Since 1955, Plan Group has brought innovative multi-trade construction services and solutions to many satisfied clients across Canada. The company, with its exceptional processes, abundant resources, and unique approach and culture continues to execute marquis projects that reinforce its reputation for quality.
Plan Group boasts one of the largest rosters of technical tradespeople in Canada and serves general contractors, end users, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in the financial, healthcare, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, retail, property management, sports and entertainment and transportation industries.
Serving these clients from offices in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver, Plan Group’s integrated approach to electrical, mechanical, and information, communications and automation technologies (ICAT) services puts it in a class of its own.
The company has evolved with the changing landscape of the construction industry and has adapted to those shifts, developments, and trends, leading the way through innovation and redefining what is possible and how it can be achieved.
“I’m very motivated by our integrated approach,” said Construction Manager Chris Morris of Plan Group’s mechanical construction division. This sentiment was shared by Glen Franzese, commercial electrical manager, who said, “It’s a true one-stop shop in the sense that we provide services electrically, mechanically, for ICAT, IT, CAD, and we have our own pre-fab shop.”
Morris credited Plan Group in saying, “We really recognize that the construction industry itself is changing. Being in this industry for a long time, I think that gives us an edge; it puts us ahead of our competitors in the way we look at the construction industry. If we don’t change with it, we’re going to get left behind.”
The integrated nature of Plan Group’s approach eliminates many clients’ concerns when it comes to workflow and efficiency on the job site while fostering a strong work culture amongst its teams. “Not too many companies out there have all of those disciplines under one roof, so it’s easier for the customer to manage,” explained Franzese.
According to Franzese, “Even though I’m on the electrical side, I have to think about the company as a whole and always promote the other disciplines in Plan as well – mechanical, ICAT, the engineering side. From the top down, it’s almost like a family approach. You never leave one of the groups behind. It’s about everybody doing well.”
Indeed, the culture at Plan Group has played a leading role in its growth and success. Regardless of its growth over the past several years, Plan Group still operates like a big family. As Franzese explained, “You never feel like you are too far away from anyone in the company,” which Morris attributed to the firm’s leadership for remaining actively engaged.
Plan Group is grooming the next generation of leaders in the company through what Franzese described as the company’s ‘next man up’ approach, “We have foremen designate journeymen or apprentices under them that can be the next man up – basically, high performance, high potential guys where you can see a bright future ahead of them. We try to take the time to have them come into the estimating department so they can see the office side of things so they can understand the project both from the field perspective and how it gets bought, tendered and managed in the office.”
This is a testament to the seamless integration, collaboration and open communication that takes place across Plan Group’s operations. Project Director Robert Bamford, electrical construction division, explained the process by which this is achieved.
“Whilst the goals are clearly set and communicated, we are offered a certain level of autonomy to operate in a way that we feel will best achieve the overall objectives. Different methods, different products, a different approach.”
Bamford continued, “We are also very relationship-focused. We try to bring value to a client, a constructor or a project team. We constantly try to get to know our clients and develop a level of trust between us.”
This dedication to relationships enables Plan Group to attract and retain industry-leading talent and expertise across its range of disciplines, which include design-build, construction, installation, and maintenance services. The latter comprises elements such as structured cabling, green energy, industrial controls, critical power and building, safety, and security systems.
Another key component of Plan Group’s ability to execute on projects both small and large and of varying degrees of complexity is its operational excellence program.
“At Plan Group, operational excellence is everyone’s responsibility. It sets our employees up for success; it’s all about preplanning and measuring throughout a project. For our customers, our operational excellence program defines our relationship as true partners, builds credibility and trust, and creates value that goes beyond ‘on-time and on-budget,’” expressed Health, Safety & Environment Director Steve Thrasher.
Thrasher went on to acknowledge Plan Group’s Internal Responsibility System (IRS) which puts health and safety at the forefront of the company’s culture. He stated, “We have created a culture in which people care about the work they do, the people they do it with, and the environment we work within.”
