Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Happy Holidays, From Custom Lifting Equipment Manufacturer

From the team at Handling Specialty, we would like to wish all of our supporters, your families and friends a safe, memorable and happy holiday season. May 2016 bring you peace and prosperity. 2015 has been an excellent year for Handling Specialty, and we are grateful to our returning customers and new clients who keep us creating new and exciting products for your lifting and moving applications. We love what we do; building big things so our customers can build big things. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why Diversification is so Important to Manufacturing Pursuits

Over the past 30 years that I have been with Handling Specialty, the company has certainly weathered several economic “storms.” It was about 2002 when the third recession began to appear.  It was once again most notable via the decline in the auto industry.  We had just powered ourselves through the 90s when the auto industry was in full flight….and yes, we kind of put all our “eggs in one basket.”

Handling Specialty was a key player in assisting the US auto industry to tool up their assembly lines with skillet lifts, marriage stations, custom scissor lifts, CSA lifts and blank feed carts for stamping lines and our engineering and manufacturing departments were “humming.”
Our work in the auto industry forced the company to grow as an entity, giving birth to a full time service center for 24/7 response time.  The bad thing was that we were all tooled up to continue reaping the rewards of our efforts when our single “basket” fell. 

That’s it, we all thought….we’ve had enough!! We can no longer count on one or two industries to fuel our growth so we embarked on a diversification plan that launched us to new heights.  In the 90s the auto industry represented about 90% of our business and today it represents about 15%.  The auto industry revenue is down a bit, but the real influence that changed these figures was because our diversification plan worked. We knew that we needed to have some industries UP when others were DOWN.  We had to have a balanced attack that produced a steady throughput.  The throttling of resources up and down to suit demand was wearing thin on us and we wanted to gain a level of confidence that a steady throughput is accomplishable, even though we are in the engineered-to-order business.  Thank Goodness we were successful with this strategy.

Today we are in business with the Automotive, Light and Heavy Rail, Aerospace, Entertainment, Defence, Energy, Marine and Nuclear industries.  This being said, we continue to look at other industries to keep our diversification plan alive and well.  Beyond the benefit of using diversification to keep the order books alive, I have seen diversification work for employee retention.  Handling Specialty is full of bright, interested and creative minds.  The market diversification and the varied solutions that accompany them, feeds these minds and keep them passionate about the success of the company.  These stimulated minds are the reason we are doing well……so why not keep feeding them the full course meal….we’d lose our edge if we simply had that single basket full of eggs!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Inside the world of custom design and manufacturing

Over the years we have attended many trade shows; some we just walked and some we exhibited at.  The one statement that I often hear is: “Yeah, we are looking at getting into custom design lifts just like you.”  My “inside” voice says, “Great, let me hold the door open for you!”  
The reality is that the custom-designed equipment business has pros and cons just like any other industry.  The simplest way for me to explain myself is by way of our favourite saying: “Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.”
The fact is custom design work consumes you. You either thrive on it naturally or you reject it. This creates a challenge in that the labour pool is somewhat reduced because not everyone wants to live in a world of organized chaos. 
Labour and skill is paramount in the world of “one offs.”  The volume build model has some level of comfort in knowing that you spread your non-value added costs and/or engineering costs over multiple units.  In the one-off custom world that one unit must absorb it all.  There may be higher capital equipment expenditures in the volume-based manufacturing world but there is a higher labour cost in the low volume custom world. 
Additionally, long term planning in the custom world is very difficult.  We don’t always know what we will be building, how we are going to build it, who do we need in order to build it and so on.  With a volume build platform, the challenge is in keeping that cap-ex equipment working as much as possible.  If those machines aren’t working then you are not making money.  These are just some of the pros and cons of custom designed low volume versus standard or high volume manufacturing.
The one thing that sticks out most for me as I compare custom versus standard is the stimulating and rewarding world of custom work.  Yes, it takes a lot out of you. You really don’t become wise and experienced until you have failed dozens of times, but it seems to attract some of the most talented people I have ever met. 
When you are able to get all of this talent believing in each other and supporting each other, you can build a very successful and sustainable business.  I think this is one of the most unrealized “pros” of the custom engineered-to-order world.  
At Handling Specialty….talent and courage = success…..and I can prove it!!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Transparency in Manufacturing Costs

I think it is vitally important that we as a custom manufacturer are prepared to present exactly what our clients are paying for.  Equally, there exists a need to be able to explain how a cost comes to be, especially when the buyer views your price as being “high”.  The key to this communication is in helping our clients understand where the hidden costs are……those are the ones that consume the cost of sales but do not stand out as value added features when simply looking at the final product.
The absolute number one “non value added” hidden cost in the manufacture of our products is material handling. 

