The Cannabis Trail Leads to Full Automation
Cyntek Industrial is a total solution provider that started in the sales and service of electromechanical equipment that has evolved to the cannabis-processing industry, with cutting-edge technical process systems and support. This includes incorporating electric motors, gearboxes, and variable frequency drives to offer a turnkey solution. Cyntek works on varied projects across North America, from simple one-off solutions to more customized systems including full design and integration solutions for industrial process and automation systems.
Over the years, Cyntek has amassed a wealth of experience with clients in industries ranging from gravel to food processing and many in between. One of the many with whom it has formed a long-term relationship is the Greater Toronto Airport Authority (GTAA), where Cyntek services and supports the SEW Eurodrive drive systems for the automatic baggage handling equipment, a key component of airport efficiency. With an emphasis on continuous development, Cyntek regularly works with the client to improve performance and look for opportunities to upgrade the equipment with more efficient, newer technology.
The depth of experience and versatility of the company makes it the ideal partner for the cannabis industry. This recently formed industry dovetails industrial processes with agriculture standards and requires agility and flexibility from its supplier partners in coming up with new solutions. While Cyntek continues to support its regular clients in a wide range of industries, its focus is now primarily on the exciting new world of cannabis production. From small startup LP’s to large-scale end form clients, Cyntek has worked with many within the cannabis space.
Founded over a decade ago in Orangeville, Ontario, with a base of loyal customer support, Cyntek immediately began to grow organically. “If your business model from the start is based on service and more service, it seems to drive more opportunities and more business, and then you just start building relationships from there,” says Chris Culver, Owner and President of Cyntek Industrial.
With a 5,000 square foot machine and fabrication shop in Orangeville, Cyntek has opened a second office in Toronto to work on cannabis-related projects. The employees are dynamic and enthusiastic, and bring a wide range of skills to the table. Although Cyntek employs its own process and mechanical engineers, sometimes trusted subcontractors are necessary both to make the company more sustainable and provide a broader range expertise.
The management style is one of establishing mutual trust and allowing employees to do their work without micromanagement. Cyntek has no rigid hierarchy and the disciplines of client needs and timeline are the responsibility of the entire team. To ensure that all employees in both locations are on the same page, weekly company meetings use the latest software for effective remote communication.
The cannabis industry is still in its infancy and new technology is emerging like new crops. Currently, technicians are primarily using CO2 and ethanol to extract cannabis oil on a mass scale. Cyntek has researched both CO2 and ethanol and soon established that although the technology with both solvents is improving, CO2 is the better method. “Instead of just crushing large volumes of plant material, we can refine the process and be able to define and target what exactly we want to pull out of the plant,” says Culver.
Further, the CO2 option avoids the additional step of removing the ethanol from the processed material during post-processing. This additional step can increase the time to process and require more capital and space. Cyntek has completed research on an extraction machine that reduces the need for post-processing and winterization processes by using a lower pressure of CO2, but still showing volumes that are required for larger scale operations. The company is currently developing a larger scale extractor that can process thousands of pounds of biomass daily per machine and hopes to have this operational next year.
The industrial process systems developed by Cyntek follow the criteria laid out by the European Union’s GMP (good manufacturing practice) guidelines which are setting the standard in the cannabis industry. “Our focus is on how we develop our processes and systems to the highest standards, and then regardless of what the client wants to do with it, it’s going to be compliant throughout the industry,” says Culver.
‘Good manufacturing practices’, the guidelines set by authorizing agencies, ensure that manufacturers consistently produce high quality products that – most importantly – are free from contamination and safe. EU-GMP also requires manufacturing processes that are properly documented and staff that are correctly trained, all for the protection and well-being of consumers.
A lot of the equipment necessary for large-scale automation in the cannabis industry doesn’t even exist yet. Although many of the makers of cannabis processing machinery are located in the United States, the U.S. cannabis market is fragmented state by state, and the machinery has never been developed for large-scale operations. Many current operations across North America do not look at the cannabis industry as an industrial process and as such are complacent in their approach. This allows for inefficiencies and higher costs per gram of a saleable product. Cyntek takes the more industrialized approach and looks to achieve smarter processing and better value with more flow to the process.
Working with many cannabis suppliers, Cyntek has noticed that even some of the largest players in the Canadian cannabis industry still use unsuitably small-capacity systems for some processes due to market unavailability. Cyntek only recently worked on an innovative project with a visionary cannabis company that was determined to develop larger machines than the industry average. Right now, in fact, Cyntek is continually identifying equipment that is too small in scale and developing its own design for its clients’ applications and needs.
Another step toward improving the industry is Cyntek’s work with yet another licensed cannabis producer to automate the processes between machine operations that currently require some manual labour. For example, if a product is removed from one completed machine process to undergo winterization or distillation, there is no mechanical operation connecting the two processes and human intervention is required. Cyntek is looking to automate all the steps.
“We’re continuously improving and we think outside the box. We really do try to conceptualize the solution that makes the most sense, no matter whether it exists in the marketplace or not. If not, then we try to develop it ourselves or work with players who will help us,” Culver says.
A business mantra
Culver says that when working with a client, Cyntek has a little warning mantra of things to be avoided called ‘The Three Ts,’ standing for ‘Time, Touch, and Travel’. When these are properly minimized then everyone knows that the efficiency and bottom line of the company are being maximized, to everyone’s benefit.
Understandably, the uncertain future of the cannabis sector deters many companies and engineers; however, Cyntek enjoys giving help to those brave startup companies prepared to navigate the hurdles that come with the development of a brand new industry.
A dynamic new sector
Having been around the block itself, Cyntek welcomes the challenges posed by the dynamic nature of the cannabis industry. The secret is to be flexible and responsive. No matter the size of a licensed cannabis production company or how long it has been in operation, strategies and tactics will change almost daily, and the goal posts will shift just as often. Far from being discouraged by this mercurial industry, Cyntek finds itself energized by the continuously changing objectives and remains an approachable, adaptable, and enthusiastic partner to its clients.
The company understands that the client is not being indecisive about certain project requirements, but that the fluctuating assessments of any given situation are just part of the process of further due diligence and better deployment of capital. Culver explains that, “Right now, lead times are more of an issue than pricing, and that’s the thing with this industry – it’s still very young. It’s like prohibition in the 30s, it’s a bit of a wild west out there.”
A passionate team
The team at Cyntek is made up of individuals who are, as one, passionate about helping the cannabis industry make it through this tumultuous time in its history and come out bigger and better. The company is excited about the unlimited potential of the cannabis sector – although it’s keeping a watchful eye on opportunities in other industries.
The owners see the company’s growth as a cause for pride, but are especially gratified that they are able to provide great career prospects for a diverse and committed team of employees. With that, Culver’s two sons currently work with him in the business and bring a wealth of talent and energy to the entire organization. Cyntek encourages its staff to appreciate the privilege of being part of the emerging cannabis industry and supports licensed producers with quality equipment and processes designed to meet the high standards of the EU GMP.
So far, the company has seen success through building business relationships that become true partnerships of client and supplier, and making those relationships a top priority. It’s proving to be a winning formula for success in this growing and dynamic sector.