McPhail is photographed at the Walker Road headquarters of his company, Brave Control Solutions, which is the first Canadian company to win the ABB Value Provider Program Award. PHOTO BY NICK BRANCACCIO /Windsor Star
Swiss-based ABB, the world’s largest automation technology company, announced it has made Windsor’s Brave Control Solutions a member of its prestigious list of authorized value providers.
Brave Controls is the second Canadian company and the first firm globally in the industrial construction sector to be so designated.
To those companies achieving ABB’s highest honour, the company offers benefits such as marketing, joint development of business plans, development of new markets and access to expertise and research.
“This has long-term benefits for the company,” said Brave Control’s CEO/founder Brent McPhail.
“This is us signifying our willingness to work very closely with each other to help our businesses both grow. The shocking part for me is they view me, running a small 35-employee company in Windsor, as someone who can help them grow their business on a significant scale.
“It takes a team to earn this type of external recognition. It makes me very proud.”
The designation program, which involves regular auditing and training, is used by ABB to ensure value providers’ products and services meet the firm’s stringent standards.
With a history extending beyond 130 years, ABB employs more than 105,000 people in over 100 countries with annual revenues approaching $30-billion.
“We are excited to be able to recognize Brave Control Systems as our first ABB Robotics Authorized Value Provider for the prefabricated modular construction industry,” said Mikael Packalen, National Sales Manager, ABB Robotics.
“Brave has over the past two years, in close collaboration with ABB, reinvented the prefabricated process by the development of innovative robot-based automation solutions and we look forward to a continued strong partnership that will offer more solutions for the growing construction industry.”
The two firms began their relationship in 2018 when McPhail reached out for ABB’s help in developing Brave Control Solutions ideas for applying automation and robotics in the industrial construction sector. Until then the company, which McPhail started in his basement in 2008, had focused on the automotive sector.
What has emerged from the collaboration is a software tool that reads the computer-aided design (CAD) models of the product to be built and then directs the robots and automation to assemble the product. This is much in the same way that a CNC works to cut metal, but it extends to many functions outside of the CNC to tasks such as assembly, welding, nailing and gluing.
The new methodology allows for customized designs for each project and can be used outside of industrialized construction.
The concept was used in the construction of St. Clair College’s new GEM student residence.
“I think what set us apart and earned us this designation is our innovativeness and our entrepreneurial abilities,” McPhail said.
“When we speak to architects and consultants, we keep hearing we’re the only ones doing this, the only ones thinking like this.”
McPhail said ABB doesn’t take a top-down approach to business, but uses its value provider companies to create the more intimate connection at the grass roots level.
“The biggest thing with a joint business plan with them is so they can be prepared to direct us to the right resources,” McPhail said.
“When we show them the regions, the type of technologies and types of clients, it gives them fair warning to say we need to get you guys in touch with this personnel and technology.
“In the last seventh months, we’ve been able to focus in on what we want to do with this and that’s made us more attractive to them.”
McPhail said ABB sees Brave Controls helping create a new niche in prefabricated construction that can help address worldwide shortages in construction of affordable housing, healthcare and long term care facilities.
“The reason there’s a housing crisis is because of the skilled trades labour crisis,” McPhail said.
“Our automation won’t replace one skilled trades person. What it will do is multiply their effect.
“You’ll get more productivity out of them and help solve the housing crisis.”