Let me try to explain.
We are currently producing a very large stage system that employs 8 scissor blanks, each weighing in at 16,000 pounds.  It takes three men and the use of an overhead crane to move each one of these pieces into place for fit up and welding.  Those same blanks are then moved another three times in order to complete the full final assembly.  So in summary, on this one single system we will use 3 men x 8 blanks x 3 moves @ 25 minutes per move = 1800 minutes or 30 man hours.  These 30 hours are included in the estimate that led up to our selling price, but they will not be viewed as value added. 

The more non-value added processes employed in a selling price, the more difficult it will become to justify your selling price and the less competitive you will become.  This is why our operations group spends many hours planning the production of our projects, looking for ways to minimize that hidden cost of simply moving pieces around. 

Also hidden, or rather overlooked is the cost of testing.  At Handling Specialty it is common to have a load test of 50 or 60 tons.  If that load is made up of 5 ton blocks, we have 10 – 12 separate crane operated moves just for that one test.  Then we need to secure the load so it does not cause a safety situation when we begin to move our equipment.  Then we have to remove all of the weights again…another 10 – 12 moves.  Often a test plan calls for eccentric loads so again we have another 6 or 7 moves on and 6 or 7 moves off… and that is just the test weights!  

So the next time you assess the cost and value of a large custom piece, take a moment to break down where you see the hidden cost of simple material handling.  You will quickly come to respect the cost of building big things! 

HS builds big things to help our customers build big things…..this is our life. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Custom Stage Lifts Are Just One of the Engineering Feats Handling Specialty Creates

It's the summer season and you may be feeling the need to travel. Did you know that Handling Specialty designed and manufactured the underwater stage lifts for Royal Caribbean's Aquatheater that provides aquatic stage shows on both the Allure and the Oasis of the Seas?

Back in 2008, Handling Specialty won the contract for both these cruise ships, which at the time, were reported to be the largest cruise ships in the world. Our success in landing this contract was likely due in part to the underwater stage lifts we had engineered for both Cirque du Soleil's O Show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, and Franco Dragone's House of Dancing Water in Macau.

For the cruise ship lifts, we provided a complete turnkey package, which included a trio of underwater lifts, along with two diving board tilters and a trampoline rotator. The underwater lift system formed the stage area for the largest and deepest freshwater pool at sea. Throughout the day and evening, the lifts rise and lower to meet the needs of the performance.

The system is comprised of two side lifts and a runway lift, with a total capacity of 90,000 lbs, covering an area of approximately 1,000 square feet. The hydraulically actuated lifts operate with non-toxic water glycol fluid. The stage platform is perforated with approximately 432,000 holes to allow the stage to travel through the 20 foot pool with minimum water displacement.

To read more about our underwater stage lift systems, visit our Entertainment page under Industries, or click here to be automatically directed to the page. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Bringing Water to the Desert - More underwater Hydraulic Lifts for Entertainment Industry

If I had to vote on the single most influential project in the history of the company it would be the time we went to Las Vegas and put a stage lift system underwater.  It truly moved us from “Lift Guys” to “Project People” as we were forced to grow up overnight. 

It all began with a curious inquiry from the world famous Cirque du Soleil group.  They were experiencing some impressive growth in the Las Vegas market and were engaged in the development of what is now known around the world as the “O” show - where “eau” is French for water….even if you are in the desert!  Anyhow, the small chat grew into a site visit at the world famous Bellagio Hotel and Casino.  I remember driving in the client’s truck across the construction site; 104 degrees out, dust flying everywhere and then the big hole!  My inside voice cried out, “where do the lifts go??”.  The project was well engaged and the hole had been dug for a 1.5 million gallon swimming pool that was to house seven underwater stage lifts.  The lifts would push through the water and instantly convert the water stage to a dry stage……high diving acts to fire tossing acrobats.  It was a first and we simply had to do this project.  

The design/build/install and test storyline takes place over 2.5 years.  It was our first installation (turnkey) project in the history of the company.  Looking back I am not sure it was a great idea to choose Las Vegas for this never-been-done-before, life-changing project but the experience gained continues to pay dividends as we now perform turnkey work around the globe.  I personally spent months down in Vegas and was able to build relationships that I still have today. 

We still proudly display our "Themed Entertainment Award" for this record setting equipment….and I do mean record setting.  After the opening of this world famous show, we were awarded a Guinness World Record for the largest underwater stage lift system in the world.  Equally impressive is that the show, and our lifts, continue to perform to this very day with viewing capacities just short of 100%.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Amazing Race Features Handling Specialty Underwater Hydraulic Lifts in China

On December 4th, many millions watched The Amazing Race contestants enter the largest water extravaganza stage show in the world today. Though there were many groups involved in the building of the City of Dreams Theatre in China, Handling Specialty played a huge roll in the realization of its spectacular show; The House of Dancing Water.


