Workflow Specialists from Field to Finish

Written by Jessica Ferlaino

Cansel is the only company of its kind in Canada and is celebrating fifty years of being the industry-leading workflow specialist. It delivers unique, tailored solutions and serves as a resource for its clients to more efficiently measure, analyze, design and build by providing the latest software, hardware, services, and support that improve results and profitability.
Though its name has changed over the years as it has grown its size, capacities, geographic market footprint, products, and services, Cansel’s commitment to quality has never wavered. This has a great deal to do with how the company was founded.

Cansel was established by Stan Jackson and Albert Weiss as Canadian Survey Equipment Ltd. They had no customers but purchased a lathe and went to work repairing surveying equipment in the Vancouver market. From concept to national chain, the company grew, and today, it is the largest distributor of land-based positioning systems in North America.

In 2002, Canadian Survey Equipment Ltd. officially became Cansel Survey Equipment Inc. It opened additional offices across the country – now totalling twenty-three – and made several strategic acquisitions that better enabled it to serve a diverse client base.

Today, Cansel serves clients from the engineering, surveying, construction, mining, architecture, manufacturing, utilities, forestry, and government fields. Cansel sells, rents, leases, and provides repairs but has grown to offer so much more in terms of innovation and workflow optimization services.

Cansel’s Atlantic Division Vice-President David Davidson says that there were two parts to the company’s expansion: organic and acquisition. Growth planning was done by, “looking at what our existing customers would use, so not just survey equipment but they also had the need for design software, wide format printers, and plotters for printing their plans.”

Lovett Lewis joined Cansel in 1993 when it was still known as Canadian Survey Equipment Ltd. and rose in the ranks to become general manager. In 2002, upon Mr. Jackson’s retirement, he bought Jackson’s controlling interest in the company. From that point, Lewis worked to aggressively expand the company by taking advantage of ideal market conditions at the time.

“Lovett’s vision was to become a true national business, and the focus was still on supplying survey equipment and supplying the services and support – selling more to existing customers,” Davidson explained. “Looking at the workflow process, we started with survey equipment and expanded that. We started talking to customers more about their business and what their challenges are in their day-to-day operations of the business, and we started being that full-service provider and being more to our customers.”

“We help customers do more with less, being more efficient, helping their project timelines. Especially around the construction industry, timelines are very sensitive. So we help the efficiencies in terms of the flow of data, their whole business process: efficiency, productivity, and profitability,” he added. “We’re truly unique in the depth of the support that we are able to provide.”

Cansel’s products now include construction products, field supplies, mapping and GIS, SMART interactive displays, survey instruments and GPS, wide format products, collaboration software, data management software, Autodesk, and professional services.

The company’s professional services are extensive, as are its customer supports. It offers professional training, global e-training, classroom training, onsite training, and webinars so that its customers are able to get the maximum value from its products and services.

Each solution is developed with client-specific operations in mind and begins with extensive consultation to understand a customer’s complete workflow. Project-specific or operation-specific solutions help to optimize workflow, improving efficiency to impact on profitability by reducing data silos and lowering overall costs.

“Our customers are starting to see us more and more as an expert,” noted Davidson. “They say, ‘How can we deal with data differently?’ ‘How can we approach this project differently to be more efficient or more productive?’”

“A lot of competitors will offer specific, canned, predefined training sessions on a piece of software or hardware, where we look at the whole process right, and we’re able to then have those specific discovery meetings and come up with a customized solution, both training and support. Training on hardware, software, you name it. That’s our biggest differentiator.”

Cansel stays on top of industry trends and the latest available technologies and products. It benefits greatly from solid industry relationships with its numerous partner manufacturers. As an early adopter of new products and technological advancements the company is better able to service and support its multiple clients and their operations.

“As new technologies come out, we deal with some of the best manufacturers out there, and that is something else that is really attractive,” said Davidson. “When a company has a new product that is applicable to construction, surveying, engineering, and they want to enter the Canadian market, a lot of times they look to Cansel to take their product into market.”

“As the technology evolved, we are careful with how we go to market with a strategy, deciding what is the best impact into the market,” he added. “It’s not just about getting the product out there, but renting it, doing the training, having those discovery meetings and seeing how this technology could be embedded into a customer’s existing workflow.”

It remains focussed on Canadian sales and maintains a presence in every province, though it has yet to develop a physical presence in the territories. “We can service anywhere in Canada, and we’re even servicing and supporting a number of diamond mine sites in really remote areas,” Davidson said.

Cansel has an expansive reach, with offices across the country from coast to coast. It also has a toll-free number to support its clients. The company keeps its clients operating by preventing slowdowns and time and money lost caused by technical issues.

“We try to be as accessible as possible,” Davidson stated. “We have a support network. We have PhDs on staff, technicians. We have the 1-800 support line that we offer from 8 a.m. Atlantic time to 5 p.m. Pacific time, so that really covers every customer, including customers in Central and Western Canada.”

Davidson credited the people with the quality output and expert service at Cansel. It employs over four hundred employees nationally and recognizes them as the driving force behind its reputation for quality and innovation.

“We are trying to hire really well,” said Davidson. “Hire the right people with the right attitude, and we’re trying to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit. One of our major mandates is to retain and develop our own internally, so if we are looking to create a new position, or have a void, one of the first things we do is communicate that internally and see if someone wants to challenge themselves.”

“We really try to support our employees with their personal growth, and we are trying to align that personal growth with the business as well. It helps to really create a positive atmosphere where it’s not just a job.”

The positive work environment and supportive work culture proves attractive to the industry’s best talent. “We really want to be an employer of choice, and that is one of the challenges today as we acquire businesses, just getting people involved and having them get immersed in that culture.”

Cansel endeavours to have its employees both happy and excited to come to work each day knowing, “if they enjoy what they do, they’ll be that much more productive and effective. It’s not only good for them, it’s good for our business and for our customers’ business as well.”

The level of success experienced nationally has certainly led the company to question expansion into the American market, but understanding the differences between the countries and the tremendous growth opportunities that remain in Canada, Cansel is going to stay put and expand its Canadian presence, finding new ways to serve customers.

“We want to continue down the same path we are on today,” concluded Davidson. “Our biggest short- and long-term growth goal today is that we want to make sure we’re spending a lot of time in front of our customers. We’re very accessible for our customers. We’re always talking to our customers trying to understand their business better and trying to do more business with our customers.”

Cansel’s strategies will help it, as well as its customers, do things better. By improving efficiency, productivity, and profitability, this full-service solutions provider will remain Canada’s workflow specialist.



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