Ottawa’s Sciemetric Instruments acquired by Ohio-based TASI Group

Founder Nathan Sheaff says Ottawa firm’s acquisition will accelerate growth
Nathan Sheaff
Sciemetric Instruments CEO Nathan Sheaff.

The CEO of Sciemetric Instruments says the Ottawa company has an opportunity to shift its growth into “high gear” in the aftermath of its acquisition by an Ohio-based company.

On Thursday, the local firm – which has spent more than three decades headquartered in Ottawa and is currently profitable – said it had been purchased by TASI Group.

As part of the emerging industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sector, Sciemetric delivers data measurement and analytics, primarily for large manufacturers such as Ford Motors, John Deere, Honda and Hewlett-Packard.

The IIoT field is about taking precise measurements of manufacturing processes and turning that data around to optimize efficiency. Among Sciemetric’s products, its waveform analyses operate in parallel to a manufacturer's assembly line and can determine if and where defective parts exist.

“As companies make millions of parts, we can archive every details of those processes ... Right down to the microsecond, almost,” CEO Nathan Sheaff said in an interview. “It really lets us find the needle in the haystack.”

Pivot

Ohio’s TASI Group, which acquired Sciemetric for an undisclosed sum, is comprised of a dozen companies operating in the same space. While the Ottawa firm was growing well on its own, the acquisition gives Sciemetric access to thousands of customers and new markets that Mr. Sheaff says would’ve taken 10 years to achieve on its own.

“I wasn’t interested in selling the company, but I could also see that for us to go it alone would take a lot longer,” he says.

“It was a huge undertaking at the time. I didn’t realize then how big it would become.”

Sciemetric began in 1981 while Mr. Sheaff was still studying engineering at the University of Waterloo. Back then, the firm was mainly selling data-collection boxes to research institutes and universities, eventually taking its measurement technologies to manufacturers. (“Professors don’t spend a lot of money,” Mr. Sheaff says, “but they do great work.”)

A project with Ford near the turn of the millennium saw Sciemetric put anchors down in managing the data it was collecting, tying these measurement points together into a single accessible system that could make sure Ford’s assembly lines wouldn’t pass defective parts on.

Mr. Sheaff says he didn’t know it at the time, but the firm had clued into the very beginnings of IIoT.

“It was a huge undertaking at the time. I didn’t realize then how big it would become.”

No anticipated workforce cuts

There are a number of complements between TASI and Sciemetric. Geographically, Sciemetric has offices in Windsor, India, the United Kingdom and China, while TASI has sales operations all across the United States and Germany. Cincinnati Test Systems, the firm which TASI Group originally formed around, has leak-detection products that would work well in tandem with Sciemetric’s own offerings in the space.

Assembly
Sciemetric sells products that monitor and measure quality on their clients' assembly line. (Stock photo for illustrative purposes only.)

Mr. Sheaff was already well acquainted with TASI from industry trade shows, and the two firms had collaborated on projects in the past. When he met with TASI CEO John McKenna in Detroit this past summer, the two came to an easy understanding that the products, geographies and cultures of the companies were a good match.

“We really believed, both of us, that one plus one equals three,” Mr. Sheaff says.

There will be little change in terms of the firm’s Ottawa operations. Mr. Sheaff will remain in his leadership role as president and general manager, and there are no anticipated cuts or major shakeups to the roughly 60 full-time Ottawa employees.

In fact, Mr. Sheaff says the firm is still growing and seeking new engineering talent to join its ranks and take advantage of the coming opportunities with TASI in the IIoT space.

“It’s all pedal to the metal,” Mr. Sheaff says.