DAVWIRE: DEFENSE & AVIATION WIRING INC.
All entrepreneurs have that moment—a point where they are inspired to take a risk and start their own company. For Mark MacKenzie, founder and chief executive officer of Defense & Aviation Wiring Inc. (DAVWIRE), that moment arrived in June 2003. Since then, he has never looked back.
As a young, enthusiastic graduate of Canadore College, MacKenzie started his career supporting the Forest-fire Water Bombing aircraft but soon moved on to work at Eurocopter Canada, where he began to learn more about the complex aerospace industry. Moving from one company to another, MacKenzie gradually gained the broad technical knowledge and organizational skills that would one day help him start and grow DAVWIRE. In 1997, seeking formal business education, MacKenzie pursued a master’s degree in business administration at the Ivey Business School, while concurrently working for Diamond Aircraft Industries and then Bombardier Aerospace as a consultant. It was during this time that MacKenzie realized that he would one day start his own business.
“It was for an assignment,” explains MacKenzie. “For one of my last projects during my master’s, I had to develop a business plan. Back then, I would never have believed that this would have lead to the founding and growth of DAVWIRE.” After working for Bombardier Aerospace and Spar Aerospace, MacKenzie followed up on his true calling and founded DAVWIRE in 2003.
The company started out as a contractor for manufacturers in the electrical/electronics arena, but eventually evolved to specialize in wire harnesses, electrical panels (such as those used for power distribution) and controls, and electro-mechanical assemblies that served the defence, aerospace, medical, and rail industries. Now, with a team of 50 dedicated employees and five major original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as customers, DAVWIRE has become a well-respected and valuable brand in the Canadian defense and commercial aviation industries, serving companies such as General Dynamics, Textron, Caterpillar Inc, L-3 Communications, and Bombardier Aerospace.
At first, MacKenzie and DAVWIRE experienced several challenges. When signing contracts with customers in the aerospace sector, MacKenzie realized that they required $250,000 of capital investments to finance equipment. Although it was an unfavourable and risky choice, MacKenzie and his wife took the leap of faith and took full responsibility for the funding. As it continued to expand, eventually, DAVWIRE ran out of space, and even rented two additional facilities in an attempt to manage the capacity. Due to inefficiencies in managing the logistics, MacKenzie decided to make a large investment to buy a new facility in 2008, which offered 40,000 square feet of space.
The global recession of 2008 was a devastating blow for DAVWIRE. “In order to survive, we had to downsize to 12 people from 75,” says MacKenzie. “However, we managed through the tough years. We continued to work against the current, and we found new programs and contracts in the medical industry. This allowed our business to ramp up again.”
Through the ups and downs, MacKenzie and the DAVWIRE team developed an effective strategy. “I believe that there is a need for contract manufacturing in the marketplace and there always will be business opportunities out there,” MacKenzie asserts. “However, for the sustainability of our company, we need to have our own products.” Realizing the risk, DAVWIRE has started to build a consortium of OEMs and post-secondary institutions to take advantage of government programs—such as the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax (SR&ED) program, the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), the Industrial and Technological Benefits (ITB) policy, and the Business Continuity Program (BCP)—to take the business to a new level.
Along with the new strategy, MacKenzie is focusing on ensuring that DAVWIRE maintains its competitive status in the marketplace. The firm has many years of experience, which most of its competitors lack. As the company grows based on referrals and a national reputation, MacKenzie intends to maintain the quality of work that has earned DAVWIRE its credibility. DAVWIRE has one local competitor (located in London, Ontario) and six national competitors, and all of them are starting to emulate DAVWIRE.
“WE HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INVOLVED IN THREE SECTORS: LAND, AEROSPACE, AND SEA, BOTH COMMERCIALLY AND IN THE DEFENSE SEGMENTS. NOW, MORE COMPANIES ARE DOING EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE DOING,” SAYS MACKENZIE.
Yet MacKenzie feels that the most important component to success is talent. Although DAVWIRE has never had a problem finding talent on the technical side, it is increasingly difficult to find suitable engineering staff with the right type of background. Accordingly, DAVWIRE is in close communication with both Fanshawe College and Canadore College, and has begun discussions with Western University. Furthermore, DAVWIRE will continue to utilize employment programs offered by the government to consistently find top talent.
The story of DAVWIRE clearly highlights what is most important for a Canadian manufacturer to not only survive, but also thrive. Continuously building companies’ reputations through skilled talent will help leaders such as Mark MacKenzie develop and foster the Canadian manufacturing industry. Through perseverance and hard work, DAVWIRE will continue to pave paths for Canadian innovation.
Learn more about DAVWIRE by visiting their website.
Defense & Aviation Wiring Inc. (Davwire) is one of Canada’s leading contract manufacturers in the electrical/electronic arena. The company specialized in wire harnesses, electrical panels such as power distribution and controls and electrical assemblies used in aviation, defence, medical and rail industries.
Headquarters: 695 Sovereign Rd London, Ontario. N5V 4K8
- Mark MacKenzie, President & CEO
Year established: 2003
Number of employees: 50
Line of business
Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing
335930 – Wiring Device Manufacturing
335315 – Switchgear and Switchboard, and Relay and Industrial Control Apparatus Manufacturing
335990 – All Other Electrical Equipment and Component Manufacturing
Products: Wire harness, switch panel assemblies, circuit breaker panel assemblies, RF cable assemblies, Aircrew helmet, Marine firefighter helmet.
Services: UV laser wire marking & cutting, Avionics support of aircraft, Avionics installations.
Industry sector market includes: Defence, Aerospace, Rail and Medical equipment.
Customers: Armatec, Bombardier, Cantwell Cullen, ComDev, Diamond Aircraft Industries, Electromotive Diesel (Caterpillar Inc.), General Dynamics Land Systems, L3 Spar Aerospace, Locheed Martin etc.
Exports: United States, Brazil
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Employees: controller, operations etc. Not hard to find technical people.
Skill Sets: Electrical, electronic background, looking for Engineering people with the right type of background.
Davwire was established in 2003 in London, ON, and in 2008, the company moved into a 40,00 sq.ft facility for continued growth. In 2011, Davwire acquired its aircraft maintenance organization registration, which allowing Davwire to support aircraft with service and modification in the Avionics and instrument categories, backed up by support from its manufacturing facility.
Few serious competitors
- LEDC ( was helpful when they acquired the Rutter Inc.)
- IRAP/SR&ED programs are not suitable for contract manufacturers.
- Took advantage of government employment program
- Utilizing the Export Development Canada program
- FedDev Ontario and DFAIT program are very helpful
EDUCATION INSTITUTION PARTNERSHIPS:
- Working closely with Fanshawe College
- Under discussion with Western University on different R&D interests.
- Quality focused, products and processes meet strict military and civilian standards for quality assurance and configuration management.
- Ability to solve problems in manufacturing and quality management
- Meet customers’ needs: reduce costs, improve agility, relieve stress, streamline inventories, assure quality.
- The nature of being a contract manufacturer makes it hard to take advantage of SR&ED and IRAP programs
- Commercial Aviation market is continuing to grow.
- Became involved in the ship building business
- Ability to recognize opportunities for the team
- Making and designing own products