GIVENS ENGINEERING INC.
In 1992, Swiss-based automation and power technologies company ABB Ltd. shuttered its massive plant in London, Ontario. Nearly 500 employees were laid off. Ray Givens was one of them. Even as a professional engineer with a master’s degree and more than six years’ industrial experience, Givens struggled to find a job. With no other prospects in sight, he took a leap of faith and incorporated his own business in 1993.
Today, Givens Engineering Inc. (Givens Engineering) is the industry leader for manipulators, light cranes (defined as cranes that can handle loads from 100 to 4,000 pounds), and custom machinery devices. The company specializes in the design, development, and manufacture of industrial lifting equipment and automated material-handling machines.
When Givens founded the company, industrial engineers were largely inexperienced with manipulators, and were most interested in custom lifting devices for cranes. Givens therefore started manufacturing and selling custom lifting devices. However, he maintained his focus on producing manipulators as well.
In 1996, Givens hired his first employee and established his office at the Small Business Centre on Oxford Street in London, Ontario. The business expanded rapidly. Within five years, Givens Engineering became one of the largest firms in the Centre. The company required more space as orders for manipulators and custom lifting devices increased. Consequently, Givens decided to move to a bigger facility on nearby Firestone Boulevard.
BY 2005, GIVENS ENGINEERING HAD BECOME THE NUMBER ONE MANUFACTURER OF MANIPULATORS IN CANADA.
With help from the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), the firm also started to develop its own cranes in 2007. With these light cranes, loads can be moved quickly and easily, without the use of north-south-east-west motor drives. “My goal is to make the lightest cranes in the world,” says Givens. Today, Givens Engineering is a major supplier of light cranes across Canada.
In 2015, Givens Engineering broke its own sales record, with 75 per cent of its sales coming from the automobile industry; some of its key customers included Toyota, Honda, Ford, Cami Automotive, General Motors, Magna, and Volvo. The company’s primary market is in Canada, with a smaller portion of sales coming from the U.S. market.
Givens welcomes the recent decline in the Canadian dollar because it has helped the company attract more U.S. customers. With Givens Engineering’s strong reputation and lowered prices, many new customers are now crossing the border to purchase the company’s products.
At the same time, Givens realizes that the low Canadian dollar will only help the business in the short term. He believes that meeting customers’ needs and the ability to innovate rapidly are key to achieving long-term success. He explains, “We have the ability to improvise solutions to meet a variety of customers’ needs, and create custom parts and machinery in a very short time.”
Givens Engineering uses mass-produced standard components to its advantage. When a new project is received, the team can easily access existing and pre-tested inventory to create custom devices.
“WE ARE ABLE TO CREATE A CUSTOM DEVICE WITHIN 10 DAYS—THAT IS ONE OF OUR COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGES,” GIVENS SAYS PROUDLY.
Of the company’s 35 employees, 22 are shop floor workers with education or experience in specialized trades. Staff members include certified welders, skilled machinists, and controls specialists, and most are from London. “We are always trying to find the highest-skilled candidate in a specific trade,” notes Givens. When hiring an engineer, for example, “extreme mechanical aptitude” is the most sought-after quality: “I am looking for someone who has the mental ability to visualize the machine, and to visualize the process,” explains Givens. In contrast, industrial experience is key when hiring (for example) a machinist.
Givens Engineering has employed many graduates from Western University and Fanshawe College, and also has experience in training and hiring co-op students from those institutions. The company hopes to work more closely with regional educational institutions in the future.
Givens is very positive regarding government support, and emphasizes the benefits that his company has gleaned from a variety of government funding programs. “We invest a significant portion of our annual sales into research and development, and the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax (SR&ED) program is the fuel that the company runs on,” he says. Givens Engineering has applied for SR&ED every year since 2000, and has achieved a 100 per cent success rate with its past applications.
Looking to the future, Givens Engineering aims to maintain its status as the largest manipulator manufacturer in Canada, and to become the top manufacturer of light cranes as well. Foreign markets are beckoning, and Givens Engineering is more than ready to compete.
Discover what Givens can design for you by visiting their website.
Givens Engineering Inc. designs and manufactures light cranes, manipulators and machinery for industrial use. The company specializes in lifting equipment and automated material-handling machines. It also provides machine design and other mechanical engineering services to industrial customers.
Headquarters: 327 Sovereign Rd, London, Ontario, N6M 1A6
- Ray Givens, President
Year established: 1993
Number of employees: 35
Total plant size: 40,000 square feet.
Line of business
NAICS: 333920 Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing
NAICS: 333990 Material Handling Equipment Manufacturing
NAICS: 541330 All Other General-Purpose Machinery Manufacturing – Engineering Services
Givens is Canada’s largest manipulator manufacturer. It designs and manufactures manipulators, cranes and other material-handling machinery.
Customers: Industry sector market includes: Manufacturing, Aerospace, Defence, Automotive, Food and Beverage Manufacturing and Furniture and Wood product. Givens has supplied equipment to these large manufacturers: Toyota, Honda, Ford, Cami Automotive, GM, Sterling Truck, Magna, etc.
- Mexico, United States, Alabama and Michigan.
- It’s actively pursuing Germany and United Kingdom markets.
R&D, Skills and Educational needs
Employees: the shop staff includes CWB (a Canadian welding qualification) certified welders, skilled machinists, and controls specialists, to allow for in-house fabrication and assembly.
Skills: Givens employs mechanical engineers, designers, machinists, millwrights, and controls specialists.
Givens Engineering Inc. was established in 1993, with its original office at a small business centre on Oxford Street in London, Ontario. In 1996, the company hired the first employee, and started to rapidly grow since then. It moved to a bigger facility to Firestone Blv. in London, ON in 2000 to accommodate the rapid expansion. Givens engineering is known as Canada’s No.1 manipulator manufacturer since 2005, knowing that it’s extremely to be a distributor for any crane company, the company decided to design and manufacture its own cranes in 2007. Up to now, the main line of business include designing and manufacturing manipulators, cranes and industrial machinery
- Manipulator: It’s Canada’s largest manipulator manufacturer. There aren’t serious competitors in Canada, but there are 7, 8 in the U.S.
- Light cranes: there are 25 companies selling the light cranes in ON, but not many companies manufacturing cranes. Not too many direct competitors in Canada..
- IRAP program
- SR&ED program—extremely helpful and successful. “ SR&ED is the fuel our company runs on.”Education Institution Partnerships:
- Hired a lot of new grads from Fanshawe College and Western University
- Summer intern/ co-op from Western University
- No formal partnerships with universities yet, but looking forward to the possibilities
- Provide custom machinery solutions for customers
- Ability to quickly innovate- try to create a custom device using standard products
- Hard to sell with low price
- Difficult to sell to the U.S. since Americans are extremely cautious about their money.
- $ drops—competitive in the U.S. market
- Attracting more U.S. customers—potentially expand to the U.S. in long run
- Italy is the No.1 manipulator manufacturer in the world,
- Company is competing with bigger international corporations.