Macau is located on the western bank of the Pearl River Delta in southern Guangdong, China and lies some 60 kilometers to the west of Hong Kong. The Amazing Race took their contestants to the underwater stage show to test the teams and discover who would be moving on to the next exotic location.


The purpose-built theater was designed with many breakthroughs including Handling Specialty’s 11 hydraulic stage lifts, which are used to transform the pool into a spectacular stage in less than a minute. The contestants were made-up to look like the performers in the show and asked to jump from the heights Handling Specialty’s underwater scissor lifts took them and into the circular pool below.


The stage project in Macau, China was a massive undertaking for the minds of Handling Specialty’s sales, engineering and manufacturing talents. The project is maintained by Handling Specialty and has enjoyed a very lucrative first five years in operation.



Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Manufacturing Company Takes Home 2015 Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award

GRIMSBY, ONT. CANADA — Handling Specialty Manufacturing Ltd. wins coveted Chamber of Commerce Business of the Year Award. Casablanca Winery Inn.

On the evening of Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 we saw the Business Award of Excellence go to Handling Specialty; a company which has grown and prospered in the region for the past 52 years. Handling Specialty graciously accepted the award over esteemed competitors; CanWeb Printing Inc. and NRB Inc. at the special event held in the historic and scenic Twenty Mile Bench sub-region of Canada's Niagara Peninsula wine region.

“We’re thrilled to have won,” explains President, Tom Beach, “Handling Specialty has been operating out of our South Service Road location for 52 years, and we have built an excellent relationship with the people of Grimsby and our Chamber of Commerce.”

Handling Specialty is an equipment manufacturer who employs some of the worlds best and brightest in the engineering and manufacturing industry, creating not only one of a kind lift equipment for a diverse market, but also key operational equipment like manually guided vehicles and precision indexing tables as well as light to heavy-duty scissor lifts.
“This award is for all of us at Handling Specialty.” Says Beach, “It’s a real indicator of what hard work and a professional attitude can do, and it is terrific to see that others recognize it.”

Monday, November 30, 2015

Handling Specialty doesn’t just build great equipment….we build great relationships too

For years now, we have enjoyed stating in our covering letters that “Handling Specialty doesn’t just build great equipment….we build great relationships too”.  Our team recognizes and respects the important role that the relationship plays when delivering customized and complex engineering solutions.  We learned long ago that a project’s success will be heavily weighted on the shoulders of “trust”……I mean is there anything more significant, more impactful or more rewarding than the trust employed in a relationship?

I look at the schematics of a pro
ject and see three distinct relationship platforms, all working at the same time; interaction with our customer, interaction within our HS Staff and interaction with our supply chain.  Each one of these platforms is critical to the success of a project. I want a client to know that they can trust us.  I want a client to feel like we have his best interests at heart and I want a client to think he can share anything with us without feeling like he is compromising his project.

At HS, experience has taught us to count on each other for great communication and support.  We call it “walk a mile in my shoes” which serves as our way of recognizing that anyone’s job is easy until you do that job and find that there is a lot more to it. As such, we must take care in our communications to one another.  Equally we need to count on our teammates to carry out their responsibilities and it is here where we are called upon to “trust” the other.  This trust will glue the departments together to become whole and our clients will feel and see this which in turn cements our relationship with them.

Last, and certainly not least, are the relationships we have with our supply partners.  Notice that I did not say supply chain or suppliers….that doesn’t give enough respect to them for the role they play.  I always want a solid relationship with my suppliers so that I can call on them to support us when we have equipment challenges or warranty situations.  You will always be able to identify the depth and strength of your supply partner’s relationships when something goes wrong and it involves them.  If a supplier trusts Handling Specialty then they will be quick to respond and to assist in the care of our clients.  These are the supplier partners that we continue to use and we can pass on the power of these great relationships to our customers.

Trust, trust, trust… is the foundation of good relationships and good business.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Another first, from Handling Specialty to the Locomotive Industry

This Manually Guided Vehicle was engineered and manufactured by Handling Specialty for the locomotive industry to assist in moving and lifting components for assembly on a raised passenger car.

This material handling vehicle includes castor wheels to support a 360 degree turning radius' and an elevating table top which can lift 5000 lbs and also perform a 360 degree spin. Fitted with a durable skirting to assist in keeping outside debris from entering the mechanics of the MGV improves operation, life-span, and maintenance. Safety requirements are also met by actively reducing pinch-points from the scissor lifting device hidden behind the skirting.

Handling Specialty specializes in unique, engineered to order lifting equipment for a diverse industry; ranging from manufacturing and aerospace to entertainment stages.

Watch the video to better understand the specific applications of this MGV