David Finlayson, The Edmonton Journal
Tuesday, March 21, 2006 (Originally published in The Edmonton Journal)
EDMONTON - When you're supplying critical equipment to such demanding customers as NASA and Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., there's no room for error.
So quality control is a key issue at the cluster of five companies that is CCI Thermal Technologies, whether it's a gas recovery system for a nuclear reactor or an explosion-proof heater for an oil and gas facility, President Bernie Moore says.
"Quality is a mindset. Employees have to be able see the key process indicators so they know the improvements they are making. We have a bulletin board at every plant that shows the impact they are having."
Moore also makes sure workers are kept in the loop through regular round-table meetings, and he has a little book he takes around the shop floor to write down suggestions from staff.
So it's no surprise he gives most of the credit to the company's 360 employees for making the list of 50 best-managed Canadian companies.
Last week he travelled to the operations in Orillia and Oakville, Ont., and Greensburg, Indiana, to thank them all.
"It's an important award for us. People like to do business with well-managed companies."
CCI is well-managed enough it has been able to parlay strong technology and reasonable prices into selling heating elements to manufacturing powerhouse China.
But Moore is the first to acknowledge that having an independent board -- even though it's a private company -- has played a big role in keeping the ship steady, especially through four acquisitions in as many years that changed a small local company into a top North American player.
The company actually started life in 1964 as Ciscan Industries. When Harold and Cathy Roozen bought it in 1992, the 25 employees were producing the patented Cata-Dyne™ line of explosion-proof gas catalytic heaters for the oil and gas industry.
CCI Thermal was born out of a merger between Ciscan and DriQuik Inc. of Greensburg in early 2001.
Adding DriQuik™'s line of electric infrared curing systems more than doubled the size of the company overnight, and created the largest gas and electric-based infrared equipment manufacturer in North America.
Ontario-based Caloritech™, Wellman Thermal Systems Inc. of Shelbyville, Ind. , and Calgary's Ruffneck Heaters were added through 2003.
It has been a challenge getting them all on the same page while retaining the core characteristics of each, says Moore, who came to CCI with the Caloritech merger and became President last year as CEO Harold Roozen focused more on long-term strategy.
"The real trick is to have corporate standards of excellence, but have some local autonomy for the execution of them."
Now the divisions are integrated enough that they are making components for each other as well as continuing to produce their core products.
CCI doesn't make its bottom line public, but Moore says growth is 13 to 15 per cent a year, and he sees lots of room for further sales in the U.S. and eastern European oil and gas markets.
"Acquisitions will still be available, but our main focus is leveraging our technology and customer service to optimize the value of our existing assets. We are very pleased with our growth beyond the value of the acquisitions."
A bigger emphasis on research and development in the last few years should keep the company at the forefront of technology, Moore says.
The company built a $750,000 infrared testing facility in Greensburg to complement the natural gas research at the 9,000-square-metre Edmonton facility.
And they've launched a strategic marketing plan to raise the profile of each division.
"Companies can be very reactive, but what separates the great companies such as Microsoft and Toyota is innovation and strategic marketing," he says.
While CCI has worked hard to get all the divisions ticking over nicely, the irony of the fact the acquisitions initially made to lessen the company's dependence on oil and gas are now making much of their money in that field is not lost on Moore.
But with the price of oil forecast to remain above $60 through 2007, he's not about to jump off that horse any time soon.