Established in 2005, Paladin Crossings is headquartered in Calgary, Alberta with offices in Regina, Saskatchewan and Vancouver, British Columbia. With a specialization in trenchless construction work, Paladin Crossings offers turnkey solutions to industries including energy, forestry, infrastructure, and utilities, among others. The company is a member of the Canadian Construction Association and the North American Society for Trenchless Technology (NASTT).
It is not often that the term ‘paladin’ comes up in everyday conversation, and it may even generate blank stares. For those not familiar with the term, a paladin was a hero, a champion of the court of Charlemagne and an elite soldier on the battlefield of medieval tales. For Paladin Crossings Incorporated, the term also serves to define it as a champion for a cause, devoted to seeing a successful outcome for any endeavour.
Jarrod MacKenzie, president of Paladin Crossings Incorporated, had a particular fascination with fantasy and medieval knights in his youth. Knights, to him, were trustworthy and loyal, an indication of how he sees Paladin Crossings’ approach to projects.
Its services originated in construction management and inspection, but the company has expanded its services to include consultation, environmental support, geotechnical studies, and project site investigation. Paladin Crossings employs a full-time staff of five, with employment numbers between fifteen and fifty, depending on project demands.
Trenchless technologies have been rapidly evolving since the early 1970s, particularly in the construction and civil engineering industries. Trenchless methods are used for new and restorative underground infrastructure and require minimal excavation of the ground’s surface. Such methods may include micro-tunnelling, horizontal directional drilling (HDD), and pipe ramming or jacking, for example.
Not only does trenchless technology reduce disruptions to the ground’s surface but it can potentially decrease costs by up to fifty percent compared to conventional trenching methods. It also reduces the safety risks associated with potentially dangerous conditions below the surface and can increase the degree of accuracy in subsurface operations.
Paladin Crossings provides services to a diverse range of industries. Jarrod explains that over the past several years, its focus has been leaning toward the municipal and civil industries, “mainly because it gives us the opportunity to provide all the different services we provide to a single client.”
The oil and gas industry is a close second with the company consulting as, “a subject matter expert in the industry.” This role affords the company the opportunity to engage in a number of technologies with vendors and suppliers in various industries, “that we can learn a lot from. It gives us the opportunity to take that experience and that knowledge that we gain from those different interactions and put it into our day-to-day operations.”
Any company, large or small, can only be as good as its qualified staff. Jarrod acknowledges that since Paladin Crossings is a small company, it can be difficult to compete against larger companies for specific talent. What the company has done has proved to be successful in addressing this need.
“We bring on individuals that have a significant amount of experience, that are in different roles, and that we can use to support other team members,” says Jarrod. “We educate them and provide them the training that they need. We continuously challenge them on the projects that we have coming up. It helps make us a more collaborated team. We all strengthen each other to provide a full collaborative approach to all of our clients. It makes a lot of challenging projects actually look fairly easy.”
Trenchless methods are being used in some very challenging environments and is being used more readily by contracting and engineering companies which are, “actually seeing a gap in the industry to be able to be more competitive and more risk-averse on a lot of these crossings,” says Jarrod. He notes that such technologies have enabled Paladin Crossings to engage in crossing installation projects which are, “a lot more challenging, deeper and longer, and previously considered not possible to minimize environmental impacts and social disturbances in areas.”
The oil and gas industry is the biggest innovator for drilling technologies and processes. “The technology and the execution are very similar, allowing for a lot of technologies that are interchangeable.” Many of the new technologies developed in the oil and gas sectors allow industry to use or re-develop to better suit the HDD industry. Doing so allows contractors to become more competitive while bringing to industry technology that challenges the capacity of the industry and allowing owners to look at projects that may have been not possible prior.”
Establishing strong secured relationships with suppliers proves to increase the efficiency of any construction project while driving costs down. “Our suppliers are pretty much the backbone of the majority of work that we do. Without them, we would not be able to execute projects we have done or are proposing to do in the future.” The company engages with its suppliers to take advantage of their expertise and innovation to better plan and complete projects.
Since the company has projects in different regions, it does “try to find as many local suppliers as possible, but still use the strength of our main suppliers, usually back home.”
Each stage of a project has to be diligently monitored and assessed to ensure on-time delivery, within budget. Quality standards must also be achieved through each phase of construction.
Jarrod asserts that one of the biggest selling features of the company is, “the proper pre-planning of any project. The trenchless industry is a very risk-averse industry. There’s always something that is going to happen that you cannot fully plan for. We properly pre-plan out and do our risks on the project in total. We outline everything off the start.”
Once all preparation is finalized prior to beginning, the one essential is, “having the right people on location to make the decisions as the work is transpiring.” He says that many delays, cost overruns, and diminished quality standards are, “due to decisions not being made fast enough in the field. We try our hardest to minimize that with proper pre-planning and then having the right people on location to actually execute the work and have the authority to make those decisions.”
Workplace health and safety is a major concern for any company that expects to be seen in a favourable light by employees, clients, and the general public. It is a key factor in the development of a positive corporate culture, and more importantly, every employee has a legal right to a safe working environment.
Paladin Crossings understands this. All of its personnel on any given project have, “experience in the field that they’ve been brought on to do,” says Jarrod. “We use that to strengthen our safety program. It’s an ever-changing program. As work progresses, we update our policies and procedures not just staying within the minimal requirements too long, but actually making it a workable environment that is sustainable for us as a company.” He adds that all supervisors in the field are, “trained, certified, and qualified safety officers, which helps us execute work in a more safe, efficient manner.”
Paladin Crossings has completed several challenging projects in the past thirteen years. Jarrod says that the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link (MVFL) project in the Northwest Territories was one of the most memorable.
This project, an initiative of the Government of the Northwest Territories, involved the installation of over 1,100 kilometres of fibre optic telecommunications cable. “A lot of the challenges were in the remote location and the limited access. The pre-planning was a major factor in this.” Paladin Crossings had to have equipment, supplies, and materials brought in on barges during the summer, prior to the winter construction season. It had to ensure that enough resources were available on location so that the project could be completed within a two-month timeframe. Otherwise, “ice roads would be shutting down, and equipment would have been stuck out there for another year.”
Although not intended, this particular project became a three-year project. Paladin Crossings was “brought in more on the subject matter expert side to help on the failed crossings that were done the years before,” continues Jarrod. “There was a lot of stress on that just to get the project done.” Again, it was the company’s pre-planning and consideration of the remote location that enabled the project, “to be done ahead of schedule, under budget, and exceeding the client’s quality standards.”
Looking to the future, Paladin Crossings will continue to have a focus on the successful completion of projects. The company will continue to expand its turnkey design-build approach to trenchless crossings. It plans “to expand internationally as well as grow in all the different sectors that we currently work with.”