GN Corps. Inc.

For the past 45 years at GN Corps. Inc., hard work is the most valuable asset its employees must bring to the plant every day. The company knows this is something that can’t be taught. With technical expertise disappearing with every retiring industry veteran, GN Corps.’ dedication to training those willing to learn the ins and outs of machine shop operations will keep this industry know-how alive for years to come.

“We place value on associates here,” President and CEO John Pleša says. “We put in a tremendous amount of effort to make sure everybody works safely and produces quality products.”

The plan has worked since brothers George and Nick Pleša founded George and Nick’s Machine Works in 1965. The company began operations as a small machine shop providing machined tools for the oil and gas industry. By the 1970s, the company specialized in unique component parts for the oil and gas sector.

The company took the name GN Corps. Inc. in 1987 and Nick took full ownership of the growing firm in 1994. John became the company’s vice president of operations in 1994, and president and CEO in 2005.

Today, GN Corps. Inc. operates out of a 110,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Airdrie, Alberta, which it built in 2007. The company manufactures its own products for the oil industry, including high-pressure fittings and other niche parts. GN Corps. Inc. also specializes in machined tools for OEMs. Pleša says 90 percent of its business comes from OEMs, while 10 percent stems from its own brand.

“From a product standpoint, we have been expanding our OEM base,” Pleša says. “Most of this is coming out of the energy sector. We’re producing new tools for several of our major clients.”

Along with high-pressure fittings, GN Corps. Inc.’s well stimulation equipment product line also includes flapper, dart and lockout valves; treating irons; ball injectors; and tree-savers. For wire lines, GN manufactures surface and subsurface equipment.

The company’s capabilities include supplying technologically advanced products for a variety of industries while manufacturing from concepts and specific designs from concepts.

To make these products, GN Corps. Inc. relies on the extensive training of its work force. The company typically hires employees who have limited machining experience, which allows it to train them across a variety of functions.

“We’re in a position to hire people with some basic skill sets and are able develop them extensively,” Pleša says. “We multitask operators here.

“Once these skills are developed, we can mix and match the operator with machine tools.”

GN Corps. Inc. manages to train its work force through classroom and on-the-job instruction.

The company also emphasizes promoting from within. Pleša says a number of employees have risen through the ranks into management positions with GN Corps. Inc.

“It is one of the key factors we have here,” Pleša says. “We have numerous examples of how individuals started out here and were able to grow because they showed passion and were highly motivated and were given opportunities to get into the areas that they are currently have today.”

The company also regularly reinvests in its manufacturing operations. This year, Pleša expects to invest about $2 million in machine tools to upgrade the technology at its facility. He believes that GN Corps. Inc. most likely will spend another $2 million on machine tools in 2012.

“We invest in the world’s most advanced machine tools,” Pleša says. “It allows us a competitive advantage that we otherwise wouldn’t enjoy.”

This strategy has, in part, allowed GN to significantly grow over the past 15 years, combined with a strong supply chain and outside services support, according to Pleša. The tug and pull of the ever-changing customer demands requires the full support of internal and external resources.

“For GN to be truly successful long term, our supply chain and outside services support must see business the way GN does,” Pleša explains. “Our success isn’t isolated only to us. We have to understand that there are contributing factors outside of our own, and suppliers and support services need to know that they contribute to our longevity.”

Exchange Ideas
With 80 percent of its revenues coming from the United States and 60 to 70 percent of its payables in Canada, GN Corps. Inc.’s bottom line relies on the strength of the exchange rate of the American dollar.

With the U.S. dollar sinking below the Canadian currency lately, Pleša says GN Corps. Inc. has had to become more efficient to make up the difference.

However, he also says the difference – which stood at about 3 cents as of press time – is not significant enough to put a huge dent in profits.

“There’s not much we can do since our main currency is U.S. dollars,” Pleša stresses. “Being in Canada, we’re on the wrong side of that.

“As long as the gap doesn’t expand substantially, we’re going to be fine. You just have to be innovative in decreasing the costs of your inputs.

“Really, it’s a continuous process,” Pleša adds. “Change is a true constant in this business.”

Family Operations
There is an inherent amount of knowledge that passes down from one generation to the next in a family business. That is no exception at GN Corps. Inc., where Pleša says he has learned a great deal from growing up in a machine shop run by his father.

“The advantage for me was that my father was my mentor,” Pleša says. “I learned a tremendous amount from him at the plant floor level.”

Pleša also brought valuable knowledge of his own into the family business. While Nikola Pleša has a wealth of experience in operating a successful machine shop, his son joined the company ready to grow the business.

“I really showed my father a different way to run a business,” Pleša says. “We’ve grown from a small business into a medium-sized business, which is where we’re at today.

“I have an academic background as well, so I essentially have a degree on how to run and manage manufacturing companies as opposed to service companies,” he adds.

The strategy in place from the second generation of Pleša ownership is working so far. The company boasts 110,000 square feet of state-of-the-art manufacturing space.

GN Corps. Inc.’s operations have been ISO 9001-certified since 1997, and the company has used a certified health, safety and wellness program since 2009. It has numerous Fortune 500 companies as clients.

All this gives GN Corps. Inc. a distinct advantage, especially when companies continue to decrease their supplier bases. With a dedication to quality and innovative solutions, Pleša is confident GN Corps. Inc. will remain on these short lists for years to come.

“Just based on that, it will allow us to grow into several different areas,” Pleša believes. “Our clients are currently narrowing down their supplier base, yet we are going to be included as part of their future smaller supplier base. They have a vision of the future, and we are along for the ride as long as we keep our end of the bargain.

“The first 45 years have seen a lot of ups and downs,” he adds. “Thankfully for us, there have been many more ups, and we hope we will continue this for decades to come.”