Engineering consulting from definition through design
By Cheryl Long
The downturn in the economy, particularly in the commodities markets, has impacted a vast number of Canadian businesses, even those that seem less likely to be exposed during tumultuous times. Staying on top of trends and being agile enough to respond to these swings is helping businesses like ENGCOMP weather the current storm.
Jason Mewis, President of ENGCOMP, has a number of clients in various commodity sectors and that fact alone has spurred him to look at the way his company markets its services.
“Engineering firms are being challenged to sell their services differently and focus on cost because economies are down in a lot of sectors,” Mewis said. “Engineering firms need to rethink their business models. If they sell their services cheaper, how can they maintain effective business models?”
Mewis founded ENGCOMP in 2004 in Saskatoon, Sask., growing the business and taking on employees as the workload increased. The company caters to Canada’s heavy industrial market, providing structural, mechanical, electrical and cost engineering consulting services designed to meet clients’ needs through innovative solutions. They also provide specialized services including risk analysis, cost estimating, planning and computer programming, and are well-versed in taking a project from conceptual design through detailed engineering.
“Because we’re a smaller company, we’re more nimble,” Mewis said. “With our experience in building a business from scratch, we’re prepared to dramatically change our business going forward. We’re taking on initiatives and approaches to try to gain more control over how to get work, how to keep people busy and maintain profitability while staying competitive in a highly competitive market space now.”
Focus on heavy industrial facilities
Their core business is in process engineering with a focus on heavy industrial facilities, though they have also worked on commercial and residential projects. The expertise within the company allows ENGCOMP to work in a range of engineering disciplines, whether it’s the mechanical processes that drive the manufacturing operations, the electrical systems that power the facility or the instrumentation that provides the controls. From mining operations, industrial refineries and chemical facilities to food processing and agricultural production, ENGCOMP has all of the in-house capabilities their clients require.
“We’re the precursor to the construction industry,” Mewis explained. “We’re building physical infrastructure, whether it’s horizontal like roads and sewers or vertical — buildings and plant refineries. We’re in that hard infrastructure design and construction space.”
They also specialize in computing services, developing software programs and processes that meet the client’s or project’s unique needs. Task automation, custom programming, renderings and animations, and 3D modelling are just a few of the specialty services offered by the company’s team of engineers and technologists.
Mewis describes the company as a “medium-sized firm locally” and small globally. “We’re not a one- or two-person shop. There’s a number of those out there that can only do small projects,” he said. “We fit in between those businesses and the big firms that are in our jurisdiction in delivering small and medium-sized projects cost efficiently.”
“We’re more nimble, we can adapt to their needs and we pride ourselves on making our client’s life easier when we’re executing the work.”
Adapting to clients’ needs
ENGCOMP combines the more sophisticated project control systems, advanced project designs and leadership capabilities of larger firms with a small company mentality and reduced bureaucracy for their clients. “We’re more nimble, we can adapt to their needs and we pride ourselves on making our client’s life easier when we’re executing the work,” Mewis said.
Their client list is a diverse one, including names like AREVA Resources Canada Inc., Mosaic Potash, Defence Construction Canada, Agrium and Akzo Nobel Chemicals Ltd. The majority of ENGCOMP’s work is carried out in Saskatchewan but they’ve been involved in projects in Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and in the U.S. as well. They’ve even “dabbled in the global space”, working on the conceptual design and preliminary engineering for a new potash mine in Spain. Saskatchewan is the potash centre of the world, Mewis explained, and his company’s experience and expertise in that sector attracted the attention of the Spanish mining company.
ENGCOMP’s leap to the global stage can be linked to another professional accomplishment in Mewis’s career — his stint as chairman of the board of directors for the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies-Canada (ACEC) for the 2013-2014 term. The position was not only challenging and educational but it offered Mewis exposure to leaders in the industry and an opportunity to attend events across Canada and the U.S. It was a conference in Spain in 2013 that served as the stepping stone to building international relationships.
Giving back to the community
But it isn’t all business all the time at ENGCOMP. The company makes it a priority to give back to their community by getting involved in a number of social, charitable, professional and volunteer associations. The causes that they’ve supported over the years are numerous, including the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Blood Services, World Vision and the Saskatoon Crisis Nursery.
“People in the office naturally gravitate to outreach,” said Nick Wright, VP, Engineering. “Our company attracts those types of people as a general rule — it’s all part of growing professionally and it’s something we want to encourage.”
“We’re building physical infrastructure, whether it’s horizontal like roads and sewers or vertical — buildings and plant refineries. We’re in that hard infrastructure design and construction space.”
“It’s in our culture to want to try to give back and support the community,” he added. Wright, who joined ENGCOMP in 2005, donates his own time to the post-secondary school he attended and has served on the school’s program advisory committee. The committee brings together alumni who share the industry’s latest developments and talk about ways in which post-secondary education can produce graduates who are prepared for today’s evolving workplace.
Wright is also involved with the Association of Consulting Engineers of Canada – Saskatchewan (ACEC-SK), serving as chair of the association’s Industry Resources Committee. ACEC-SK is considered the province’s leading business advocate for consulting engineering and geoscience firms, and the Industry Resources Committee has been successful in providing networking opportunities between the association’s members and large firms like SaskPower and SaskEnergy, Wright explained. The committee’s forums also provide a venue for members to discuss topics relevant to the industry.
To learn more about ENGCOMP, visit www.engcomp.ca.