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In 2004 IR started out in the retail NDT business. Our main focus was Industrial Radiography Supplies and Services and so that was also chosen to be our name. We thought the name said everything and our business plan was to become the best at what we knew, we knew the most about. There was a lot going on in radiography back then: supply problems, new security initiatives, lab issues, and us, IR.

We knew our strengths and we used them to their fullest potential, and of course we had support from some key NDT companies and some important people. It is with true sincerity that we thank you all for that support when it was so critically needed.

As we grew and eventually moved to our present location we also grew our product lines. First of all it was the radiographer that we wanted to support so we gathered the products that supplemented her or his daily routines. That included yokes, penetrants, thickness gauges, hardness testers and all the other related tools and gadgets that go with them.

It wasn’t long before we were getting a lot of products, but to really become a player in the NDT business we needed to bring in a line of ultrasonic tools. We didn’t just want to find a flaw detector.  There are hundreds of them out there from all over the globe, with China being the leader in generic, copycat product.  No, we wanted a full line of quality equipment from thickness gauges to phased array and TOFD. If we were going to align ourselves with a manufacturer of UT equipment, and we wanted to be able to stand behind those products, they would have to meet our quality standards just like all the rest of our equipment did.

As we searched we kept coming back to the same brand over and over for each product requirement.  We soon realized that we had found a perfect match for IR. Our assessment concluded that this medium-sized competitor in the UT market had been overshadowed by two other competitors in our territory, but was growing in most other areas.  It was a brand with over 50 years of history and of Canadian origin, with part of its manufacturing still here in Canada. It had a great support system in Texas and was a leader in research and development, even against majors like GE and Olympus. It was a dream pairing come true: an underperforming product in Western Canada with a growing client base in the rest of the world and a lineup of dependable products in the top of their class at a competitive price point. Well as you all know, Sontatest was that brand.  Now all we needed to do was trick them into thinking we knew something about UT and that we could sell it.

Well as you might suspect UT, to a couple of older RT techs is like throwing a cell phone in the hands of a Stone Age tribesman and asking him to give you a call sometime. They may have seen you use it but really it’s all black magic at that point. So we have had our difficulties alright and more than anything it was the nuances and the small stuff that kept us from ever breaking out as a trusted UT provider.  As time passed so did our insecurity and we were soon making a name for ourselves as a supplier of quality UT equipment.

Like any product, it is only as good as the people that support it and here again Sonatest has passed our quality tests with likely the best support of any product we sell. I can claim that outside of IR, I know of no other company that has the passion for their products like Sonatest does.

I can remember we had run into a particularly tough sales demonstration where the interested individual was doing everything in his power to find a flaw with the Sonatest equipment we were showing (pun intended). I could feel the tension mounting as time after time the equipment proved itself.  It was soon apparent that this individual’s reaction was more about finding fault than proving an application. Our Sonatest representative had just about had enough but the final straw was when our client decided that this “yellow crap” wouldn’t stand up to the abuse their techs would give it. Though our Sonatest rep at the time was visibly enraged we managed to leave without his passions causing him to turn green and burst his seams. Minutes after leaving our rep confided to me that what really bothered him was that even though the client had seen perfectly well what the equipment was capable of, which was basically anything he could throw at it, he still had to insult it.  Our rep was offended that the equipment was insulted.

As we had a laugh about the experience, I confided that I had envisioned a perfect Monty Python skit of self-defeat, which included beating this particular client to a pulp using the flaw detector, which would show him how much abuse the equipment would actually take. I have no doubt the equipment would have worked perfectly afterwards, while not so much the client, thus defeating the purpose of the exercise. I never was the greatest salesperson.

I have met all or most of the upper management at Sonatest including the owners and have seen that this same controlled passion exists throughout the organization. From one end to the other they will all go the extra mile to do what it takes to make their equipment satisfy your requirements. Together they have produced a product of very high quality, dependability and durability that flies slightly under the radar here in Western Canada.  Even so, it is quickly gaining recognition as one of the premiere suites of UT products to be found anywhere.

As people and businesses learn of the excellent functionalities of Sonatest equipment, offered at a great price, and how well Sonatest stands behind their equipment with their internal passion, these products will find their way into all corners of our industry. With the addition of UT specialists Heather Addley and Jason Hollett to show you how Sonatest can fulfill almost any application you have, supported by continued training of our other front-line staff, IR can finally say we are a full NDT supplier for the Canadian market place.

I hope you find these little histories fun. I enjoy reminiscing.  It is important that we make it clear that your commitment to IR is backed by our commitment to provide you with quality products, which in turn is backed by the full commitment of our vendors. We have picked these companies for a reason.  That reason is you.

So remember…for the unknown there’s NDT, for NDT there’s IR.


Brian Sargent
IR Supplies and Services