Certainly, there is a strong culture of safety and education at Plan Group that is supported by in-house training programs and committees including a Senior Management Team (SMT), Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC), Quality Control Committee (QA/QC), and the new Electrical Safety Steering Committee (ESSC) and Mechanical Safety Steering Committee (MSSC). Plan Group also holds COR™ certification in Ontario and Nova Scotia which reinforces its commitment to a well-developed, effectively implemented, and closely evaluated health and safety program, which includes the services of a team of three Canadian Registered Safety professionals (CRSP).
In September of 2016, Plan Group received the ECAO – R.H. Hugh Carroll Safety Award in the category of Rate Group 704 – over 500 000 total work hours, proving the strength and importance of its efforts to continuously improve and excel in the areas of health and safety. “We constantly look for areas of improvement,” explained Thrasher. “We also like to involve as many people as we can from all different levels of the organization to get a true picture of the task or project at hand. This way we can pull from a large pool of varying resources with a vast range of experiences.”
It is for these reasons that Plan Group has been able to secure high-profile work like the multiple projects it has undertaken for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA). Franzese highlighted that Plan Group has executed just over $40 million worth of work for the GTAA in the last several years.
“It actually built up our reputation within the GTAA circle where they know that we’re a company that can handle any job, whether its $5,000 or $10 million. So I would consider us a contractor of choice amongst the GTAA personnel, where they know we can get it done and we can get it done on time,” he said.
Bamford described Plan Group’s role on the Grande Prairie Regional Hospital project, which entailed overcoming a number of site challenges as the structure, the roof and the exterior of the building were already complete prior to the team’s arrival on site. “This provides a challenge in itself, trying to fit the electrical services into a space that was sized prior to the interior services being totally designed. The use of BIM (Building Information Modeling) has been a critical element in ensuring that everything fits and is coordinated,” he noted. “We implemented the use of pre-fabrication on this project. Such items as overhead conduit racks that might traditionally have been built and installed at the workface have been built in our pre-fabrication workshop. This offers a more controlled environment to work in.”
Plan Group was able to complete an interior fit-out of nurse call, fire alarm, electronic security, lighting, normal and emergency power systems, and voice and data systems cabling, all in an unfinished internal environment thanks to its extensive resources and expertise.
A new manufacturing plant in Ontario’s Niagara Region is an especially interesting project example that has great job creation potential during, and after, construction. Morris made it clear that Plan Group wasn’t just looking to advance itself as a company on this project. The firm is responsible for bringing its complete suite of integrated services to the table for the project, offering the client peace of mind that each discipline will be managed responsibly and efficiently on site, even planning for and mitigating many of the risks in advance.
“Other than just having an internal approach, we look to fill in a lot of the blanks, take the assumptions out of the project. We really look at all projects and approach them as, ‘here, this is our price. We know what it is going to take to do this job. We’ve assumed some of these things in our price, so we’re not going to be coming at you with change orders every other day,’” explained Morris.
“When we work outside the GTA, we also spent a lot of time talking to the local unions, to the local municipalities. We really want to make sure that we’re not just a company from Toronto coming into the Niagara Region, or any other place, to do a job. For this project, we hired employees that are local; our superintendent and our project management staff are local to the area. We are showing that we want to work with the community.
“I think our philosophy is – and I think it’s good for the whole construction industry – that more companies need to try to set the bar. It’s easy in a competitive market to lose the focus on quality along with making money,” Morris expressed, emphasizing the importance of creating lasting relationships built on trust as the best way to grow into the future.
“Company-wide, I know the mandate is constantly improving the customer experience, keeping that relationship with the customer so that you are the contract of choice when they need a contractor to come in and do some alterations in their facility,” said Franzese.
For Morris, this will be achieved through innovation. “Again, it’s all about innovation. That’s the best word to describe Plan Group: just always a new thought tabled, always finding ways to be different,” which has proven to be a recipe for success that will serve Plan Group well into the future.
By continuing to foster what Bamford referred to as “a culture of opportunity,” which is driving growth and yielding great potential at the company, there is no limit to the impact Plan Group can have for its clients and on the industry as a whole.