GN Corporations Inc.: When Quality Matters

John Pleša is the second-generation president and CEO of GN Corporations Inc. (GNC), a manufacturer of tools and equipment for the oil and gas production industry that is based in Airdrie, Alberta. John’s father, Nick, founded the company in 1965 with his brother, George, as George and Nick’s Machine Works. “We started out as a two-man operation,” recalls John. “Today we have over 100 employees and the business has gone from essentially a small job shop to a significant manufacturer. I don’t think my dad ever expected it to get this big.”

Since John joined the company in 1989, the custom machining and design firm has moved several times to allow for expansion. “The plants were getting bigger and bigger,” he explains. “When I started, we were in a 20,000-square foot facility in Calgary. Then next it was 30,000 and we expanded it by another 16,000 square feet. Five years ago we made the move to Airdrie. This location is 115,000 square feet. It’s big, but it leaves us room to grow.” And this space is not being wasted, as the company’s revenue is expected to rise by nearly 30 percent over the next year.

Turnkey Components

At the core of GNC’s success is a comprehensive, customized, client-focused approach that emphasizes excellence and punctuality in producing and assembling components. “We do things turnkey here,” explains John. “Put simply, when you go to the store to buy a toaster, you don’t buy levers, coils and sheet metal. You don’t assemble it yourself. You go to the store, you buy a toaster.” John and the GNC team, which numbers around 100, similarly use state-of-the-art tools to machine and compile a fully constructed piece of equipment. Consumers receive the tools or machinery, position them accordingly, and they’re ready to go. “It’s a complete product,” he says. “We’re a one-stop shop, not just a components supplier.”

The company offers a variety of what John calls “down-hole equipment,” though specifics are scarce as GNC keeps nondisclosure agreements with many of its major clients to protect interests and investments. “Our bread-and-butter turnkey products are for well completion and cementing equipment,” reveals John. “That’s all for the oil and gas industry.”

GNC is also an original equipment manufacturer for many major suppliers in the business and offers the same line of quality products custom-stamped with a supplier’s brand. The company’s market niche is equipment for oil production, delivered by a company that excels in consistency.

GNC has also branched out into other energy markets. “We manufacture products that go into alternative fuel tanks,” explains John. “We build pressure-bearing components for natural gas tanks and hydrogen fuel cells.” The majority of manufacturing for these products, like all GNC products, is performed in-house. “The only things we sub out are processors and specialty coatings,” says John. “And we have a set network of strategic partners for everything.”

Economic Atmosphere

With oil production in Canada at a peak, the energy sector and its related businesses are doing very well. “We’re definitely getting more and more business,” explains John. “Our numbers are rising even with our major clients. And our market extends beyond Canada and many of our tools and components are sold worldwide.” The company has been on an upswing over the last few years, though John admits his team went through a rough patch along the way.

The solution to navigate the economic slump was simply tightening the belt and staying competitive. “Our business is strong fundamentally and philosophically,” says John. “We did everything we could to stay ahead.” The result was a brief period of discomfort. “We were only really in it for a year, while most of our industry suffered for two to three years,” he continues. “Staying strong is the short and sweet version.”

Whether bracing for the worst or caught up in a flurry of activity, there continue to be two components of the company’s success that John says will never be compromised: quality and safety. Manufacturing can be a dangerous industry, but GNC’s employees are trained in safe practices to minimize the risks involved. GNC has achieved the pinnacle for a health, safety and wellness system by meeting the standards of qualification to receive Certificate of Recognition (COR) accreditation. On top of that, the company participates in a strict quality assurance program (ISO 9001 certified) geared toward producing durable products that carry the culture of safety out the doors and into the hands of the people who use GNC’s products.

The company’s clients have come to expect timely delivery of high-quality products, a tradition the current management continues. “I have a tremendous passion for this business,” explains John, who grew up in the industry and has developed longstanding relationships with clients and suppliers. He is dedicated to sustained growth, and the continuation of GNC is important. John has four children, one already involved in the company, and he is dedicated to maintaining GNC’s ability to rise to the challenge of its clients for the third generation of family ownership.

GN Corporations Inc. has been established on strong business fundamentals and under Pleša management will continue to manufacture customized solutions for the oil and gas sectors and beyond.