Part of the Community for Over 40 Years

Equipment World

In this modern age of business, fortunes and reputations can be built or lost with the click of a mouse key, and the relationship between provider and client is now a transaction that is often executed in the quickest and most direct method possible.

It may seem that the days of slowly building a business through stability and earning trust are long gone. However, in a sea of moving and shaking, Equipment World stands alone, celebrating an impressive forty years in business last year.

Early days

As a resident of Thunder Bay since he was fifteen years old, Peter Knudsen saw the city as a market in need of a company that specialized in both material handling and warehousing products. Peter gained his work experience in a number of jobs; starting out, he worked as a restaurant manager before “settling into the banking business,” he explains. He eventually got the opportunity to work with an industrial supply company, and it was his time in this sector that led to the opening of Equipment World. Peter, his business partner Jim Sutton, and a select group of investors came together to open the company in April 1973.

The idea was simple: Equipment World would provide industrial equipment, material handling, and storage solutions to its clients with a focus on value and service. Everyone knew the formula would be a success, but it was unthinkable at the time to expect Equipment World to expand beyond the borders of Northwestern Ontario. Yet expand it has, opening three new offices and growing to service practically every industry, from mining companies to educational institutions.

The early years for Equipment World held many challenges, as expected for a young startup. However, according to Lyle Knudsen, son of Peter and current President of Equipment World, the main challenge the company faced was altering the mindset of the client. In an environment that had, until then, never before seen the likes of a material handling specialist company, it was difficult to convince customers that the need was there. “A big challenge was to educate the customers, who were used to dealing with businesses that utilized material handling equipment as a sideline versus us, who promoted it as our main line,” Lyle explains.

Ultimately, Equipment World managed to change this paradigm in Northwestern Ontario and embarked on what would be a truly remarkable feat of longevity. Gradually expanding, the company went from sharing work space with three other businesses to having four separate locations. While its headquarters now resides in a vast 20,000 square foot space in Thunder Bay, the company started life in a 1,500 square foot back street building.

Impressively, the company has outgrown its premises twice. “We have now been 34 years in our current location. We are used to outgrowing space; this current building once had four tenants, but Equipment World grew until we needed the whole facility and we have been doing expansions and renovations over the years to accommodate our growing number of employees.” The number of employees now stands at 85 – which is 82 more than it started with. Lyle also remarks how the amount of stock the company must retain has a bearing on its space requirements. “We also now have off-site yard storage at each location,” he says. “We have over 400 pieces of equipment in our rental inventory throughout Northern Ontario, so we need the extra space.”

Support for customers

One way that Equipment World has managed to attract and maintain clients over its forty year history is by offering impeccable customer service. This service, however, does not end with the completion of a financial transaction. After-sale service is a prime example of how Equipment World aims to provide the best possible value to its clients. The company offers operator safety training on every piece of equipment that it sells. This training is compliant with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), the Ministry of Labour, and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Mike Kapanen, certified trainer at the Sudbury location, frames the idea perfectly: “It’s the right thing to do,” he says. “Employers want to send their workers home in the same condition they came in. Why wouldn’t that be important to everyone?”

This simple yet powerful idea is one example of the dedication and level of service that Equipment World aims to provide. However, an added incentive for clients is that, in addition to offering training at each Equipment World location, training can take place in the client’s own work space. This allows the staff to see real examples of the equipment in use, in an environment that has a much greater level of context. “We like to provide training at customers’ locations, using the actual equipment on site so its applications on the job can be analysed and specific situations or problems on the job site can be addressed. We can conduct an on-site survey of the customer’s facility and offer recommendations on improving efficiency and safety when necessary.”

Community Spirit

Great customer service coupled with a will to make a difference seems to be lacking in the modern business world; however, Equipment World possesses these values in spades. In addition to its after-sale safety support, Equipment World is involved in local community work. According to Lucy Belanger, comptroller for the company, the reason for this is simple. “We believe strongly in giving back to the community.” This social spirit is exemplified by the involvement of many staff members on committees of local groups: Thunder Bay Shelter House, Youth Employment Services, and Thunder Bay Business Women’s Network, to name a few.

It is refreshing to see a local business give back generously to the communities that helped sustain its forty years of growth. “When there is a call to action or a cause that needs our assistance, someone is always ready to jump in,” says Lucy. “There is especially a great deal of energy when one of our own needs support; take the 401 Project for example.” The 401 Project is a fundraising venture to conduct research into the reversal of a very rare condition known as MeCP2 duplication syndrome. It is a condition which affects the son of Sault Ste. Marie Territory Manager Nick Tier. Equipment World raised an incredible $17,000 for this worthy cause. It is a real insight into its understanding of the term community when Equipment World gets behind one of its own employees in such a way.

What’s next for Equipment World?

After four decades in business, one wonders what Equipment World can do next. The company has shown that it can adapt to changing environments and territories. While sticking to its roots in material handling products, Equipment World has branched out into many other areas and sectors including mining companies and educational institutions.

Lyle Knudsen feels that although the company has experienced challenges over the years, the team is all the better for it, and he definitely feels that the future is bright for Equipment World. “Where we once specialized and focused primarily on the industrial sectors of Northern Ontario, we have since diversified to all sectors. We also continue to invest and upgrade our technology and recently revamped our website, again, to meet the ever changing needs of our clientele. Much has changed over the past few decades, but the predominant philosophy remains the same; innovative solutions, high quality products and knowledgeable service from purchase to performance.”

If Equipment World continues to maintain and meet these exceptionally high standards that it sets for itself, it is quite possible that we will see the team around for another forty years to come.

For more information about Equipment World, please visit