Sixty years after its creation, Arpi’s Industries Ltd. remains true to the vision of its founder, Arpad “Arpi” Berdin.
Coming to Canada from his home in Yugoslavia as a teen, the young Arpi worked in Alberta’s oil patch, later earning his sheet metal ticket. With an entrepreneurial spirit, he started Arpi’s Heating, servicing Calgary-area homes and businesses. Word spread quickly about Arpi’s professionalism, earning him more and more satisfied customers.
Today, the modest company he started back in 1963 has grown into one of Canada’s biggest and most respected full-service mechanical contractors, with hundreds of employees. The company serves customers predominantly in Calgary and surrounding areas.
Under the experienced leadership of Arpi’s daughter Julie, who serves as President, family-owned Arpi’s Industries provides heating and air conditioning services, along with plumbing and ventilation solutions on projects.
Ahead of its time
Arpi’s keeps up with the latest technologies in the market for the benefit of all its clients and projects. The company is active at trade shows and works directly with many manufacturers and suppliers.
Arpi’s residential business includes HVAC and plumbing installations for the homebuilder market as well as maintenance / repair / replacement of equipment for homeowners. This breadth across the residential market supports Arpi’s training program for the most experienced and multi-faceted technicians in the industry.
“On the commercial plumbing side, I, together with our Construction Manager for the department, and all of our Project Managers, have Gold Seal Certification, which is accredited throughout Canada,” he says.
Administered by the Canadian Construction Association, the Certification assures construction management that these professionals have undertaken training and continual skills development to achieve the highest standards of industry excellence. “We encourage that our staff become Gold Seal Certified, because it shows we invest in extracurricular training and our people have as much technical education as possible.”
Investing in solutions
At Arpi’s Industries, one of the company’s biggest advantages is its range of capabilities. Situated on nine acres in South East Calgary since 1980, Arpi’s brings three major commercial components to the company: a commercial sheet-metal fabrication shop, a fabrication shop for piping, and a material handling shop.
Taking on large jobs for years, Arpi’s has grown even more since Julie became President in 2000, increasing the company’s volume and size of projects.
“Her vision of putting the right people in the right place has moved the company to the next level,” says Morrison, who started with the company 19 years ago as an apprentice and worked his way up to building information modelling and senior estimator before becoming business development manager. “From the shoulders of her dad, she’s lifted the company to the next level.”
One of Arpi’s greatest assets is its 20,000-square-foot commercial sheet metal shop. Complete with over $5 million of shop machinery and tools including a full coil duct machine, spiral machine and plasma table, Arpi’s makes all its own ventilation and sheet metal items and can process over two and a half million pounds of sheet metal annually.
The company’s well-stocked material handling shop carries a large supply of pipe, fittings, valves, and hangers, ensuring the company is not dependent on suppliers when products are needed, which has proved invaluable during the COVID era. Additionally, Arpi’s 7,000-square-foot fabrication shop includes two 5-ton overhead cranes, three welding stations, and two grooving stations able to produce 700 weld / groove inches of fabrication per day.
Range of services
At Arpi’s Industries, size and experience count. Along with residential and commercial services and mechanical contracting, the company takes on large-scale projects with homebuilders and contractors. “People that are familiar with one part of our business are often very surprised to learn about the other areas we operate in,” says Morrison. Across the entire, diverse business, projects may be as small as a hot water tank replacement for a residential customer, or as massive as Calgary’s BMO Centre Expansion.
Serving as the city’s go-to venue for trade shows, conferences, and meetings for 40 years, the BMO Centre is undergoing a $500 million expansion, and Arpi’s is playing a key role in the upgrades as the prime mechanical contractor. The massive project will see the centre’s total floor space increased by more than one million square feet, including 250,000 square feet of contiguous floor space.
The BMO Centre Expansion is a vast, well-publicized project for the business (although not the largest in its 60-year history). “It’s a significant expansion,” says Morrison.
Arpi’s teams are handling plumbing, Hydronics, HVAC, and all ducting. They are also responsible for the BMS (building management systems) contractor, sprinkler contractor, and mechanical installation contractor, with all mechanical elements falling under their umbrella.
The right stuff
From residential home installs to massive convention centres, Arpi’s requires not only an experienced team but dedication and the right mindset.
“We look for people who want to be here and are willing to learn and be engaged,” says Morrison, “and it will only be a matter of time before they overtake someone who has the initial technical expertise but doesn’t really care or want to be here.” The right attitude goes a long way in fulfilling career and personal goals at Arpi’s.
Arpi’s staff includes ticketed Red Seal plumbers, pipefitters, refrigeration technicians, and sheet-metal workers. For the company, that ticket is an endorsement and shows that workers have the knowledge and skill set to practice their trades. Working only with indentured apprentices, Arpi’s stands behind employees entering the trades, encouraging them to get their apprenticeship and ticket, go to school, and finish their certification. Arpi’s staff are actively engaged with SAIT apprenticeship programs, with some participating as curriculum advisors, Board Members, and assisting instructors.
Internally, Arpi’s is known as a great place to work, with many employees recognizing 20, 30 and 40+ years of service to the company. Externally, the company receives both praise from customers and industry awards. Just a few include the 2021 Platinum Club Winner of Canada’s Best Managed Companies, the HomeStars ‘Best of’ Award for 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022, and a 15-time winner of the Dave Lennox Award.
As a residential leader in the industry, the company continues to provide clients with the best warranties, competitive prices, 24/7 emergency services, and a labour guarantee.
As for the 60th anniversary of the company, plans are still in the works, says Morrison, adding that there will likely be a modest grassroots celebration in late spring or early summer. “We are the same company, just with more people than we had 60 years ago, doing the best we can and getting through COVID and all the ups and downs of the last two years,” he shares.
“There won’t be fireworks or anything like that; we will be recognizing long-term staff and showing appreciation to our staff.”
Arpi’s may have grown a lot since it was founded in 1963, but its family values remain, which is more important today than ever before. “In the world of globalization, outsourcing, and overseas everything, we believe in doing things in-house,” says Morrison, “and that translates into those we hire.”
Arpi’s retains a lot of local people. “We genuinely give people careers and, in turn, we hope we do a great job for them. People here aren’t treated like numbers, and that is becoming more and more important as we come out of COVID,” says Morrison. “We want to maintain—and we do maintain—that grassroots, local contractor feel that there is an actual person at the other end of the phone. It’s all about relationships.”