FREDERICTON – M3SH, the Canadian arm of South Africa’s Ningi Manufacturing, is building a plant to make protective equipment for the mining and industrial sectors globally. The company plans to employ up to 60 people in Toronto and Fredericton over the next three-to-five years, with most hires expected to be in New Brunswick.
M3SH CEO Andre Jansen van Rensburg, who recently relocated to Fredericton, said the company is investing $1 million for machinery and equipment. The plant is expected to be operational by the end of July. Van Rensburg has already hired two people and will onboard more engineers, machine operators, technicians as well as administrative and sales and marketing staff later this month.
“At this stage, we plan just to keep the satellite office in Toronto, so the 50 to 60 people will mainly be in New Brunswick,” he said. “It’s a broad range of skill sets that we want for the company operations. I would say about 70 per cent of the positions available will be high-skilled.”
In February, the company opened its office in Fredericton, where it plans to set up a training facility for its products. Although it’s bringing some executives like Van Rensburg from abroad, the company doesn’t plan to rely on immigration to fill roles.
“Maybe only one or two people [will be immigrating here],” Van Rensburg said.
Ningi Manufacturing, a 25-year-old company with 60 employees, launched M3SH three years ago when it expanded into Canada through its Toronto office. The distance and time difference with clients made it difficult to operate only from the South African office, so the company looked at Australia, New Zealand and Europe before deciding on a North American presence.
“We wanted to expand our business internationally and North America is the biggest continent with a massive amount of mining businesses,” Van Rensburg said.
The company makes health-and-safety wearables, environmental monitoring and protective equipment. It uses cloud-based monitoring, Internet of Things and data analytics to support its products. It also designs hardware using artificial intelligence, robotics and 3D printing technologies.
M3SH originally planned to keep product development and manufacturing in South Africa and only conduct sales and marketing in Canada. But a meeting with Deloitte led to talks with potential clients like gold mining firms Barrick Gold and Golden Star, as well as Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB).
“When we originally came to Canada, we didn’t know what to expect. Toronto sounds like the obvious choice, which of course it’s not a bad place there at all, it’s just very expensive to do manufacturing,” Van Rensburg said.
Late last year, ONB facilitated meetings between M3SH and various institutions and companies of interest. They include the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, the University of New Brunswick, economic development groups in the three major cities, the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour, and Major Drilling, a global mining services company based in Moncton, among others.
Van Rensburg said New Brunswick’s friendly and welcoming environment and ONB’s streamlined service were among the things that attracted M3SH to Fredericton. Camille Bourque, ONB’s Director of Workforce Strategy, said being a “GPS” for companies interested in the province is a competitive edge.
“We’re essentially like the one-stop shop when it comes to understanding programs, policies, and partners that employers take time to develop relationships with,” she said. “We do it all at the forefront. We help them understand it and it saves them a lot of time and resources.”
But there are also tangible economic reasons.
It’s really affordable to put a manufacturing plant [in New Brunswick]. The infrastructure is phenomenal,” Van Rensburg said. “And of course, the access to universities and possibly students, and research and projects that we can work on together with the university make it really attractive.”
Currently, ONB’s Workforce Strategy team is helping M3SH fulfil its labour needs. Van Rensburg said he also is in the process of applying for payroll rebates through ONB. The company hasn’t decided whether it will apply for equipment loans for which M3SH may be eligible.
Bourque said M3SH’s presence in New Brunswick will bring a new skill set to the labour market.
“Definitely the advancement in the new technologies around the cyber, the AI, the robotics – Mesh touches all of those fronts in their manufacturing and their products. It’s a new skill set to introduce to the New Brunswick workforce,” she said.