As GE Welland’s Brilliant Factory shifts into the production of its large-scale reciprocating gas engines, so does its relationship with a Niagara company that helps make production possible, said Tom Beach, president of Handling Specialty.
“We’ve moved on from the people who built the facility and drifted over to the manager of manufacturing and engineering and the director of production – they’ll be our relationship there now,” said Beach.
Handling Specialty is a company that specializes in “anything that moves, lifts, rotates” in diverse areas such as the entertainment and automotive industries to power generation and the military.
Some of its clients include Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Siemens, Mitsubishi, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Bombardier, Rolls-Royce and now GE’s distributed power division, which was recently sold to private-equity firm Advent International.
“We’ve sold to GE for decades in its locomotive division in London, Ontario and Erie, PA. We were building very large platforms for engine assembly,” said Beach.
He said Handling Specialty caught wind that GE’s Waukesha facility was going to move to the Canadian market and GE contacted them.
“We went down to Waukesha (WI) and saw what they were doing – and thought it was very possible for us to work with them.”
Things really started to ramp up a couple of years ago, just before the announcement was made the company would be opening a 500,000 square-foot facility off Hwy. 140 in Welland, said Beach.
He said the contract with GE was between $12 and $14 million and Handling Specialty was tasked to design and build equipment such as an engine rotator lift system, personnel lifts and automated guided vehicles.
The personnel lifts allow employees to work on the massive reciprocating gas engines as they sit on stands and parts are brought up as needed. The engine rotator lift spins the engine around without the need of an overhead crane.
“Our equipment is huge – we have about 24 pieces in there,” said Beach.
While at the facility, the company has been tasked to find solutions to other needs of GE’s, he said.
Beach said Handling Specialty is not the only one to benefit from the contract with GE.
“We have sourced and purchased goods from companies in the supply chain that we never heard of and never even knew existed. They’re picking up those GE dollars, too.”
Some of those companies, he said, may end up getting more business from Handling Specialty in other areas in the future.
“This is a big deal for us, it could go on for decades. GE could double the size of that plant,” said Beach, adding the contract saw more people hired on at the Grimsby and Hamilton plants.
It also opened doors for Handling Specialty in Austria at GE’s Jenbach facility.
“Because GE is spread out globally, we have been able to broker opportunities where we have ever been before. Now we’re quoting for other divisions. Our goal is to become their go-to people for engineered custom solutions.”
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