How this Canadian company is reinventing the industrial roll-up garage door

Barrie, Ont.–based TNR Industrial Doors is up against huge global competitors—using its agility to provide customizations they can’t match

Boring is Brilliant

Cartoon characters freaking out over a garage door

(Illustration by Ryan Snook)

There are plenty of ways to describe the stretch of time from September to December: it’s back-to-school time, it’s fall, it’s the pre-Christmas rush. But another phenomenon is happening, unbeknownst to most of us: Door season.

“It’s an extremely busy time of year for us,” shares Cathy Buckingham, CEO of TNR Industrial Doors, a Barrie, Ont., company that specializes in automated doors—specifically, the digitally controlled, roll-up variety. TNR ships its doors to industrial companies across Canada, the U.S., Europe and the Middle East for use in warehouses, manufacturing facilities and mining sites. So why so many orders at this time of year? “It’s getting colder,” Buckingham says. “People want to [close up] openings.”

While roll-up doors may seem like a niche product far removed from everyday life, Buckingham says that’s not the case. “If you park underground in Toronto, eight times out of 10 you’re probably driving under one of our doors,” she says. The company also produces fabric doors, high-speed rolling aluminum doors, and doors for the retail and aviation sectors.

After a door-making plant in Barrie moved to the States in 2003, Buckingham decided to start her own outfit, with the help of several other former employees. While the initial plan was to remain a small company servicing Ontario, TNR grew faster than anyone expected. In the past three years, revenue has ballooned by 50%.

The industry is dominated by billion-dollar companies, but Buckingham sees TNR’s size as an advantage. “Big companies have bureaucracy. They’re not as agile,” she says. Her larger competitors have to standardize products, whereas TNR has the flexibility to match individual customers’ needs. That could mean building a door to fit unique dimensions or incorporating a seal around the edges to shield from sandstorms. She also says the core values of the company—dedication to quality, staff support, open communication with clients—has drawn top talent from those same competitors to work for her.

Still, how does Buckingham get her employees passionate about doors? “Most of our people are excited about what we do because they understand that as we grow, our success offers them the opportunity for a career, not just a job,” she says.

As for Buckingham, she’s genuinely interested in roll-up doors. “Most of our doors have computers and sensors, and we’re getting them to do things that are very unique, so we’re pushing the boundaries of what doors used to do,” she says. TNR’s high-speed aluminum security door, for example, boasts a photoelectric sensor to detect vehicles and can open at a rate of 54 inches per second. “Every time you’re in an industry that is growing into new areas,” she says, “it’s exciting.”

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