Some opportunities in life are simply too good to pass up – a scenario that happened recently when we acquired Pyrox Energies, Inc. Both companies were established over 30 years ago in the province of Quebec, and now combined, we will be able to offer state-of-the-art cremation equipment, refractory, service and repair, as well as crematory accessories, in addition to industry-leading mausoleum construction, glass-front niches, columbaria, bronze accessories, and more.
Founded by the Carrier family in 1984, CMC has been strategically expanding its operations and product offerings throughout its history. First known for high-quality mausoleums and design-build construction, and more recently, renowned for its industry-leading curved glass-front niches, our team has created an endless number of avant-garde designs for mausoleums and columbaria for funeral organizations and cemeteries throughout Canada and the United States. As many of these unique projects also include the building of funeral complexes and crematoriums, it made sense for the company to be able to offer their own cremation retorts and therefore provides a complete, turnkey solution.
As a result, on November 1, 2013, we acquired Pyrox Energies, a company that had initially started in in the 1970s building incinerators. After building its first cremator in 1983, after years of experience building incinerators, the company identified a better way to build cremation retorts from the ground up, one component at a time, with nothing overlooked. Even more importantly, based on recent test results performed by environmental monitoring agencies, the CMC/Pyrox cremation retorts meet and exceed Quebec’s extremely stringent environmental standards.
“It was like finding a diamond in the rough,” says Louis-Philippe Carrier, president and CEO of CMC. “We have this wonderful product [Pyrox] that never really achieved critical mass as it never had the marketing and sales effort behind it until now… And, because our company is so focused on providing end-to-end service, we don’t like leaving some of the critical items to subcontracted vendors, whereas cremation retorts are a terrific example. Finally our Canadian customers can have top-quality cremation equipment from a local, Canada-based manufacturer backed by CMC’s reputation of high-end service. This is a perfect marriage of product, service and delivery.”
Since the acquisition, we have been placing a large focus on servicing existing Pyrox machines as well as those of their competitors. This means we now have the expertise and the team in place to provide refractory, maintenance, service and repair for all makes and models of cremation retorts out there – in addition to their own line of equipment and accessories. The division will be branded as CMC Cremation Equipment, but will still boast the Pyrox name for each model, which is well established and respected throughout Quebec. Joshua Lintz, senior director of marketing and strategic development for CMC adds, “We will now leverage the CMC brand and work hard at making CMC Cremation Equipment well known for quality, performance and service throughout all of North America.”
“The company was originally called Georges Nadeau Inc. and then renamed Pyrox Energies in 1985, and we have a lot of experience building cremation retorts for some of Quebec’s largest and leading funeral service companies,” says François Thibodeau, who worked for Pyrox before the acquisition and has now joined CMC as project manager in the cremation equipment division. “It was a strategic deal for CMC as well as for the clients because now the client has a truly turnkey solution provider. That, and they now have to deal with a single company makes the communication much easier and the retort acquisition process much simpler. Plus, we are able to handle the CSA approval process since all of our machines come with the required approvals. We manufacture, deliver and install every machine, as well as perform all of the maintenance and refractory, so there is no puzzle for the clients.”
Lintz adds, “Essentially the primary value proposition is that when a client orders from CMC Cremation Equipment, not only do they have a partner for the design and configuration, as we have standard and oversize models for retorts, but we also have the unique ability to custom design cremation equipment based around clients’ needs. That, and our robust suite of construction services, means we can be a single-source solution with the expertise that no other cremation equipment company can match.”
Unlike many cremation machines arriving in Canada from the United States or Europe that have to be reconfigured to meet Canadian standards, the CMC/Pyrox machines are ready to use immediately after installation.
“It is that end-to-end service that will really separate us from our competition,” explains Lintz. “When clients order cremation equipment and accessories, which we manufacture in our own facility in Quebec City, we deliver it, we set it up, we perform all calibrations, and then we perform the actual start-up of the equipment. So when a customer orders from us and we walk off the job site, they are ready to begin handling the volume of cases. And we’re there for them for all future maintenance, refractory, service or repair work.”
