Atlantic Lifts, Located in Whitby and Montreal, is Lifting R&D to New Heights

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Servicing the aircraft, automotive, transportation, food and manufacturing industries for 30 Years.

Atlantic Lifts owner Elwood Ellis figures his company’s custombuilt elevators lift about 10 million pounds a day – everything from Canada’s mail to pallets of hockey sticks to luxury cars.

The Whitby company is among only a few in Canada to engineer and build elevators from the ground up. All the components – platforms, hydraulic cylinders, doors, limit switches to make for soft landings – are cut, welded and assembled in-house.

The units are found in retail outlets including Canadian Tire, Sobeys, Shoppers Drug Mart, Loblaws, in multisector manufacturing plants, including General Motors, Honda, Magna, Maple Leaf and Mobis.

Six Atlantic lifts at Pearson Airport handle thousands of suitcases a day and another nine elevators at Cara Operations deliver meals to the airport’s planes.

There are 43 freight elevators at the massive Ontario Food Terminal in Toronto and Atlantic built 41 of them. An elevator in the Whitby Gerdau steel mill lifts giant electrodes to the top of a vat to melt scrap into steel.

Ellis founded Atlantic Elevating Devices and sold it to a U.S. company in 1987. He bought the elevator division back and launched Atlantic Lifts in 1991.

Many of Atlantic Lifts’ employees have been with the company since its earliest days and there is little turnover, says Ellis.

“That type of dedication and loyalty is hard to find these days. We are very family oriented. We don’t just have 25 employees, we feel we have 25 families invested here.”

Ellis’s daughter Angie McGovern has worked at Atlantic for 20 years. She handles finance and administration, while her dad looks after manufacturing, installation and service.

The company has earned a reputation for quality, reliability and innovation that grows by word of mouth, says Ellis.

Custom freight elevators are the bread and butter but a growing segment for Atlantic is in automobile elevators and display lifts for luxury car dealerships. One display lift in a Ferrari dealership in Vancouver stacks four sports cars. A recent project was a new Lexus dealership in Ajax that showcases its vehicles in a glass-fronted showroom right next to Highway 401.

“It was nice to be part of it. Everybody sees it,” said Ellis.

Two of the biggest, most challenging jobs were for a Lexus dealership in Kuwait and for a Pratt and Whitney aircraft engine plant in Montreal.

The Lexus lift – at the world’s biggest Lexus dealership – is used to deliver cars to new owners in a very dramatic way. It rises out of the ground to a third floor 50 feet above where the vehicle is driven off and handed over.

Atlantic had to build a 2,400 square feet building behind its shop with a roof that could be removed by a crane in order to test the towering lift. “It was a game-changer in terms of research and development and what we realized we were capable of doing,” said McGovern.

“When we’re given an opportunity to come up with a design for a unique situation, everyone at Atlantic is really excited about making it happen.”

The Pratt and Whitney lift, at 24 feet wide and 45 feet long and using 48 hydraulic cylinders, is capable of carrying a 90,000-pound jet engine up to the roof of a hangar where it’s bracketed to the ceiling and tested.

In addition to Atlantic’s Whitby headquarters, the company has an office in Montreal and is now opening one in Vancouver. It maintains a 24/7 service department for about 350 elevators in Ontario and some in Quebec.

“Our location in Durham is ideal because we have direct access to both the 401 and 407, which allows our technicians to better serve our customers.”

Most of the company’s employees live in Durham and McGovern says the company expects to grow its affiliation with Durham College and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

“We can be a great training ground for many students.”