Arlen Tool turns 40, Canam Tools turns 50
Monday, December 22, 2014
The Windsor Star/Anna Cabrera Cristofaro
Canam Tools Ltd. – 50th Anniversary
Resilience delivers Canam to fiftieth year
Celebrating its 50th year, Canam Tool “has been through ups and downs, but definitely more ups than downs,” says president Louie Calsavara Jr., son of Louis Calsavara Sr., who passed away in 2011. “Canam has survived these 50 years because we’ve always operated everything as a family.”
Founded by two entrepreneurs — Joseph Gossman and John Kehl — in 1963, and incorporated on December 28, 1964, Canam Tool was bought out by the larger Centre Tool and Mold in 1969. Calsavara Sr., one of Centre Tool’s original owners, bowed out from Centre Tool in 1974, becoming the owner of Canam Tools the same year. Calsavara Jr. has been a part of the Canam Tool team since 2003, and is the owner of Windsor Pallet Ltd.
With a focus on plastic injection molds, aluminum prototypes and chrome part tools, Canam Tools offers complete development, design and build — it is a full service mold shop which services its clients’ needs and requests regardless of size. “Our forte is anything that’s chrome — call it a beauty part, and it has to be perfect,” explains Calsavara Jr.
Under the direction of Calsavara Sr., Canam flourished. The Calsavara family chose to keep Canam small, concentrating on one or two major customers. “It was scary having just one or two customers, but we treated them like our own, and today Canam is their longest standing trusted supplier.
“Even when we expanded our customer base over the last few years, we have taken the same approach -every one of our new customers knows that when they give us a task, it’s done.
“The ownership and the employees have always shared the same mandate: to be accountable, to own the situation,” continues Calsavara Jr. “My dad always said problems were opportunities. That kind of faith and direction gave us, our employees and our customers stability.”
Despite its faithful customer base, Canam Tool like many tool shops felt the pinch in 2008, when the industry plunged. But instead of laying off employees, the Calsavara’s took a proactive approach, investing and upgrading equipment. They cross-trained their employees, ensuring everyone knew how to do more than just their job.
“That’s when things started to go over the top,” recalls Calsavara Jr. “When things were a bit slow and others were having trouble coming out of that period, our guys were always striving to get better. This made us a better shop.
“Over the last two years, it was a joy coming to the plant every day. Guys were ready to go to the wall for each other. There was real camaraderie. We were looking at each other’s work, and at the end of the day, every single employee got better.”
“There’s that sense of transparency here,” says general manager and vice president Kevin Peltier. “It’s a really healthy mindset.”
Arlen Tool Ltd. – 40th Anniversary
Arlen celebrates 40 with eye on future
In 1974, in a small, 2,000 sq. ft.-space located on Turner Road, three young men — Sante Lenardon, Arnold Manias and George Nash — founded a fledgling tool and mold company. With little entrepreneurial experience and a lot of ambition, the three partners focused their efforts on supporting the automotive industry.
Nash stayed on for 10 years, until his death; Lenardon and Manias pushed forward, employing skilled staff and improving their efforts year after year.
In 1979, Arlen Tool moved to its current location — 3305 Deziel Dr.
“We were one of the first in this area,” says Lenardon. “We used to have to come in from Pillette Road. It looked very different back then.”
Over the years, additions to the original building went up, including expansions that took place in 1986, 1990, 1993, 2001 and 2005, with solar panels added in 2012. The current space now stands at 23,000 sq. ft.
But while Arlen has enjoyed growth and success over the years, they haven’t been immune to economic rollercoasters. In the mid-2000s, when the automotive industry slid and tool shops throughout the region found themselves in unprecedented struggle, “we rolled up our sleeves, tightened the belt, cut down our paychecks,” says Lenardon. “It was the only way to survive.”
“Everyone gave a little bit,” says Lenardon’s son Steven. “We downsized. Along with other shops, we changed pay structures, cut down on what we could, and did what we had to do to stay in business.”
It’s this intense focus and concentrated teamwork that has been the pillar of Arlen’s success. In 2012, a new ownership and management team was introduced, one that was carefully designed by its original ownership, Lenardon and Manias.
“As part of the succession plan, Bill (Dennison), Paul (Monforton) and Evano (Bozzetto) bought into the company,” explains general manager Wayne Martinuik. “This was in the works from 1997 right up to two years ago. At that point in time, these new owners (including Steven) bought out Arnold and Sante.
“As far as the success of Arlen, one of the reasons we’ve done so well is because the ownership is very active on the floor, in front of the tools, working the jobs. They have the structure in place for the sales, the finance side, the human relations. They’re very involved in getting the job done.”
Owner Paul (Cad/Cam Manager), who boasts 30 years with Arlen, agrees. “ there are no absentee bosses here,” he says with a grin. I take care of modeling and computers. Evano (who has been with the company for 34 years) is on the shop floor as Plant Manager. Bill (who has been with Arlen for 20 years) takes care of the design concepts, customers and feasibility, as Engineering Manager.”
“But over and above the ownership and management team, what’s driven our success has been the work of our dedicated, long-standing employees,” says Steven, who has been part of the Arlen group for 15 years. “It’s just part of the culture.”
Today, Arlen is highly regarded for its niche work — cloth insert and 2 shot tooling. The ownership group agrees that what has helped fuel their growth is this speciality work; 50 per cent of Arlen’s projects is non-standard, specialized tooling.
“In terms of our expertise, it’s design,” says Steven. “It’s a lot of back and forth with the client — conceptual design and development, talking about feasibilities. That translates to our final design and our final build. There’s a lot of fine tuning. We take care of all of that.”
Canam joins the Arlen Tool team
Two great success stories brought together
Since the passing of Louis Calsavara Sr. in 2011, Louie Calsavara Jr. set out to honour his father’s last wish for his beloved Canam Tool — to take care of his second family, his team of hardworking and dedicated employees.
“These were my dad’s instructions four years ago,” says Calsavara. “As he got older, and after he had his stroke, he was approached by a lot of people. But if he had a slight feeling his employees wouldn’t be taken care of the way he would want them to, he walked away.”
Meanwhile, Arlen Tool was preparing its own plans for growth, and was advancing toward a possible joint venture with an overseas company in search of a North American footprint.
With several options to grow the company, the opportunity to partner with Canam made the most sense. Calsavara recalls the first meeting with the new owners of Arlen Tool.
“I sat in the boardroom looking at these four guys, and they reminded me so much of how I do business, how Dad did business. It just felt right.
“Don’t get me wrong — it was hard to let go. This was my dad’s business, but I had instructions on what I had to do. It was good for our family, it was good for our employees. Arlen has made a commitment to their own company, and they’ve made a commitment now with Canam. You couldn’t ask for anything better.
“I know Arlen will grow the business,” continues Calsavara. “They’re young and energetic. They’re going to do a great job.”
While operating as a parent company, Arlen plans to keep the Canam name intact. “They’ve been around a long time; they have a great history and great integrity,” says Arlen’s general manager Wayne Martinuik. “Just the ownership changes — everything else stays the same.”
Calsavara’s joy and relief is evident.
“When you hear that — the respect Arlen has for Canam and its employees and what it’s accomplished over the years — you know you made the right decision. You know you’ve found the right people to take over.
“My dad would be very happy with this merger."