In addition to providing a Canadian-made product, we are also offering top-notch equipment – from the primary and secondary burners that are controlled by real-time monitoring to the type of refractory mortar, bricks and firebricks placed in the cremation chambers.
“Instead of using a kind of antiquated set-point technology, CMC uses a very advanced programmable logic controller (PLC); it’s essentially a computer with a touch-screen interface that is driven by software that has a full robust set of data and reporting functionalities,” explains Lintz. “That software is custom to CMC/Pyrox; and it even allows our clients to manage their machines remotely from their smartphones or computers.”
While other machines using set-point technology may be burning higher or lower than the 1000 Celsius required for the secondary chamber by Quebec law, the Pyrox retorts monitor the operation in real-time assuring complete combustion and thermal efficiency, eliminating all visible emissions and odors when properly operated and maintained. Therefore, since the secondary chamber must always be 1,000 Celsius or more, each machine constantly monitors the temperature in the second chamber while managing the primary chamber for maximum fuel efficiency performance. Therefore, the machine is always operating in its most efficient state, resulting in lower fuel consumption and decreased long-term maintenance costs.
“Our machines measure and adjust dynamically and that is important because it decreases operational costs by not wasting fuel, which is a big part of the cost structure for owning and operating a cremation retort,” adds Lintz. “So if you are constantly overheating or under-heating, you are causing a lot of wild temperature variance which actually puts premature stress on all the materials you use. Otherwise, you run the risk of prematurely degrading the quality of your firebricks and your refractory bricks because you are not running at an optimal point.”
Another unique component of the Pyrox machine is the use of a power-operated, self-locking, self-sealing, hydraulic loading door, which is safer to operate than the older gear-and-chain doors still used by certain companies. The door also reduces energy costs as the horizontal locking motion seals to the door causing less energy drain.
In addition, the Pyrox machine is built with future maintenance costs in mind. For instance, while many machines use the softer more crumbly refractory brick throughout the retort, the Pyrox machine uses a harder firebrick on the bottom levels where friction from raking of the cremated remains is more likely to occur. The bottom of the primary chamber is also made with a two-level floor, which means the entire bottom does not have to be replaced during repairs. While it is inevitable that any machine is going to need refractory replacement after thousands of cremation cycles, the unique design of the Pyrox machine, under proper use and maintenance, promotes a much longer refractory life, resulting in substantial cost savings over the lifetime of the machine.
The newly created CMC Cremation Equipment division has five lines of business, which include human cremation equipment (including oversize units), pet/animal cremation equipment, bio-medical waste incinerators (including a renewed contract with a national, Canadian government agency), refractory, service and repair, and last but not least, crematorium accessories, which range from casket lifts and dollies to chimney stacks and body coolers, and more.
As for the future, our initial plan is to support and service the dozens of machines that have been installed in Quebec and its neighboring provinces. However, we will soon start actively marketing the product throughout Canada and eventually into the United States.
“At CMC, we believe in smart growth so we want to make sure that we scale everything so we can keep up with the service side of the business, because that is what will really differentiate us from other companies in this industry,” says Lintz, adding that even though their focus on the U.S. will be in the near future, they will be selling the Pyrox machine south of the border on a one-off basis to clients currently building mausoleums, columbaria or funeral complexes, as well as to anyone else that is looking for high-quality cremation equipment and turnkey service.
In the spirit of marrying two great companies together, we are more confident than ever with this acquisition; as we’ll now be able provide premium cremation equipment coupled with industry-leading, turnkey funeral construction solutions well into the future.
This article was co-written by Lisa Johnston, editor of Canadian Funeral News (Network Magazine), and Joshua Lintz, senior director of marketing and strategic development at CMC. It is featured in the March 2014 issue of Network, inside of Canadian Funeral News magazine.