The North American ice resurfacing market has a new entrant. With a factory just outside of Montreal in the Canadian province of Quebec, this electric resurfacer isn’t just quietly picking up, and laying down ice, it’s raising eyebrows, turning heads — and gaining customers with a completely hydraulic approach to their machine. Made in Canada but imagined in France, I took a trip to just outside of Montreal to take a closer look at the Okay Elektra from ICETECH Machines.
It’s a Thursday afternoon and I get a call back from Mike Traczyk, the sales rep for ICETECH Machines, the manufacturer of the Okay Elektra ice resurfacer. When I talk to him then, Mike has only been on the job for two weeks, having traded in a chemical sales job for this one.
“It’s so much more fun than what I was doing before,” he admits.
I ask him about the Okay Elektra. I know the Terrebonne factory opened its doors in January, and they’ve already landed a handful of customers. That includes Montreal’s Concordia University who took delivery of an Elektra for the Ed Meagher Arena, the home of the Stingers, in September.
What Sets the Okay Electra Apart?
“What sets the Okay Electra apart?” I ask.
“First is the maneuverability,” Traczyk says. “It’s got a very short turning circle so it’s a great choice for all kinds of rinks, from the smaller, 3-on-3 rinks as well as Olympic-sized too. But that’s not all. It’s got incredibly low maintenance costs — and I think that’s what’s really going to set us apart from our competitors.”
“Low maintenance costs?” I ask. “How low?”
“About $1,500 a year.”
“A year???” I ask, in a bit of an unbelieving tone. “and is that Canadian dollars?”
“YES! and YES!” he replies.
“Our projected maintenance costs are $1,000-$1,500 per year, unlike some of our competitors with maintenance costs that go into the tens of thousands of dollars annually. So yes, we may cost more to begin with, but it doesn’t come with a lot of throughout-the-year surprises the way other resurfacers do. And if you consider that over a lifetime of five or six thousand hours of work, the reduced maintenance costs make a tremendous difference in the lifetime cost of the machine.”
In an industrial park in Terrebonne, Jerome Bouiller is assembling a machine which will be delivered to a German customer at the end of December. He and his sister, Anne-Laure, run the company and assemble the machines, which was the brainchild of their father, Eric, a former distributor for a competing ice resurfacing brand in France. The mechanical design may be all Eric but the look and feel of the Elektra was outsourced. A French firm designed the Elektra, making her sleek and curvy, with a practical, comfortable cockpit with a compact layout for the controls. Everything is within easy reach, and in the operator’s line of sight.
Jerome shows me around their demo machine and tells me how his father had a different idea for how the snow should be delivered to the snow tank. Instead of using a vertical auger to deliver the snow to the tank, he developed a series of step-like lifts to move the snow instead.
“That,” Jerome tells me, “takes away the possibility of the snow freezing on you as it does in other machines. As you can see, there is no plunger on our resurfacer. Since the snow doesn’t pack up and freeze, we don’t need a plunger to break it up. It’s one less thing for the driver to be worried about and another reason why the Elektra works so well.”
The resurfacer uses eight Ironclad batteries to power the engine – which is unique from other batteries by having lives unhampered by memory deterioration. This means the machine can be re-charged at any time — after any resurfacing has been done — without impacting the life of the battery. Batteries without memory is one reason why the Okay Elektra has such minimal maintenance costs.
I ask Jerome about maintenance and what is expected. He gives me three main points:
- The water level for the batteries must be maintained. That’s a job that should be done every day.
- The blade holder and clamps need to be greased weekly.
Every 4000 hours, the oil and oil filter need to be changed
- Every two years, preventative maintenance on the bearings needs to be done.
I look around the factory. In the corner are a couple of old resurfacers, covered by tarps. These are working machines that they’ve taken in on trade and they loan out, free-of-charge, if their customers are in a pinch — something else that’s unusual in the ice resurfacing business. With the German-destined machine on a heavy-duty hoist, I wonder about delivery times for the Elektra. That’s something I know ice makers and recreation directors grumble about. I’ve heard of delivery estimates from other manufacturers being six to eight months, and delivery dates continually being missed.
“Two months,” Sales Director William Pawchuk tells me.
“Wow!” I reply. “That’s fast!”
“All the parts are sourced here in Canada,” William explains, “and with more orders coming in, we expect to keep more parts in inventory and shorten our time-to-market.”
Like other ice resurfacers, the Elektra comes in two colours. There are add-ons, including a side brush, side cutters and an electronic water control system that adjusts the water flow with the speed of the machine. Jerome is forecasting 24 builds in 2017, with resurfacers destined for both the North American and European markets. With air quality in arenas becoming a safety issue and a real why-to-buy reason for arenas, I know the demand for electric resurfacers will continue to mount. The Elektra, with low maintenance costs, a small turning circle and fast delivery times, should be a force to reckon with in the North American ice resurfacing market.
The Okay Elektra retails at around $150,000 Canadian. Find out more at IceTech-Machine.com.