Based in Gaspé, Quebec, B.B High Performance Brake Pads Inc. (operating as KUMA Brakes) specializes in producing high performance brake pads for industrial applications. KUMA Brakes currently offers a sustainable solution to the energy industry through their innovative brake pads, which supports maximum energy-production in high-power wind turbines while reducing downtime and operational costs. These innovative brake pads are currently used in almost 50% of North American wind turbines and KUMA Brakes is the only company in North America to hold a General Electric brake pad certification for wind turbines.
The company's beginnings were far more humble than their current success might suggest. The company's founder, Christian Babin came up with the idea for his company when he was a CEGEP professor teaching students about wind turbine maintenance. In 2008, he founded KUMA Brakes and, over the course of 7 years, he developed a metallurgical formulation and a manufacturing process that would produce a high quality product. The firm's first brake pad prototypes were completed in early 2011, working in collaboration with the National Research Council of Canada's Automotive and Surface Transportation Research Centre (NRC AST) out of its Boucherville-based powder forming facility. In the subsequent years, the NRC's research team provided support for the testing of the mechanical performance of the pads, qualification of the raw material suppliers, the selection of the equipment, and fine-tuning of the manufacturing process. During the course of this collaboration, Christian was connected with Stéphane Héroux, an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).
When first engaging with NRC IRAP in 2013, Christian clearly had an innovative technology, but his company was still lacking employees, sales, manufacturing capabilities and a formal business plan. To start, Stéphane helped Christian develop a business and IP strategy. Laying this foundation was a critical first step to putting the business on the right growth trajectory. With a plan in place, NRC IRAP then worked with the business to establish the right manufacturing capabilities. Stéphane shared his technical expertise and advised on how to set up automated systems and build an internal team to operationalize processes. The company followed this guidance and hired a team of engineers and technicians. By 2015, following the development of its prototype, KUMA Brakes was ready to launch its innovative brake pads into the marketplace.
KUMA Brakes was a perfect fit for wind turbines and NRC IRAP continued to provide advice and support to strengthen the firm's market strategy. The strategy ran alongside the firm's automated manufacturing and enabled the firm to meet ongoing demand and prepare for future scale-up.
Stéphane has been providing ongoing guidance and working alongside KUMA Brakes, helping the company grow, develop new products and expand into new markets. Recently, he and a team of other ITAs supported efforts to expand KUMA Brakes' product line. NRC IRAP's International Co-Innovation Action Plan (ICAP) supported KUMA Brakes to establish an international partnership with a German company. As a result, KUMA Brakes is working to launch an innovative brake pad for a new industrial market in Europe and Asia. The firm's sights are on the horizon as they begin to break into new industries in the railway and naval sectors and open themselves to international partnerships and markets.
KUMA Brakes has experienced exponential growth since their debut in the marketplace. From $75,000 in sales in 2017 to a 500% increase in 2018, 300% in 2019 and a 20% increase in the following years. The company recently automated part of its production, allowing it to double its production and lower its manufacturing costs, in order to be competitive on the world market.
KUMA Brakes recently showcased its success at the June 2022 "Rendez-vous de l'innovation de l'est du Québec." Their journey from innovative idea into innovative product has culminated in a highly successful Gaspé-based company that supports sustainable practices in industry through clean power solutions, an area of growing importance in the global fight against climate change.
Our NRC IRAP industrial technology advisor, Stéphane, has been one of the most important players in the growth of our company and the NRC has supported our vision from the very beginning—from innovative idea into innovative product."