Today we hear from Shaul Givoni, a Danpal employee of 50 years, who was instrumental in the company’s initial creation and growth.
Shaul recalls his story for us, as well as several highlights in his career, which remind us that his story is also the story of Danpal.
“This October, I am summarizing my 50 consecutive years of work at Danpal! I think that few people in Israel today, work for so many years, especially in one place!
After being discharged from the army in 1965, I returned to the agricultural industry where I worked as a teenager, during my high school years at Kibbutz Dan. The Director in charge of the Agriculture of the Kibbutz, asked me to join Milk Meiri in establishing a new agricultural sector within the industry, specifically avocados. After about a year, I was asked to go out and help a young Kibbutz, which was then called C.S. (Community Service). We left Kibbutz Dan and we moved to Kibbutz Nachshon, where I had also met my future partner Bilha, and upon finishing my “service” in Nachshon, I returned to the avocado industry. After getting married in 1969, we moved for 10 months to Bilha’s Kibbutz, Gan Shmuel, where I was assigned to work in the Kibbutz’s canning factory where the industrial passion also stuck.
When we returned to Dan in October 1970, I informed Milk that I was moving to work at Danpal, (referring to the historic Danpal that began producing various products for the construction industry from P.V.C.).
I started learning the extrusion profession and after about three months, I was trained as a shift manager, and within three years, I was appointed as a Production Manager, which I held for seven years. Once finished with my role as a production manager, we had just purchased a print line of profiles for folding doors, where I spent the following two years with Ita Dan.
It was then that a “historic” event took place, the late Dov Hanis, a representative of “Sukkit” in Israel, the importer of General Electric’s polycarbonate, brought us two PC bags for testing. Together with Nir Ben Zvi (Development Director from our PVC line), we produced several samples, which I took with me to the plastic exhibition in Düsseldorf (I think in 1978). Dov then arranged a meeting with General Electric, where our product was examined and exclaimed as “VERY GOOD!” but it was not the right product for them.
Following this, Dov introduced us to an Israeli architect, Barry Bezner, who at the time was plying his trade in Italy. Barry, who at the time was well acquainted with the European market, also agreed with the assessment given by General Electric. As a result, Barry decided to help us, by leveraging his considerable experience and design something more “appropriate”.
From there I traveled by train to Varese, Italy to visit the Omipa Factory, which Dov had also recommended. Omipa was considered as a pioneer in the production of certain polycarbonate lines, and I recall being very impressed and left with a positive attitude.
We managed to convince Beny Rosen, Director of Danpal, and Amiram Efrati, Director of Dan Industries, with the idea, and from there, we set off.
After due consideration, we bought two production lines from Omipa, built Hall No. 1, and went on to run the line in Italy. Within a short time, we brought production to Israel, and with the help of Shalom Peled (who had by then joined our team), we installed and ran the line in Dan! At the time, the only product we produced, was a standard panel with “feet” 10m long with a width of 400mm. This was the product designed by Barry Bezner, and for which we received our first international patent, which we then held for twenty years!
Initially, we called the factory U-REX but because of a potential conflict, with another factory that had a similar name, we changed it to “Danpalon”. It soon became clear to us, that the world was not yet ready for our new panel, and from there Nir’s hard work began. Nir’s main efforts were spent convincing potential customers in various countries, that there was indeed a place for our product in the architectural market. Our first customer abroad was Henrik Sokuler, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, who owned a factory called “Everlite” in Denmark. In 1982, the first container packed with our new Danpalon panel left Danpal bound for Everlite. Not long after, Sokoler also managed to convince us, to adjust our panels to a width of 600 mm, and from there we never looked back!
Our first significant project in Israel was the Central Train Station in Arlozorov Tel Aviv designed by Rozov, a well-known architect based in Haifa. Rozov dared to use our new unconventional product on a large project, which until then, would have been completely unheard of and deemed too risky.
Initially, we persevered through several difficult years, which may be considered inevitable for a young start-up, such as ours. In due course as the market responded to our revolutionary product, sales improved, and our turnover increased by many times over. In those early years, shifts were operated by Dan Kibbutz members, and my responsibility was to run production both days and nights! Nir and I both felt a huge commitment to the factory’s success, and in 1983, this responsibility was compounded by the crisis with the banks/Kibbutz. As a result, the initial loan by the Kibbutz for the establishment of the plant weighed heavily on the community.
Our efforts eventually paid off, as sales-driven turnover increased by leaps and bounds until we reached the full utilization of our first production line. We then decided to purchase a second, then third production line, and so on… until the eighth line was installed at our subsidiary in Spain. Looking back, I regard myself as privileged, to have been involved in the design of a large portion of our Danpal products. Beyond this, I am proud to have had positive input on the development of various technologies, such as our various UV protection technology, and improvements in production.
