Exclusive interview with Luc Paquet & Denis Landry

February 22, 2019
Luc Paquet Former  – President at Fordia

Luc Paquet is an alumnus of Concordia University, Montreal, where he studied from 1976 to 1979 and gained a degree in Communications. Luc took his first steps in entrepreneurship by running his own business as a beekeeper. Afterward, he worked for a number of companies where he gained insights into management practices. In 1986 he took charge of the family-owned business – Fordia, along with his brother Alain Paquet. He was a President of the company for 33 years. Luc is an accomplished entrepreneur and a true visionary, who has contributed to the successful development of Fordia. He is a member of the Canadian Diamond Drilling Association (CDDA), the Diamond Core Drilling Manufacturing Association (DCDMA), and other business and community organizations.

Denis Landry – Executive Vice President and General Manager at Fordia

Denis Landry graduated from the University of Quebec at Chicoutimi in 1980 and holds a degree in Geological Engineering. In 1986 he received an MBA degree from the School of Management Sciences (ESG UQAM) in Montreal, Quebec. He has worked in the fields of IT, Sales and Marketing, and Drilling. His previous experience in the drilling industry includes planning and managing drilling campaigns, mechanical analyses, and more, at Quebec Cartier Mining. Denis has been working with Fordia for almost 12 years. Back in 2007 he was offered the position of Executive Vice President and General Manager, which combined his mineral exploration and business management skills. Presently he manages all the activities of the company and has a major role in its governance. Denis is a Member and Secretary of the Advisory Committee.

Following the acquisition of Fordia by Epiroc, Luc Paquet, Former President of Fordia, will be leaving the mineral exploration industry, which has been a part of his life for so many years. Denis Landry, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Fordia, will continue his role and will oversee the next phase of Fordia’s evolution.
In the following interview with Luc and Denis, we discuss the past, present and future of Fordia, now a part of the Epiroc team.

Questions with Luc Paquet

Grigor Topev: How did you get started in the drilling business?

Luc Paquet: I started in the business in 1981. I was a beekeeper at the time and needed a job. I worked for Fordia, the company my father had founded in 1977. Beekeeping taught me a lot of lessons in management and in life.

GT: What is the secret to becoming an accomplished entrepreneur?

LP: To become an accomplished entrepreneur, you need to have a vision. Very early on, my brother and I wanted Fordia to become the world leader in diamond tools. It took some time, but we managed. The accomplished entrepreneur needs to surround himself with people who have expertise in different aspects of business. We were very blessed
at Fordia to be surrounded with first-class people who were instrumental to growing the company.

GT: What would be your advice to someone who wants to run a business of their own?

LP: The advice I would give is to be persistent. Perseverance pays. Also, be ready to take risks – you have to. And only risk what you can afford to lose. Finally, you need a good
spouse or partner to support you and offer sound advice.

GT: What do you like doing in your free time?

LP: In my free time, I like to do beekeeping. I returned to my first love. I like art and gardening and have thematic gardens that include sculptures from around the world. Also, I support several social-artistic and humanitarian causes. I am privileged and feel a need to give something back.

GT: Are you considering any new business endeavours after Fordia’s acquisition?

LP: I will invest in start-ups. I already have a portfolio of investments. I will now have more time to support them. I have a network, talent, financial resources and the desire to help others. But I am not looking for a fulltime business.

GT: Why was Fordia created and under what circumstances?

LP: My father set up a company called Prodia in 1977, which was a distributor. The Fordia brand was created in 1979 when he bought the assets of another company called Produits Diamantés Pilon. This company was liquidated, giving my father the opportunity to become a manufacturer. It was quite a bold move. Rapidly, the company evolved from surface-set bits to impregnated bits, which was one of the revolutions in our industry.

GT: When did you join the company and what were your reasons?

LP: I joined the company in 1981. Beekeeping was not feeding my family. I worked as the right hand to my father, who was the man ‘leading the orchestra’ at that time.

GT: Fordia has come a long way from being a small family-run business and is now a global company. What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced over the years?

LP: I like to think that a company is like a person. You go through different stages and crises in your life. If you get through them, you become stronger and wiser. The different crises Fordia went through – technology changes, market collapses, problems with quality, international expansion, banking problems, manpower problems, union affiliation, growth problems, and personal health problems – made Fordia a stronger and better company.

GT: What factors influenced your decision to sell Fordia to Epiroc? Was it a tough decision?

LP: Alain and I were coming to the end of our time with Fordia. We wanted a partner that would keep the name, the employees, the products, the network, and the factories. The result is better than our wildest dreams. The two companies share the same values and Fordia will be the operational center. Epiroc recognizes the strength of the brand and the agility that goes with it.

Luc Paquet speaking to Fordia employees

GT: What developments do you think there will be in the design and function of impregnated drill bits?

LP: I think drill bits will continue to improve performance. But the next generation will have sensors to optimize drilling parameters.

GT: Why does the diamond drilling industry produce such a limited number of inventions today?

