Ace Machining develops protective solutions for businesses during pandemic

Posted: July 15, 2020
In Halifax, our people, companies, and organizations are resilient. We have overcome crises and adversity before, and we are once again. When COVID-19 began, companies quickly adapted to do business differently and to create new products to respond to the crisis.
At Halifax Partnership, we're speaking with companies every day, including those we work with through our SmartBusiness Program. Join us in celebrating their innovation and adaptability in this 10-part series, where we share the stories we're hearing during a global pandemic.


When the COVID-19 pandemic caused many businesses and organizations to close earlier this year, healthcare, school closures, and travel restrictions were headline news. But many smaller sectors were affected too.

Ace Machining, a 12-year old manufacturing company that employs 32 people makes custom orders from metal and plastics for customers across North America. When orders slowed down this spring, the 15,000 square foot facility in Dartmouth wasn’t quiet for long.

“Everything stopped for a bit, so that’s when we started to develop our own products,” said Ace Machining president Ron Wallace. “By May we were back on track. I've never worked harder than I have in the last three months in my entire life, trying to keep stuff coming in and keep the work going.”

With a background in the fast-food industry, Wallace has a keen sense of what that industry needs to keep operating while keeping customers and employees safe. The company quickly designed stands to hold large jugs of hand sanitizer, and created tools to make a drive-through point of sale operations safer.

“A few of our innovative products are taking off. When we saw people duct taping debit machines to hockey sticks, we manufactured a product for that,” said Wallace, adding that they have created products for Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, and A&W restaurants.

“But the one that is getting the most traction is trays for Dairy Queen. We made a service tray with holes in it for passing ice creams and Blizzards to customers in the shape of the iconic DQ spoon. We rolled that out across Canada and now we’re working with the States too.”

The company also saw a huge demand for polycarbonate installations for medical offices and hair salons, and they were also able to partner with Dormie Workshop to make face shields. Wallace explained that his company had the expertise to create the clear shields, and Dormie was able to offer a headband to hold the shield; together they will also be able to offer a version that clips to a hat.

Working together, the two companies have made products that allow for safer public interactions. Ace makes a pin pro for lifting golf balls now that players can’t touch the flag on the course, and a power key, with a leather fob made by Dormie, is a contact-free way to open doors and push buttons.

This ability to pivot operations quickly helped keep Ace Machining from laying off workers, but city-wide shutdowns made the logistics of running their shop more difficult.

“With changes to the bus system, it would take our guys hours to get to work, so we added a daily bonus system to help with the added cost of getting to work,” said Wallace.

In addition to keeping his current team working, the pandemic made it more difficult to hire new employees – already a difficult task because there aren’t enough new graduates to replace retiring machinists in Nova Scotia. He’s in the process of hiring two more employees but is facing delays due to immigration issues.

“It’s very hard to find people. We have 11 nationalities working here; I’m a big supporter of immigration,” said Wallace, explaining that he has worked with both the Atlantic Immigration Pilot and the Nova Scotia Nominee Program to bring in skilled foreign workers.

Earlier this year Ace Machining purchased new equipment, and while it was stressful to think of it sitting idle, this nimble small business was able to quickly find ways to keep busy solving problems for its customers.

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