PKS Equipment & Engineering Inc.: Giving the Transportation Industry a Lift

PKS Equipment & Engineering Inc. (PKS) has been serving the needs of the transportation industry since 1998. The company is headquartered in Ancaster, Ontario, but serves customers all over North America. Stan Poweska, the president of PKS, has been in the business of designing and manufacturing superior quality lifts for use in maintenance shops since 1978, three years after emigrating from Poland as a young adult. He started as a machinist and worked his way up through the company and was plant manager when the time came to strike out on his own.

“I left [my previous job] on mutual terms after 22 or 23 years,” he explains. “I wasn’t going to go be a potato farmer, however. I’m a machinist. That’s what I do for a living.” Poweska started PKS with a partner and the business has been growing ever since.

“I still love to wake up in the morning and go to work,” says Poweska. His passion for engineering has infected his entire business, which specializes in custom work. PKS is a leader in life innovation, utilizing a wide range of the newest technologies in life controls and hydraulic fluid power, and Poweska believes his company is the only one like it in Canada.

The competition doesn’t have the resources to fill the industry’s need for specialized heavy-lifting equipment. Poweska says, “They send customers to us, they say, ‘Go to PKS, they can do it for you, we can’t.’” PKS builds lifts for everything from bus garages to mine shafts. The company’s product line includes heavy-duty four-post drive-on lifts, portable or mobile column lifts, scissor lifts, two-post lifts and in-ground lifts in high and low pressure designed to be environmentally friendly and certified by multiple standards, including SA, ANSI ALI-ALCTV-2008, ISO 9001 and ETL.

Complex Lifts for Complex Jobs

PKS operates from only one location, a 23,000-square foot facility that employs around 30. “We’re not a big operation,” says Poweska. “We build everything to order and we don’t really stock anything.” Despite this consolidated operation, PKS products find their way into widespread applications.

PKS is the lead lift supplier for the Canadian mining industry. This business presents special challenges, as sometimes the company’s products need to be transported 5,000 feet into the Earth before installation. “That’s been big business lately,” says Poweska, discussing the company’s work with equipment for the mines. “The lifts need to be easily disassembled, sent down in the mine, and easily reassembled.”

PKS lifts are underground all over North America and even abroad as far as Mongolia, where the company has found a regular customer. In most situations, the lifts are installed by local installation contractors or by specialists already employed by PKS’s clients. Lifts sent to the mines have to be set up by employees of the mining company, so ease of installation and a clear manual are necessary for the success and safety of these projects.

PKS has ongoing contracts with large companies in the United States like Caterpillar and Snap-on, and has started working with NAPA’s traction division as the auto supplier is expanding its services. A few years ago PKS built a custom lift system for Western Transit, a transportation authority seeking a more efficient solution for servicing subway cars.

“Our system has reduced the amount of time it takes to change the tracks on subway cars from two days to a few hours,” Poweska says. The organization is looking into getting more of PKS’s lift systems installed.

Filling the Gap

While many mechanical suppliers struggled to survive during the recent recession, Poweska says, “We rode through with a smile on.” Many American suppliers building similar systems lost ground because of struggling residual industries. PKS maintains reliable suppliers, many of them local, and manages to pick up contracts from lift suppliers that couldn’t keep up. The company’s flexibility and knack for innovation has allowed PKS to gain and maintain satisfied repeat customers.

“We are constantly evolving and taking on new projects,” says Poweska. In the past few years alone, PKS has broken into several industries that had previously been relying on bulky, ineffective equipment. “We work with our customers,” he states. “Our biggest concern is fulfilling each client’s specific needs,” a gap Poweska feel is left open by many so-called “specialty” lift manufacturers. For example, the company supplies maintenance hangars for airplanes and jet engines. PKS lifts are built with capacities beyond 50,000 pounds and are a major component in Boeing’s F-15 jetfighter assembly line.

PKS has grown steadily by 10 to 15 percent over the last few years and will continue to do so because of its strategic position physically and in the market place. “Nearby Hamilton is a steel town, so we’ve got access to all of the services we need – forming, steel-cutting – we have a lot of people involved supplying components for our lifts,” Poweska explains. “We focus on welding, the electronics and putting these things together.” The company has about 30 factory workers and PKS takes advantage of its small size by incorporating new technology, quality control and Poweska’s infectious can-do attitude.

Poweska and his team are dedicated to building a product that is efficient, safe, durable and tailored to a client’s needs. “There’s always something new,” he beams. PKS embraces new challenges and maintains its position as an industry frontrunner because of its dedicated employees and a quality end product that keeps clients coming back for more. From mobile lifts suited to scoot through mine shafts to four-columned behemoths in city bus garages, PKS Equipment & Engineering Inc. has the knowledge, experience and persistence to pick up anything the transportation industry is setting down.