Like all good stories, Novatech’s began with a bold idea: What if doorglass was more than a construction product? What if it was first and foremost a design product?
These were the questions that inspired Raymond Ouellette to quit his executive position at a door and window manufacturing company to strike out on his own and found Produits Verriers Novatech in 1982.
An engineer by trade and an entrepreneur at heart, Mr. Ouellette had spotted the perfect opportunity to stand out from the competition by creating a company that specialized in a single product — doorglass.
But how did a one-man operation in the founder’s basement turn into the international manufacturing powerhouse we know today? Our tale is one of innovation, an exemplary vision and a true dedication to the public’s needs.
An Entrepreneur in the Making
The inspiration, however shrewd, didn’t come out of thin air. Long before Novatech opened its doors, Raymond Ouellette was acquiring the skills necessary to launch his very own business, whether he realized it at the time or not.
The New Brunswick native began his schooling at the region’s only francophone university, the Université de Moncton, where he studied mechanical engineering from 1962 to 1965. From there, Mr. Ouellette obtained a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Industrial Engineering from the Technical University of Nova Scotia (now Dalhousie University).
Already these paths of study reflected his dual interests. As a mechanical engineering student, Mr. Ouellette focused on designing, integrating and maintaining mechanical components and machines. In his industrial engineering studies, he learned how to improve business and production processes.
He then headed westward, to Québec, studying finance at McGill University in Montréal, before earning an MBA from the Université de Sherbrooke in 1971.
The next 10 years of Mr. Ouellette’s professional life passed in a whirlwind of challenging career opportunities, as he climbed the ranks at various Québec-based manufacturing companies.
But the biggest challenges were yet to come.
An Innovative Idea
By 1982, Mr. Ouellette had noticed a trend in the door and window market: the products weren’t at all distinct from one another. He saw that the market for decorative doorglass was wide open.
Once this realization dawned on him, the savvy businessman left his day job and set to work on launching his own doorglass company in Sainte-Julie, Québec.
At the time, he was inspired by word of a new technology being used across the border, in the United States. Mr. Ouellette flew out to meet an engineer in Seattle who had developed a way to automate glass production that was more efficient and required less labour. In the end, the technology wasn’t viable and he returned back to Québec.
However, he understood better than most that the road to true innovation is never straightforward. And, of course, when one door closes, another opens.
Alone in his basement, Mr. Ouellette started making his own mould, driven by his vision of elegant, contemporary doorglass.
He eventually identified the winning technology, and the Novatech’s first plant was officially opened in Sainte-Julie later in 1982.
A Company is Born
The undaunted businessman recruited a dedicated and multi-talented team and then hit the pavement to personally find his first clients. The manufacturing companies Industries Unik Ltée and Laflamme are the first to trust the newly created company.
From the beginning, Mr. Ouellette heard the same response: Your product is great—but do you have others?
Before long, Novatech was making clear glass, doorglass with internal grills ventilated hung windows.
By 1985, Novatech had added its second plant in Sainte-Julie, Vernova Creations Inc., to its portfolio. What began as a simple plan to manufacture one type of doorglass had now expanded just 3 years later to meet customer demand.
This new plant created interior and exterior stained glass doorglass, silkscreen doorglass, decorative doorglass, custom products, thermacrystal technology and provided tempering, bevelling and glass cutting.
Just two years later, in 1987, Novatech seized upon its first big opportunity to take this Québec business further afield. They opened their first distribution centre in Ontario, Sundor Glass Inc.
Plastiques Novaprofil Inc. opened in 1989 in Sainte-Julie and the company branched into other products, including doorglass frames.
This was certainly an auspicious start to a self-made business. Yet Mr. Ouellette’s understanding of his products and the market encouraged this natural growth.
An Unforseen Loss
Just as Novatech was settling in to a decade of proven expertise, tragedy struck. In September 1993, a fire broke out at the main factory at 160 Rue Murano in Sainte-Julie. Thankfully, no one was injured, but all of the materials and equipment were destroyed.
However, clients were still awaiting their products.
Thanks to the momentous efforts of the Novatech employees, the company came out the other side. Within two weeks, Novatech had rented a building just across the street and was once again back in business while reconstruction efforts were underway.
Meanwhile, the next big innovation was just around the corner…
Opportunity Comes Knocking
The company’s 16th year represented a turning point. Until 1998, Novatech stood firm as successful specialists in doorglass.
While customers respected the quality and craft of Novatech’s doorglass, they didn’t necessarily want to have to deal with multiple different suppliers when constructing their doors.
What was the team response? Then let’s give our clients doors!
The decision to expand its product offering into doors was no mere afterthought. As with all of Novatech’s business moves thus far, this one found the balance between embracing innovation and adhering to a sustainable strategy.
They began their foray into the door industry with the Imagine® PVC patio door. Equipped with built-in retractable blinds, this flagship product has stood the test of time and is still well appreciated for its contemporary look.
Another distribution centre, Novatech Glass, was opened in Calgary in 1999 to serve its customers in Western Canada.
The next shift came in 2002 when Novatech launched Portes Novatech Inc. This division was tasked with producing steel doors into which doorglass could be easily inserted. The products were customizable and would be pre-assembled according to the specifications and colours requested by the customer.
The company then followed up this innovative offering with fibreglass doors in 2007.
Just three years later, in 2010, Novatech completed its first major acquisition: Portes Patio Novatech, in Beauceville, where they increased their patio and garden door manufacturing efforts.
International Influence and Expansion
Having been built on a true dedication to customers and innovation, Novatech was well prepared for the next chapter.
