Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc.: Rising Above the Competition

Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc. (ELS) specializes in providing solutions to Canada’s industrial and manufacturing sector’s tough overhead lifting problems. “We make difficult jobs seem easy,” proclaims Paul Whittaker, P.Eng., who purchased the company in 1998 and now serves as president. “We have a full staff of designers, engineers, (structural, electrical and mechanical,) along with skilled tradesmen and we are able to take on a full range of projects from concept through to fabrication and installation. These days we sell equipment primarily throughout Ontario, but we're active also in the United States, Mexico and further across Canada.”

ELS offers domestic and international clients both standard and custom designed and fabricated lifting systems, both overhead and floor-based, which provide customers with the most efficient, cost-effective options for material handling. Additional services offered by the company include structural blasting and load testing, as well as other engineering, production and installation services. ELS will also modify and install existing equipment using its professional engineers, who can test and certify equipment as part of a Pre-Start Health and Safety Review to identify, evaluate and rectify potential health hazards. At all times the company strives to exceed customer expectations, building on four decades of experience and firm market presence.

ELS was founded by Jim Muir as Mentor Dynamics Ltd. in 1971 to act primarily as a structural steel fabricator, working with such clients as Kraus Carpets and Strudex Fibres to develop storage and handling systems. Gradually the firm expanded to include the fabrication of low-friction lining systems to facilitate the movement of bulk materials in cargo ships, eventually extending its presence into the design, manufacturing and distribution of specialty cranes.

“The company started primarily doing a lot of structural steel work, then, through the 1980s, we got into building overhead cranes for another company that ended up moving out of Canada, ultimately we began developing our own equipment designs,” explains Whittaker. “These days the name ‘Mentor Dynamics’ has more to do with the manufactured product, as a brand identity. When I was preparing to take over the company in 1998, I didn’t feel that the Mentor Dynamics name was going to be broad enough in the marketplace; however, we had 27 years of that identity. So when I took over the parent company became Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc., though we still produce ‘Mentor Dynamics’ product so we don’t lose that brand recognition.”

Making Difficult Jobs Seem Easy

Operating under the Mentor Dynamics name, the company grew an impressive client list that ranged from professional sports teams to manufacturing industry giants. Under Whittaker, and the company’s new moniker, that list has only grown along with its improved reputation. “About 20 years ago we installed a large overhead lifting system in the SkyDome [home of Major League Baseball’s Toronto Blue Jays] for lifting and lowering the concert grid,” states Whittaker. “The building is called the Rogers Center now, but above the stage the lights and speakers are suspended from a frame that is raised and lowered on equipment that we designed and supplied.”

Over the last couple decades ELS has continually grown its turnkey materials handling solutions, actively integrating overhead cranes, runway systems, monorails, jib cranes, lifting beams and custom equipment into all manner of projects. This is why Whittaker chose to change the company's name, to better communicate the essence of its endeavors.

In retrospect, 2008 is now seen to be the beginning of the global economic recession, so it may not have been the best time to introduce any type of potential confusion into a business standing, or to incur the costs of moving into a new property, as ELS did to support its growth and to allow for a tooling integration division. However, Whittaker says that ELS has maintained a healthy level of business even as competitors struggle.

“We did experience a significant slowdown in the third quarter of 2009; however, we are actually quite busy right now,” says Whittaker. “We finished up a big job for the city of Toronto for their pump removal systems. We also installed a number of manipulators for Pratt & Whitney in Montreal, and we do a lot of work for the General Motors plant in Ingersoll, as well as John Deere and Packers. Right now we’re doing quite a big job for the Liquor Control Board of Ontario with a custom-designed piece of equipment to help them unload tractor trailers. I expect this product will be very well received in the industry as it reduces potential injuries, while at the same time improving productivity significantly.”

The use of the ELS name in a prominant may only be three years old, but the quality and comprehensiveness of its work garners attention no matter the company's d.b.a. “Ten years ago we would not have been able to take on a job the size of the Pratt & Whitney project and the fact that we can take it on now shows just how far we have come,” says Whittaker. “We are proud to have the big name client list we do, although we still take pride in selling to smaller operations as they represent a large component of our sales.”

Not Just Settling for Success

The company manages to stay ahead of its competition by continuing to find creative solutions to difficult problems. It was this never-say-never attitude that attracted Whittaker to the business in the first place. “Since I graduated from university I have been in the material handling field, though initially that was more by convenience than by design. At the time the first place I worked at was halfway between where my parents lived and were my wife’s parents lived,” laughs Whittaker. “My first job was instrumental in giving me a lot of experience in material handling from the ground level. Eventually, I met the previous owner of Mentor Dynamics and worked for him for eight years before I bought the company from him. I liked the company so much I bought it and I still enjoy it as much as when I bought it. That’s the engineer in me. If it had been the same old cookie cutter engineering I probably would have moved on a long time ago.”

The constant ingenuity demanded in the material handling niche is what propels Whittaker and the ELS team overall. In the coming years the company plans on expanding both its custom design operations and its distribution. “The economy is certainly changing and we’re trying to make sure we go further afield into the U.S. market, because manufacturing in Canada, which is our primary market, has changed so dramatically,” says Whittaker. “We will always stay active in Canada, of course, but we see a focus overall being more on our custom designs. I think as long as we stay creative and keep on working to find the customers, even if they’re farther away, we should do fine.”

Operating on Whittaker's proactive attitude and a backbone of innovative engineering, Engineered Lifting Systems & Equipment Inc. will continue to stay ahead of the curve as an industry leader for years to come.