SED celebrates 50th anniversary

·4 min read

Surviving in the business world for than a couple of decades is a feat of accomplishment. Reaching the 50-year mark is a benchmark worthy of celebration. This year, local design and manufacturing company, SED Technologies, is celebrating its silver anniversary.

Adolph Eberl, after settling in Kincardine in the mid-fifties, repaired and later sold televisions and in 1974 operated a furniture store. His sons, Rolf and Peter, describe him as a tinkerer, a character trait both men inherited. They recall working in the family business as young children and how their living room was set up as a showroom for the television sets.

SED opened in the basement of Linklater’s Furniture in 1971. It was a “business on the side” or hobby business that created headsets and specialized amplifiers. Part of the company’s claim to fame was the throat microphone, used in the nuclear industry and chemical plants.

The brothers laugh as they recall how the family was heading out for a camping vacation when an unexpected first order for headsets arrived. They borrowed electricity from a nearby campsite and assembled the headsets at a picnic table.

“But the quality was always there,” said Rolf. “I remember how they were built and we knew how to solder properly because of the tv sales and service. The takeaway is that we were able to provide headset solutions for the nuclear industry that no one else was willing to build. There were companies making them, but nobody was willing to modify to what the nuclear industry wanted, so that’s how we got into it. We were selling hundreds of them, to the nuclear industry, in the first years.”

The headsets remain a portion of the business, but the company has branched out into other areas, including air supply products for the plastic suits used in the nuclear industry, such as cuffs, hoses and connections. Today there are two other companies associated with SED; RESCOM and ROPA Technologies.

Peter says it is opportunity that guides the company in new directions.

“Opportunity – someone asks us if we can do something and we said yes, we could try that. We always embraced opportunities to make new things and we weren’t afraid to try something that we hadn’t done before.”

“That’s really been our MO for a lot of products that we make,” said Rolf. “Everything that we manufacture now came out of a need for something that a client had. They were able to describe it or we saw a need for it when we talked to the client and offered a solution, and then we developed it.”

For example, Toronto had a communication issue for the staff that was working in waste water management. They needed a product that would allow for communication through a life-safety rope. SED said they would develop the product, and “jumped in with both feet”, certifying and revising the product until it met SED’s own high standards.

“We’ve always been very strict about meeting a standard of quality and performance that I believe has helped this company succeed in an otherwise difficult market segment,” said Rolf.

While most people would shy away from working with family, Peter and Rolf, in personality and skill set, are an excellent complement to each other. Both are engineers, albeit in different disciplines, and are of one mind when it comes to innovation and quality. They strive to have “unique and purposeful designs” and tackle each need identified by their customers with passion and precision. Not just fix – recreate.

SED’s commitment to every project they tackle also extends to the community. The company is a regular contributor to the Kincardine Food Bank, Huron Shores Hospice, the Kinetic Knights and other not-for-profits.

The brothers have used the time during COVID to change the way they do business.

“The reality is, there will always be companies that will come out stronger because they learn to adapt to the situation, whether it is by coming out with a new product, offering the product in a new fashion, for instance you’ve got some restaurants that were wise and they adapted their menu to a takeout form … and sometimes they created a brand new avenue for their business,” said Rolf. “In the same way, our own company, for instance with the training, which was all being done in-person, we came out with an online-video version of it and we’ve had great recognition in the quality of the program we presented to our mostly-American clients, in this case. Originally the response was, we’ve done it like this for 35 years, how are we going to package it up and put it online? We said well, you have to figure it out. A few weeks later we had the first samples of what we were going to do with the video presentation and we’ve had all kinds of accolades from our clients, they are delighted with the results that we’ve had. So it’s a new area of expertise and we don’t even have to visit our clients and expend fuel, or time to travel or deal with pandemic restrictions and things like that. We can do that all from here.”

Tammy Schneider, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Kincardine Independent

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