How a small family business became a successful manufacturer within the mining industry
Ralph’s Radio Ltd. makes ID signs for haul trucks, graders and dozers
Small family businesses are something of a rarity in the mining industry—especially ones that date back to the 1940s. Ralph’s Radio Ltd. is the exception.
Ralph’s has been operating in Vancouver, B.C., since 1949 and specializes in 12-volt electronics (car stereo and security) and wireless communications. For the last 35 years, they have been supplying heavy equipment dealers stereo and security equipment. In 2005, Finning Caterpillar, one of Ralph’s best customers, approached the company with an idea of having ID signs on the heavy equipment used in the Alberta oil sands. Over the next six months, Ralph’s worked with them and developed their first signs—a 24-inch by 16-inch rectangular sign for use on haul trucks and a 26-inch three-sided sign for the top of graders and dozers.
“The key was to source parts and construct the signs so that they would survive the harsh conditions in the oil sands, such as dirt, dust, vibration and extreme cold temperatures,” said Trevor Rurak, manager for Ralph’s Radio Ltd. corporate wireless and ID Sign divisions. “Since our first two designs, we have refined the signs and introduced various other sizes. Our company is very diverse, which we have had to be to last this long with the ever-changing challenges that have come with the mobile electronics and wireless businesses.”
Ralph’s has a partnership with an aluminum company to build the sign housings to their specifications. The signs are then powder coated by another partner. The rest of the manufacturing is done in house—installing the LED lighting, Lexan number panels, mounts and assessing final quality control testing.
“Due to everything being designed and constructed in house, we have the ability to make custom changes for a customer when needed,” Rurak said. “Our turnaround time is much less than any of our competition. We also have very stringent quality control procedures and are proud to say we have not had a single warranty issue in the over 1,400 signs we have sold since 2006.”
Ralph’s has supplied ID signs for various companies across Canada and the United States, such as Finning Canada, Suncor, Wajax, Cashman Equipment (Nevada), Empire Southwest (California) and SunHills Mining.
“We have over 70,000 customers in our database and many of them have been loyal customers for many years,” said Rurak. “I think this is due to our honest approach and the expertise of our staff from many years in the business. People trust us and our products.”
Even with the extensive client list, Ralph’s has been able to maintain their small business roots with a staff of 28 employees, many of whom belong to the Rurak family.
“I’m proud of the fact that Ralph’s has been such a successful family business since my Grandpa took it over in 1952,” said Rurak. “I get to work closely with other family members that own or are employed in the company. Although there are challenges that come with a family business, overall it is a great place to work. I’ve established many great relationships with staff and customers over the years.”