Customer Stories, Manufacturing

SEI Industries: Saving Lives and Fighting Wildfires with Science, Engineering, and Innovation

When SEI Industries Ltd. team members watch news coverage of wildfires around the world, they’re likely to see the fruits of their labour at work. In fact, the Bambi Bucket, a collapsible bucket with a pilot-controlled valve, has been featured in more wildfire footage than any other firefighting tool in the world.

SEI Industries - Bambi Bucket
SEI Industries Ltd – Bambi Bucket

“We’re always very proud to see that big orange bucket, and know that it’s saving lives and property,” says Sergio Fukamati, Director of SEI’s Firefighting Division.

SEI Industries is a unique company, one that has certainly earned its unabbreviated name: Science Engineering & Innovation. Launched in 1978 by the inventor Don Arney, they are an industrial fabric products manufacturer serving the Aerial Firefighting and Remote Site Fuel Handling sectors, among others. In fact, in addition to the iconic Bambi Bucket, they manufacture over 50 products for a variety of military and commercial clients. These products regularly end up in 110 countries around the world.

Of course, the Bambi Bucket was where it all began. In 1981, Don had a bright idea for making firefighting buckets more effective than what was in the market.

“Don was working with a former employer and arrived at his idea for the Bambi Bucket while testing industrial-strength underwater airbags which were used for salvaging wreckage” explains Sergio. “Testing the bags involved filling them with water and lifting into the air with cranes to test their durability. Don looked at that bag hanging from the crane. 22,200 pounds of water being contained in a 60-pound bag and thought: what if I can lift that with a helicopter and release the water from the air?”

With that game-changing invention under his belt, SEI soon became a known entity. In the early 80s, the company consisted of Don and a few employees. Today, it’s a 90-employee enterprise. Don’s legacy as an inventor was also confirmed by his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2017. He is only the 14th Canadian ever to receive this honour. And his company continues to grow.

SEI Industries - Don Arney, newly inducted into the 2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame
SEI Industries Ltd – Don Arney, newly inducted into the 2017 National Inventors Hall of Fame

“Forest Fire is a global issue,” says Sergio. “It happens in every continent every year. And We are constantly adjusting our capacity and improving our products.

Another product that is making a critical difference in wildfire crisis zones is SEI’s Dragon Eggs. In addition to supplying corrugated boxes for some of SEI’s Bambi Buckets, Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) prints boxes for these ingenious “ignition products”.

“A lot of people don’t know that you actually do fight fire with fire. The Dragon Egg is used for controlled, prescribed burning. When forest services see that an area is becoming too loaded with biomass, they can drop an Egg and burn some of that fuel in a controlled way.”

Of course, creating packaging for these types of products requires careful adherence to guidelines. As Sergio explains, “there are requirements from Transport Canada. These products have to be packed in a certain way. There are special labelling requirements. There are a lot of details to get right.”

“It’s been so good to work with the GLBC team. Developing our boxes was a seamless experience. There’s good alignment and cooperation between GLBC and ours.”

As successful as their company has become, the SEI team is still working every day to live up to their company name. This is particularly true of Don, who Sergio says, “is still active behind the scenes, always thinking about innovation.” He and the SEI team are passionately invested in the company’s Research and Development branch, where developing “the next Bambi Bucket” is always the goal.

It’s always an honour to partner with such a thoroughly innovative company. Any time we can leverage our own capabilities for science, engineering, and innovation to support this essential, life-saving company, we’re grateful.

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