In 2011, nearly 30 years after it was founded, Novatech opened its very first international factory, Novatech Europe, in France. While this represented a significant milestone for the Québec company, the expansion could also be viewed as inevitable.
Innately curious and enterprising, Mr. Ouellette had been inspired by European design from the beginning. He had long respected his continental counterparts’ appreciation for avant-garde, contemporary styles, and he worked to bring this sensibility to a North American market.
Furthermore, from a business standpoint, he always believed it was best for a company to be present in multiple markets. Opening the manufacturing plant to create products suited to European tastes and needs was a logical progression.
That same year, in 2011, Mr. Ouellette made perhaps his most significant business decision thus far: He announced that he would be stepping down as CEO of Novatech and appointed Harold Savard to the role.
An engineer like Mr. Ouellette, Mr. Savard was no stranger to Novatech. Indeed, he had already been with the company for 15 years, first as engineer, then plant manager, vice-president of operations and executive vice-president.
In many ways, Mr. Savard’s story reflects Novatech’s own. He arrived at the then-small business in 1996, full of energy and ideas, but unsure where they would take him. He also intimately understood what makes Novatech stand out in a competitive industry.
Photo Credit - La Presse
With Mr. Savard at the helm, Novatech has only redoubled its efforts to expand and innovate. He has further invested in the Innovation Centre, originally created in 2009, and dedicated an important budget of the company’s annual revenue to researching and developing new products. Over 20% of the company’s sales are generated from products that didn’t exist 4 years prior, proving that innovation is more than a buzzword.
Novatech's culture of innovation is always at the forefront. Among the important advances of the last few years, we note the first steel entry door that redefines all performance criteria, the Novatech High Performance door, the most energy-efficient door available on the market. Its construction is more durable and robust while offering superior insulation and greater soundproofing. It meets the strictest standards for passive house construction.
Our product development process considers Energy Star principles as the basis of our design and our teams constantly challenge themselves to surpass them. Our patio door models feature a unique, patented drainage system that provides weather protection and leakage protection. The Urbania aluminum model allows for an opening of up to 16 feet, a configuration that until now has only been available in custom sizes.
Our door windows are distinguished by bold designs that are always inspired by global trends in architecture. Our team of designers and creators are at the forefront of trends, whether it be in the crafting of stained glass or silk-screening.
Mr. Savard has also overseen a series of major acquisitions and division openings over the past decade, including the opening of Novatech's first-ever U.S. plant, Novatech Patio Doors, in 2017. More recently, the strategic acquisition of two patio door manufacturing plants, the Terrebonne plant acquired from Energi, as well as the acquisition of Ontario-based Sunview Patio Doors in Woodbridge, a major manufacturer of vinyl and aluminum patio doors. This acquisition solidifies the company's position as an industry leader in patio door manufacturing and also allows the company to further expand into the Ontario market. The company is well positioned to grow its sales in Canadian markets outside of Quebec and the United States and continues to automate its operations. The factories are being modernized, in the last few years two Intercept lines at the doorglass factories in Ste-Julie and Austintown in the United States as well as a Velocity high speed vertical thermo line in St-Agapit; this is the most modern line in the residential market, a first in Quebec.
The Next Chapter
What started as a small, Québec doorglass firm has since become a fully vertically integrated company, with plants throughout Canada, the United States and France.
Over these 40 years, Novatech has managed to overcome every setback and rise to every challenge to become a leading force in North America.
To date, Novatech has created jobs for over 1,400 current employees, whose invaluable skill sets and perspectives are shaping the company’s present and future.
That the company displays an unwavering commitment to continuous improvement is admirable. That it succeeds at this while remaining loyal to its employees and customers is nothing short of extraordinary.
Raymond Ouellette founds Novatech Group Inc. based on his vision of doorglass as first and foremost a design product, not a construction product.
Vernova Creations Inc. is added to the company's portfolio, along with many different types of glass and stained glass.
A distribution centre is opened in Toronto for the Ontario market.
Novaprofil Plastics Inc. is added to the company's portfolio. Door frames, windows, and many other products are included in its product line.
Novatech achieves ISO 9001 certification, one of the most prestigious international standards.
The company begins PVC patio door production, with the Imagine® patio door with built-in retractable blinds between the panes as the flagship product.
A distribution centre is opened in Calgary to serve the Western Canadian market.
Novatech Doors Inc. is added to the company's portfolio and steel doors to its product line.
The company launches the SAGE program aimed at global continuous improvement and value creation for its customers.
Fibreglass doors are added to the company's product line.
Novatech creates an innovation centre dedicated to new product research and development.
Novatech acquires Resiver Patio Doors Inc., which later becomes Novatech Patio Doors Inc.
Novatech Europe is opened, manufacturing products for the European market.
Raymond Ouellette announces the appointment of Harold Savard as the President and CEO of the Novatech Group.
Novatech Concept Glass is created, enabling the company to expand its custom sealed glass offering and a line of architectural glass products.
A patio door manufacturing facility in Martinsville, USA is opened.
RSL inc., a doorglass manufacturer in the United States, is acquired.
Laurier Architectural, a glass manufacturer in Laurier Station, is acquired.
The Patio Door division of Energi in Terrebonne, Quebec is added.
Acquisition of Ontario-based Sunview Patio Doors located in Woodbridge.
To focus itself on the North American market, Novatech is selling its stake in Novatech Europe to its partner Cetih in September 2022. The two companies maintain a close relationship through a partnership for the sale of door panels from Canada as well as through exchanges on best practices and product innovation.