LP: It’s a very conservative industry. One that is slow to adopt new products but constantly seeks to improve performance. In the last 30 years, drilling performance has increased five times and prices have decreased three times. If the car industry had followed the same path, you would be able to buy a Mercedes for $999. Slow but constant changes are brought on by drillers and manufacturers because of the tremendous pressure on prices that occurs in response to the cyclic nature of the industry.

GT: What do you think the diamond drilling industry will look like in the future?

LP: The diamond drilling industry will be automated, more ecologically friendly, able to go to greater depths, and will have more women on board. It is women who will save men and humanity.

Questions with Denis Landry

Grigor Topev: Did you have drilling experience before starting at Fordia, and, why did you decide to join that company?

Denis Landry: I graduated in Geological Engineering in 1980. My first job with Quebec Cartier Mining was to plan and manage drilling campaigns that would both identify the extent of iron deposits and at the same time carry out mechanical analyses of the rock and the stability of the embankments. In 2007, Fordia offered me a position as General Manager that perfectly combined my knowledge in the field of mineral exploration and mining and my experience in business management.

GT: What has been your favourite memory so far?

DL: Over time, Fordia has stood out, winning several awards. The most prestigious of these was in 2012, the Quebec Grand Prix in Quality, followed in 2013 by the Canadian Award for Excellence.

GT: How many employees does Fordia have today?

DL: As part of the Epiroc team of 13,000+ employees, we are proud to say that Fordia has 245 employees worldwide, with 179 of those working in Canada, 163 of which are in
the head office in Montreal.

GT: In terms of sales revenue, what are Fordia’s top five countries?

DL: Our recent records indicate that Canada, Australia, USA, Chile, and Peru are the countries that provide the highest sales revenues.

GT: Can you give us a rough idea of the number of drill bits that Fordia has manufactured since it was founded?

DL: According to our calculations, we estimate that Fordia has produced approximately two million bits.

GT: Apart from diamond tools, what are Fordia’s next best-selling products?

DL: Fordia has developed a magic triangle: technical support, drilling fluids, and diamond tools. This combination enables us to find winning solutions for our customers. We are the only company in the industry offering this service globally, once again helping our customers improve their drilling performance.

GT: Fordia’s mechanical core-orientation device was very intriguing. Why is it no longer on the market?

DL: I think we didn’t have the information technology expertise to develop the next generation of core orientation.

GT: What are Fordia’s most recognized patents?

DL: Our most recognized patent is the Vulcan that enables us to manufacture extended crowns up to 40 mm in height – the highest impregnation in the market. Extended crowns are the answer to ever-deeper holes. Also well known is our water treatment system EDDY, which is an ecological solution for the industry.

GT: Are you working on any new developments?

DL: Yes, we have a strong portfolio coming out in 2019. New crown matrices, new core barrels – a zero-trip wedge. Of course, with the integration of Epiroc and Fordia we will increase our portfolio and have access to two excellent R&D teams and two exceptional Supply Chain teams.

GT: What will Fordia look like and how will it subsequently develop after the acquisition?

DL: The integration of Fordia and Epiroc will allow us to combine the respective strengths of both companies in order to better serve our customers in the field of exploration drilling. More products, more points of sale, acceleration in innovation, and the same great customer service our drillers have come to appreciate.

From left to right: Alain Paquet, Luc Paquet, Arunkumar Govindarajan (President – RDT Epiroc) and Denis Landry

GT: Would you keep the brand (the company and product names)?

DL: Fordia has great brand equity – it is known worldwide and represents quality. We believe that this is one of the reasons that Epiroc was attracted to us. The goal is to keep the Fordia brand alive and well. Having said that, all brands evolve and as we start the process of consolidation with Epiroc, we expect some changes to our product lines.

GT: How will the acquisition impact your clients and should they expect any particular changes?

DL: Customer satisfaction has always been at the forefront of all we do, so it goes without saying that delivering an improved customer experience is a shared goal. Fordia will continue to offer solutions that are dedicated to improving drilling performance.

GT: What will happen with Fordia’s branches and reps around the world?

DL: One of our priorities is to listen to our customers in each region to guide us in determining the structure for their area and ensure that any changes we make are best suited to their needs.

GT: How can your clients be sure that the quality of the products will remain the same?

DL: Customers can count on our commitment to quality. Quality assurance has always been a priority and will continue to be so as we move through this next stage of Fordia’s life.

GT: According to Epiroc, ‘the acquisition has been strategically important as it will increase their focus on the exploration segment’. From your point of view, what does the future hold for Epiroc?

DL: I believe Epiroc can expect to attain leadership in the mineral exploration industry. This acquisition will empower their teams and allow them to leverage the Fordia brand, its reputation for quality products and outstanding service, as well as its existing network and people.

GT: In what direction would you like to see diamond drilling evolving?

DL: I would like to see diamond drilling continue to embrace innovation. We at Fordia have always focused on this, as has Epiroc, and our commitment will continue. Technology has revolutionized many other industries and I think it can do the same for diamond drilling. This year at the upcoming PDAC we have dedicated an entire booth to innovation.

If you have a question for Luc Paquet or Denis Landry, email us at editorial@coringmagazine.com and we will publish the answer in ‘Post-21 Questions’ in our next issue.