Partner of Choice
By Leah Kellar


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In a tightly regulated and often unstable Canadian market where demand is exceeding supply, Metalcare Group Inc.has kept pace to maintain rapid growthbyproviding the right people and resources for companies in the ever-evolving Canadian oil sands industry.  Vice president of Metalcare Group Inc. (formerly known as  Metalcare Inspection Services), Azmi Hussain, recently spoke to Business Elite Canada about overcoming some of the challenges involved since its inception as a one man  operation back in 2005.

The company provides essential services to the oil sands industry encompassing quality assurance and quality control inspection, general and advanced non-destructive testing, which includes radiographic testing, ultrasonic testing, magnetic particle testing, liquid penetrant testing, phased array and time of flight diffraction , geotechnical engineering services, geomatics and surveying, vendor inspection, technical manpower staffing and mining equipment maintenance— just to list a few. Metalcare earned a 5th place ranking on Alberta’s 2014 Fastest Growth 50 List, a significant climb up from 12th place just the previous year. Metalcare was also awarded Business of the Year by the Fort McMurray Chamber of Commerce last year, and it ranked 110thon the PROFIT 500list. Owner and CEO Muthu Palanisamy founded the company with a focus on customer service and client satisfaction right from the start.

“Metalcare was formed out of the need to supply good quality personnel to the oil sands project here in Alberta. Metalcare started out solely providing Project Management Support Service, i.e. quality assurance/quality control inspectors & engineers providing project planners, schedulers, construction engineers, , and commissioning engineers within the oil sands industry. The successful set up eventually led to the decision to expand the business into other sectors within the industry for the local and international markets, such as general and advanced non-destructive testing that ensures the reliability of assets and equipment,” says Azmi , who came on board the company in 2008 as the Division Manager prior to setting up an office for Metalcare in Singapore.

His extensive business management experience in dealing with international clients has played a significant factor in the growth and expansion of the company. In April of 2011, following the  establishment of the Geotechnical Division to provide geotechnical engineering consultancy and material testing. Azmi was soon promoted to VP in the same year, with the focus of restructuring the company in anticipation of record growth and ensuring that stakeholders are on board with future changes.

“A combination of major projects in 2011 placed us in a position to initiate rapid growth. That year we registered 141 per cent asset growth, and 261 per cent in revenue growth,” Azmi recalls.

After the economy slowed down, as a result of the financial market meltdown of 2009-10, the company bounced back and managed to secure a good ground in Alberta in 2011, which led to the establishment of its geotechnical and geo-testing divisions. Initially, the company’s main focus was establishing and entrenching its core services in Canada, however as a result of securing a two-year contract in Indonesia in 2008, Metalcare took a bold step in establishing its presence internationally by setting up the office in Singapore in the same year.

The company has since completed several noteworthy projects locally, currently in the works are the Fort Hillsoil sands mine project, and the Hanging stone project just to name a few. Azmi says Metalcare is projecting an even higher demand for its services for the remainder of this year. The main trend within the industry seems to be marked by a fast-paced environment with increasing demand, and it will remain like that for at least the next 10 years, according to Azmi. He identifies a lack of highly skilled human resources due to an unstable market and an increase in the production requirement for oil sands operations as some of its biggest challenges. Adding to the mix, he says, are stringent requirements and regulations for hiring foreign skilled workers that are more prevalent in the Canadian market rather than in the international markets.

Moving from the well-oiled Alberta market with its years of experienced industry leaders and workers presents its own challenges.

“The majority of the projects are in Alberta. You are able to get people from outside of Alberta, but still there are challenges that we are facing because resources are so tight. You can get the people, but getting the right people that can fit in the culture is tough.”

With these obstacles in mind, expansion remains the goal for Metalcare, locally and internationally with an international office in Singapore, which services the Southeast Asian Market, as well as the Pacific. The company has just added another office in the Philippines.

“Although in the international market, there are certain standards that is being held, however I think the greater control exercised by owners here makes us, in terms of quality, more stringent. I’ve worked in various parts of the world such as  Middle East, Asia and Oceania and I am currently working in Canada so I am able to derive a comparison,” said Azmi.

In addition to efforts at international expansion, Metalcare also had to make some internal changes in order to ensure the future of the company at its core. This meant stepping away from a traditional leadership structure and taking a more people -oriented approach, Azmi explained.

“Our leadership structure now emphasizes the concept of leaders serving their employees. We believe that our employees informally represent us as our ambassadors. We believe that employees are a crucial  element in any business and ensuring their emotional wellbeing ranked as top priority. Eventually they move on for whatever reasons, but you want them to always think positively about their achievements, so that’s why we decided to change the way we do things.”

Some of the most profitable companies in Canada have often taken decades to make this modern managerial step forward by recognizing the problems in the structure of leadership, then establishing and implementing policy procedures accordingly. Metalcare has managed to do it in less than 10 years. The company’s management style has indeed changed and improved with the goal of enhancing people emotional well being that will lead to greater productivity, customer satisfaction, and referral.

Azmi says that the goal has always been to maintain rapid growth for the company in a competitive market and to become the most favoured employer and solutions provider in the industry. “Clients do not hesitate to recommend our services,” he added.

According to Azmi, client referral is key in a marketplace where competitors may all provide the same level of services, but not necessarily the same value of service. This means demonstrating an understanding of the client’s needs in order to provide them with a better quality of service that stands out from the competition.

“It is the understanding of how we communicate with the clients, and how concerned or compassionate we are in dealing with the clients, that is the key to what we are in terms of being competitive in the industry. You might be providing the same services, but it comes down to what kind of value you attract for the client for them to say, ‘Yes I’m going for you! You’re going to be my preferred vendor.’ It’s about the culture we develop within the company,” said Azmi.

Against the backdrop of its current pace of rapid growth and success catering to the oil sands industry in Alberta, Metalcare remains focused on the future of expansion into the international markets.

“Our long-term goal is to be the leader in the service industry, not just locally, but internationally. It’s a long road ahead, but one that is achievable because we are already moving in the right direction,” Azmi concluded.

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