I will spare you the entire history, our Danpal veterans know most of it, but we have added products, customers, and established subsidiaries around the world, up until the global crises of 2008. The crises severely affected our customers, and as a company, we also suffered additional blows that impacted our growth. These include new competitors entering our markets around the world, patents that we had held, which started expiring, and our products being unscrupulously copied!
Currently, we are finding new and innovative ways to enhance our manufacturing practices, develop exciting new products, and improve customer experience.
So, to summarize my 50 consecutive years with Danpal, and 55 years of work in general and if I include work during high school, I have been at it for at least 61 years! I have not yet retired, I am still here, and I continue to provide the factory with valuable input, learned from my long years of service.
It is with great pride that from the early initiative started by both Nir and me, we have reached hundreds of families from around the world, who now make a living from Danpal. We also have supplied thousands of projects from all over the world, and here in Israel, some of them being recognized as prestigious. Our considerable debts to the Kibbutz were all settled and repaid to the very last penny, and today the Kibbutz is in a solid financial condition.
In finishing, I would like to wish all the workers in our Danpal factories, a good future, good health, and most importantly a quick exit from the Corona crisis.”
1. What comes to mind when I say “Danpal”?
For me, it’s the main creation force in my life, a place where I had spent a large part of the day, generated my livelihood, built friendships, through who I saw the world, and our clients’ projects.
2. What do you think of Danpal’s strengths as a company?
The family atmosphere, the dedication of most of the employees, the tremendous experience and knowledge accumulated here and in our subsidiaries.
3. What was the reason for the transition from PVC in the beginning to today’s PC?
As I wrote in my letters, it was a fortunate change that came about, due to our interactions with several key role-players at the time.
This enabled us to move into a new industry, the architectural industry, and away from an already well-established and successful agricultural irrigation industry.
4. Looking back, what was our most significant developments and innovations?
Of course, the most significant development was our first Danpalon panel, using our new connection method (what is called feet or in English standing seam) creating an integrated system.
This meant that the practice of customers needing to cut boards of say 2.1 meters wide (at the time supplied by our competitors), to the desired width, and then connecting them using their own methods, could become a thing of the past.
Using a connector from the same material, which is a hidden connection system that does not require drilling through the board, is a patent we registered for the connection method.
We were the first in the world to produce UV-protected panels using the extrusion line method, in contrast to the method developed by General Electric and used by several manufacturers.
The next significant development was a 16mm panel, with five air spaces on which we also received a patent, and which improved insulation properties significantly.
It is followed by all our industrial Danpalon panels, developed for the Spanish market, which were also unique in the manner in which the panels connected to each other edge to edge.
The next development was the 604 transparent panel, on which Gal was granted a patent using the Danpalon connection method.
Another development was the Controlite concept, which we also patented, but for various reasons, we did not market enough, but which provides a unique solution of variable light control throughout the day.
We have also pioneered the development of panels with colored partitions for decoration and shading purposes.
Finally, I think that our current development of integrated systems using advanced aluminum profiles, and our double-walled solutions (Danpatherm K7 & Danpatherm K12). Systems acting as carriers for fiberglass insulation and LED lighting systems, all supplied with various permits for fire, water and air penetration.
5. What do you wish for the company in the future?
Of course, the continued development of our existing product lines, but also entry into new markets that will remain viable for many years to come.
6. What developments and innovations do you think we need to step up successfully?
We have two options, to delve deeper into developing better solutions in our field of architectural glazing, and to open ourselves to new innovative industries as well. The field of extrusion is fairly limited by the very method of production, but if we apply some creativity and investment, I have full confidence in success!
7. What would you like to say to the new and young employees in the group who are just starting out in Danpal?
I think that the future is not entirely predictable and so depends on us, so new employees should deepen their knowledge, whether by way of formal education or self-study (as I did).
Often young people today, are not exposed to manual labor and shift work, as we might have been in the past. So today, the road to an incentivized career path for future Danpal employees, needs some thinking.
8. What do you think the future for the global polycarbonate industry?
This industry can be said to be in a certain type of crisis, as large amounts of material had been diverted to the disc industry, which has since fallen drastically. In our specific field, the main obstacle to growth, for which we need to find solutions is for fire regulations.
With the ongoing tightening of standards and requirements, finding solutions in this area as well as in others, such as extending the service life of the panels, is critical.
We would like to take this moment to thank Shaul, for his immense input to Danpal, one which should never be undervalued.
Shaul has become an icon at Danpal, and has shown us all what is possible when consistency is partnered with belief and effort.
THANK YOU SHAUL!!!!