Working for a major construction company a decade ago, Brandon Marton met Omar Miller, and the two soon became friends. They came from very different backgrounds. Omar was of Jamaican ancestry, and Marton’s roots were Jewish, yet they shared many of the same passions.
Miller spent years as a general superintendent and scaffold coordinator and superintendent. A graduate of the Schulich School of Business, Marton ran a hardscape installation business with his twin brother, soon gaining experience and designations in safety and project management.
After a few years in the field, Marton began working alongside Miller as a coordinator, with the pair making data-driven decisions. At the end of one project, they jointly decided it was time for wider horizons—time to start their own scaffolding company with a focus on improving current practices and introducing technology-based innovations to the field.
The year was 2017, and Hinton Scaffold Solution was created, combining decades of experience and the belief that improvements needed to be made in the industry.
“Scaffolding is used everywhere,” says Marton, Vice President and Director of Business Development. “Our tagline is, ‘Your safety is our success.’ We take on the risky work to give everybody else safe work access.”
In less than a decade, award-winning Hinton has grown to become one of North America’s foremost scaffold service and solutions providers. From labour and materials to on-site management, engineering and building information modelling (BIM) 3D services, estimating, Realistic Immersive Safety Education (RISE) training, and more, the company is known for its expertise, efficiencies, strong safety commitments, and doing things the right way every time.
“I’m a millennial, and I saw inefficiencies in the construction sector that could be improved by the use of technology, and I was astounded that it was not happening on these multi-billion-dollar major projects in Canada,” explains Marton. “It was very much at the field level of management. Scaffolding itself, on a project, is accounted for but not planned out in advance for various good reasons. So you need really good management to mitigate the cost of scaffolding on a project. Ultimately, that’s what we were doing.”
To streamline processes, Miller, who serves as Director of Field Operations, and Marton started digitizing some workflows. Specifically, they homed in on processes enabling them to collect data from the field, which also helped them to better manage scaffolding as an integrated aspect of a project’s construction.
Some of the inefficiencies they uncovered included people and material management, including downtime. Additionally, they created a key performance indicator (KPI), looking at the weight and movement of scaffolding.
“If you’re tracking the materials being used every day, you’re collecting weight and a per-piece unit rate per day—that’s very accurate if you’re doing it daily—and you’re able to turn it into a pounds per hour or piece per hour movement, depending on other variables such as weather or height of the work,” says Marton. “You get an average for the industry, the company, and your crew. If you’re tracking the people, which we are, you’re getting an average per person.”
Big believers in encouraging staff instead of chastising them, the two prefer to explain how to make improvements and reduce any inefficiencies rather than writing someone up.
Although vital to construction, scaffolding can at times be taken for granted. Major projects often require 20 to 30 million pounds (about 9 to 14 million kg) of scaffold material. It can take years for scaffolding to be built into a project under construction, and six months to a year for it to be dismantled and removed to ultimately complete the contract.
The movement of scaffolding on sites is a process requiring rigorous tracking and inspection, vital information which is relayed to clients. To track the movement of scaffolding, Hinton uses QR code scanning and is working with a German manufacturer on radio frequency identification (RFID). Along with tracking, timers are also used to make the process more efficient.
If scaffolding is no longer required on a site, it can be removed and materials made available for recycling, thus Hinton is also working on processes to track recycling and deliver carbon credits back to clients.
“Down the line, we see significant value to using us and our system,” says Marton. “If we can determine specifically how much material is recycled within a project… we hope to translate that into actual carbon credits.” This extends beyond carbon credits to the amount of materials the company needs to bring to sites, and the amount of labour needed to build, and later dismantle, at the end of a project.
“So it’s efficiency over efficiency, and that’s what we’ve been working on since we started,” Marton says. The company’s approach provides insights in advance, and forecasts labour along with performance. “We provide a more realistic measure, instead of an estimate, because that measure changes as we go through the project. We continue to track our progress in material movement and update that number, so it becomes a communication tool with our client,” he shares.
“This means greater transparency. Instead of hiding against something—and having to ask for more money or justify what’s going on at the end—we are working toward something. We open up our reports, are transparent, and work better together.”
Respect for all
At Hinton Scaffold Solution, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) is woven into the fabric of the company. The team comprises a strong, diverse group of workers of different backgrounds and identities. Friends for years, Marton and Miller call each other ‘brother’. Even when they worked together before the Hinton era, the pair recognized stereotypes in the construction industry and vowed to address them with positivity.
So it’s not surprising that when the company started six years ago, it was one of the first to have female leaders and black female leaders. Save for one male, all trainers are female, and there are many women supervisors. The team includes transgender members as well.
“Within our mandate, we have a goal of attracting women and youth and any group that’s been marginalized in any way,” says Marton. “We’re trying to attract them within our own company and our industry because our trade needs to grow.”
The rise—and ‘RISE’—of safety
Of course, the safety of workers is all-important in the construction industry. One of the key tools used—and created—by the company is RISE. Short for Realistic Immersive Safety Education program, RISE was developed two years ago by Hinton Scaffold itself with support in part from the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development.
RISE creates an immersive and realistic construction environment with virtual reality (VR) technology. By putting workers in simulated hazardous situations, RISE allows them to experience the potential dangers and consequences of workplace hazards in a safe setting. In addition, RISE not only enables workers to develop better hazard recognition and risk assessment skills, it goes further with a component on bullying, helping women and youth build confidence in a new and sometimes intimidating industry.
The company recently released a formal builder module for RISE. Providing an immersive construction experience beyond scaffolding, RISE benefits everyone in the field, from office coordinators to engineers visiting sites and workers getting involved in the trades.
“Construction hazard awareness is something everybody should do,” says Marton, “and we provide it for all of our workers and make it available to our projects. If they so choose, they can put people through for anybody outside of scaffolding. And with the scaffold building module, we are able to give people who aren’t in the trades—or people who are in the trades—a perspective of what a scaffolder does.”
How the company’s focus on maximum safety for its people dovetails with its social concerns is well expressed by Marton. “Today all the protections are in place to make this the safest industry in the world, and it pays well,” says Marton. “If we can bring more people into employment, I’m absolutely for it.”
The fact is, like other construction trades, scaffolding has seen a shortage of workers. But Hinton is taking crucial steps, working with school boards, trade programs, unions, communities, and correctional facilities to find new employees and give them a chance at a great future.
A place for people
In construction, there may be no better place to find it. Founded on experience, Hinton Scaffold Solution is based on respect. The company’s office was designed for remote work long before the pandemic. With 65 employees at present, Marton believes this number will rise to 100 by the end of the year. Currently negotiating a large project, he hopes the figure will climb to 600 next year!
Continuing to win awards for its work, including Select Top Contractor 2023 and the Consumer Choice Award three years in a row, Hinton resolutely focuses not on past successes, but on future growth. Marton and Miller see a day when ‘Hinton’ will become a household name in the scaffolding industry.
Already, some of the company’s processes and innovations are being emulated by others. Marton doesn’t mind and is flattered. “That’s actually what we’re driving toward—changing the industry. We’ve seen some of that happening, and we’re proud to see it. If you’re going to be leaders in your field, you have to be that leader. When you see others following suit you’re doing exactly what you set out to do.”