KAEFER Canada Inc. has been in the Canadian marketplace for 66 years. During this time, it has evolved to become a leading figure in the nation’s scaffolding and insulating industries.
“We provide a variety of different services. We are the largest, privately-owned scaffolding and insulation company in the world. Some of the primary services that we offer here in Canada are what we refer to as access solutions which is scaffolding and rope access, scaffold design, mechanical insulation, surface protection or specialty coatings, fireproofing, fire stopping, and heat tracing,” says Head of Business Development Spencer Nally.
However, this does not tell the whole story. KAEFER has been a global force across multiple industries for one hundred and one years, and the company’s development in the Canadian market is due to growth and strategic acquisitions.
“Corporately, we have acquired different companies all over the world. Here in Canada, we acquired two companies. One was Parker Brothers in Atlantic Canada, and the other one was Albrico. One was more in line with scaffolding, and the other was in the insulation market.”
While this has resulted in KAEFER expanding its global reach and venturing into new territory, the company is comfortable in these product industries, Spencer explains. “Until those acquisitions were done, KAEFER was not in Canada, but the company was already involved in those services, so it didn’t take us into a new direction. The services aligned with what the company was doing corporately already and aligned with the target market we had been servicing already globally.”
The company is an interesting prospect, given the broad range of services it offers. Both the scaffolding and insulation markets are close to saturation, and it is important that a company can put its own spin on things if it is to stay competitive and find an edge on its competitors. Spencer feels that the philosophy of the company is what sets it apart.
“It really boils down to our values, first and foremost. They are something that I think is very special to KAEFER. Our values are trust, professionalism, respect for the individual, colleagueship, result orientation, and modesty.”
In addition to this attitude, the company tries to ensure that maximum efficiency is achieved through Lean principles and policies so that value can be realized in every possible way. “It can be something as simple as making the lay-down area for a certain project significantly closer to where you are working. If the lay-down area for a project is twenty minutes away versus ten minutes away, what that saves over the course of a week or a month or a year-long project could be quite substantial. It focuses on being as efficient as possible because that can lead to better productivity and ultimately, being a lot safer.”
While these aspects of the company make it stand out, those at KAEFER are quick to acknowledge that the service the company provides is in line with others. “There really isn’t anything, from a true service perspective, special about our services. Some people might think of that as being negative, but I’m a realist, and I want to be as authentic as possible. There are a number of very reputable scaffolding companies in our geography and all over the world. There are a number of very reputable insulation companies also, but, what truly separates us are our values, our lean principles and guidelines, and our corporate project governance.”
The company is committed to maintaining a high standard of work but feels that it is the stakeholders that will pass judgement on quality. “It is not for us to say or decide that we are the best. That is for our partners,” he says. “It is a two-way street. We need to do certain things and provide certain things, certain information, to our partners and so do they. If either party in the partnership doesn’t provide what they are intending to, it is not going to work.”
Entering the Canadian market the way it did, with a strong workforce and an enviable client list, has meant that KAEFER had a platform on which to build. Spencer says that due to external forces, the company has had to improve since then.
“Definitely, everything from a skills perspective was already there. There was very skilled labour. Those acquisitions were made at a time where the Alberta economy was very healthy. Companies in industry at that time could thrive even if they were terrible at what they did. They just needed warm able bodies. Back then, winning work was not necessarily an issue, but then, over the past few years, the economy has really taken its toll. Yet we are still doing very well because of our policies and principles.”
Generally, however, the company has not had the same issues attracting labour as other in the industry. “Simply put, our ideology is that if you take care of your people and your colleagues first, everything else will fall into place. I think that, because of that, we haven’t had as many challenges as some other companies may have had. We truly believe that people want to be a part of our company.”
KAEFER is a global brand with a worldwide reputation. However, one challenge the company faces is making that name known throughout Canada. Until recently, the company has not had, nor has it needed, a public face in this market. This is something that Spencer feels needs to change.
“We have been around for one hundred and one years globally, and in other parts of the world, people recognize the brand. In Canada, due to the economy being what it was, business development and marketing were not things that were really required, but when the economy took a tailspin, we were left with a decent group of very loyal partners. Going back to 2010, these partners were very good in allowing us to bid on and win work but, for example, if you are only dealing with ten companies, and the economy is doing really well, they might give you a thousand opportunities to bid on different jobs in a year. That is fantastic. However, when those same individuals only have one hundred jobs over that period of time, there is not nearly as much opportunity to win work.”
This is a period of change and growth for KAEFER Canada, and the company plans to build on its history and values to become a recognized name across the country.
“I see it as a huge opportunity for us. I believe that everything we do inside these walls is different and unique. We are trying to promote that very simply here in Canada. We believe that we can support our partners the way they need to be supported.”
Spencer is keen to emphasize how important partnership has been for the company and will be long into the future. “We are trying to educate and to help our partners understand that we are here as a support mechanism for them. We are here to help. Those three words: help, support, and partnership are very, very important.”