother tube to 900°C, using induction heating and then pushing it over a controlled ID (internal diameter) mandrel to expand the tube to a piping size,” states the company.
If hydro testing capabilities are required, the company can manufacture seamless pipe up to forty-one feet in length. If hydro testing is not a requirement, Bri-Steel can make lengths of forty-four to forty-five feet and has the flexibility to make multiple sizes of the same product. Quick changeovers can be achieved for fairly small production runs. Since there are few limitations on product sizes, “standard pipe schedule products as well as custom pipe diameters and custom wall thicknesses” can be achieved.
Quality at Bri-Steel begins with sourcing the best raw materials available and adhering to the highest applicable quality standards in the industry. Manufacturers are quality monitored and verified by highly-skilled technicians and engineers. Bri-Steel is approved to use the API Monogram and APIQR Marks from the American Petroleum Institute. It is certified by the API that its quality management system conforms with API Specification Q1 and it is in compliance with ISO/TS 29001 for the manufacture of seamless steel line pipes.
To make life easier for its clients. Bri-Steel created an app for the iPhone which provides immediate access to steel pipe charts and casing / tubing charts. The app allows for quick conversion between feet, metres, net tons and metric tonnes for any size of pipe and provides price comparisons per length or weight. The app has become wildly popular, downloaded over 178,000 times in twenty-two countries around the world. Recently, the company spent about three months reworking it to offer even more features.
“In the traditional business, old-school guys buy pipe by the foot. The newer generation does price based on the weight of the pipe. Some are charging now by the ton, and there is a formula for it,” comments Rasmussen.“We built this to try to streamline the process for our guys on the sales desk.”
Bri-Steel remains committed to continually improving the effectiveness of its quality management system, which in turn improves the consistency, reliability and workmanship of all its products. It aims for non-stop improvement of its products by increasing preventative actions, being aware of client needs through site visits and building and maintaining relationships with suppliers, clients and other partners.
“We developed an internal quality control system here, and it has been labeled CREW. That stands for Continuous Reliability and Excellent Workmanship,” says Rasmussen. “We are very motivated on the quality side. If we want to push ourselves as a premier manufacturer, we have to push a premier product.”