A Strong Foundation: Federal Elevator

Company headquarters

With residential elevators as its cornerstone, Toronto-area company looks toward the future with optimism.

Federal Elevator in Mississauga, Canada, is laying the groundwork for growth. Richard Piatti, originally from Argentina, founded the company after immigrating to Canada in the 1980s, bringing with him an engineering degree and more than 10 years of industry experience. He went on to earn an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toronto and has been building the company — which manufactures both residential and commercial elevators — ever since.

Four years ago, Federal moved to a new location close to the Toronto Pearson International Airport, which is convenient for dealers flying in to visit the facility. In addition to moving, it added a showroom that has proven to be an effective sales tool. Piatti observes:

“Having the ability to ride in the numerous functioning elevators, and seeing the accessory options in person, helps potential customers visualize the product. Seeing our manufacturing plant is also a confirmation that we are an established company that will provide customers with a solid product that is quality manufactured.” 

Federal occupies approximately 50,000 sq. ft. and owns two industrial properties nearby, which it could expand into should the need arise. Currently, the properties are leased and generating income.

The company has 40-50 employees in its management, administration, engineering, sales, manufacturing, installation and service departments. It sees residential and limited-use/limited-application (LU/LA) elevators as its focus over the next five-10 years, due to an aging population that will need assistance moving about their homes in their golden years. “In 2030, Canada and the U.S. will be added to the list of ‘super-age’ nations, meaning that 20% of the overall population will be over the age of 65,” Piatti notes.

Federal’s commercial products comprise:

  • Carelift Wheelchair Lift, designed for public buildings, with a capacity of approximately 1000 lb. and operating speed of up to 30 fpm.
  • Serenus LU/LA, a commercial/passenger lift hybrid with a maximum capacity of 1400 lb. and maximum cab size of 18 sq. ft. Federal designed it to look and feel like a commercial elevator.
  • 360 Passenger Elevator, a custom-built unit with 2000- to 4000-lb capacity that travels up to 200 fpm. The product is designed with busy office and residential buildings in mind.

Its residential products comprise:

  • Panorama, a standard model available in a variety of finishes, with a capacity of 1000 lb. and maximum speed of 36 fpm
  • Renaissance, a luxury model with upgrades such as a softer start and stop, with maximum speed of 100 fpm
  • Legacy, a machine-room-less unit operated by a drum kit that may be installed in a hoistway when pit/overhead space is limited.

A Multifaceted Approach

Federal employs an array of methods to generate sales and hold onto existing clients, says General Manager Alan Braden. The company actively participates in all major social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube. Using these outlets, employees spread the word about new products and sales.

The company also believes there is immense value in attending trade shows. Braden elaborates:

“We always exhibit at the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) conventions, which lets us travel to different parts of North America, where we have a chance to meet up with existing dealers and reach out to potential ones. We also attend two local trade shows that are heavily attended by builders and the general public. This is a good way to meet people who would like to incorporate a residential elevator into their homes. Running specials during our shows helps give customers a bit of a break in the overall price.”

Braden notes construction in the Toronto area is on the upswing and that staying involved in local chapters of various construction organizations keeps the company in the loop about which major projects are on the horizon. Also, he says, being in good standing with colleagues makes it more likely that Federal will win jobs. He observes that Federal assembles every lift in house, which helps ease installation in the field. “This extra step is taken to ensure that all parts fit so that our dealers can get the job done quickly.” he says.

It’s not all about new jobs, however. At the 2013 NAEC convention, Braden recalls Federal reconnected with a dealer with whom it had lost touch and ended up reviving a mutually beneficial relationship. The dealer has since ordered many Federal products. “He is very happy with the product, and we are very happy to have his company as one of our recommended dealers,” Braden states.

Like the showroom, the expo floor gives customers an opportunity to test Federal products live and in person. The 2013 NAEC expo also inspired Federal to enhance its home elevator safety after learning about how children can become trapped between a unit’s gate and outer doors, with catastrophic, even deadly, results (ELEVATOR WORLD, March 2014). Now, all Federal home elevators with accordion doors are outfitted with light curtains. Braden elaborates:

“Unlike commercial elevators, residential elevators in Ontario do not have to meet any specific code or have an inspection to be able to run. As such, it is the responsibility of the elevator manufacturer and installation companies to ensure their products are safe and reliable. Effective November 27, 2013, every [Federal] residential elevator with an accordion door or scissor gate is equipped with an infrared light curtain. This mechanism runs adjacent to the accordion gate and prevents the elevator from traveling if the path of the [lights are] broken. The area must be clear. The gate will then close, and the elevator will resume normal function.”

A Good Working Environment

At the moment, Federal is not struggling with finding good employees. That is because turnover is low, Piatti says. Many staff members have been at the company for 15-plus years. Piatti believes this results in effective teamwork.

But it’s not all work, he says. As a thank-you to employees, managers arrange activities such as barbecues, golf tournaments and Christmas parties. Spouses and kids are welcome, Piatti says, recalling a recent event: “Last year, to celebrate 27 years in business, all staff and their families were invited to a baseball game at the Rogers Centre [stadium in Toronto]. We all took a party bus down and enjoyed an evening out watching the game in a corporate box. It was a great night!”

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Elevator World | December 2014 Cover