A company at the helm of mission critical services

By Cheryl Long

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It’s like a scenario from a disaster movie. Production lines shut down, the power to a hospital fails, computers go offline … the modern-day world is coming to a crashing halt. And while this may sound like the makings of the next Hollywood thriller, these are just the types of situations that cross the mind of Michel Chartier, President of Kelvin Emtech, in a very real way.

Kelvin Emtech is a Quebec company specializing in what Chartier describes as “mission critical” services. For a company like CBC, that means ensuring that their news network never goes “dark”. For a factory, it means avoiding a shutdown during production hours. Data centres need to be protected from power interruptions, websites need to stay online, automated robots must continue to function — when any or all of those operations are interrupted, the results can be disastrous.

“What is your mission and what is critical for your business to live? If you lose your factory, will it affect your bottom line at the end of the year? If it affects your bottom line or revenue sheet, you won’t like it,” Chartier suggested.

Kelvin Emtech works with close to 200 companies that rely on the organization’s specialized expertise in consulting engineering, IT operations, data centre design and electromechanical infrastructure. Among those clients are some of the largest businesses in Canada — names like TELUS, Rogers, Bell Canada, Videotron, IBM, CBC, Cogeco, TVA, and more. It’s quite a portfolio for a company founded in 1994 by two young engineers whose first client was Bell Canada. Chartier and Eric Stephenne launched the company from a room in Stephenne’s house in Montreal, and then added a third partner, Pierre Robillard, in 1997 when they realized that they needed a senior engineer to help the company move to the next level. That year, they moved into a larger location and stayed until 2004 when they relocated to the 10,000-square-foot facility that is currently home to the company and its employees.

“We’re a really small shop with huge customers and returning customers,” Chartier explained. “In Quebec, we are considered one of the firms with the most expertise for mission critical environments.”

Business picking up in 2016
Today the company has locations in Montreal and Toronto, and recently added a new COO to the team. Bruno Hebert joined the company this year, bringing a background in engineering and experience as the former owner of a construction company. Business has been picking up this year, which is a welcome sign after slowdowns in the market during the 2011 recession and as part of the aftermath of the Charbonneau Commission, a public inquiry launched to investigate potential corruption within Quebec’s construction industry. While the company’s revenue has been steady for the past 15 years, just a couple of months into 2016 Kelvin Emtech is already well within their budgetary goals, Chartier said.

The company focuses on several “mission critical” areas that fall under the engineering umbrella. Their electrical engineering services include power supply and electrical distributions, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) installation and replacement, and lighting systems design. Their expertise in mechanical engineering ranges from cooling and heating systems and ventilation systems to fire protection systems and the supply and storage of petroleum products. They’re also well known for their work on data centres, from the design stage through construction and finally providing training and support where needed. Chartier uses an interesting analogy to describe the company’s role in developing and maintaining data centres. They’re not involved with the servers or the “brains” of the centre — that’s the responsibility of the client. What they do focus on are the critical components: the “lungs” or good quality air that is always available and the “heart” or a redundant electrical supply that provides constant power. What Kelvin Emtech designs, builds and even maintains is the life support system that keeps the brains within the data centre operating at optimal levels without fail.

“I don’t think we’ve seen the peak of the iceberg yet,” Chartier said, describing the future of technology and, in particular, the online world and the storage of data. “Your fridge in a few years will be hooked up to the internet so you’ll know exactly what’s inside your fridge. Just think about your smartphone. How could you live without it today? You can’t. A few years from now, you won’t even carry a credit card anymore. You’ll have an imprint on your phone and you’re going to pay with your phone. Everything is growing at an extremely fast pace — that data is now critical for everyone.”

Need for data centres growing
The challenge is finding secure places to store the rapidly expanding amounts of data circling the globe. Though there will always be someone who will attempt to “crack the code”, internet servers like the cloud are becoming tougher to hack and, in turn, safer as a means of storing important data. That puts an increased focus on the need for more data centres worldwide, which rely on mission critical resources to keep those data services up and running. Then there’s the increasing trend toward automation in every industry imaginable — from the casinos that use cards registered to guests instead of cash, to the grocery stores that monitor every item of inventory purchased by shoppers, to the doctors who view life-saving images via computer.

“When there’s a surgeon doing open-heart surgery that needs to look at a scan of the heart live that goes through a server, that server cannot go down for whatever reason,” Chartier said.

A solid reputation within the industry has earned Kelvin Emtech the opportunity to work on many high profile jobs over the years. One of their current projects is the construction of a $40-million data centre owned by Videotron, an integrated communications company based in Quebec. The new centre will provide colocation solutions for businesses in an effort to meet their data management and processing needs. In addition, Kelvin Emtech is working on another Videotron project, performing the electromechanical design for the expansion of an existing data centre in Quebec City. Another data centre owned by Cogeco that the team is working on in Montreal is entering phase 2 and will be worth close to $100 million when completed, Chartier said.

Understanding mission critical is key
Being able to understand exactly what is considered “mission critical” for each client, knowing their clients’ markets and being able to think outside the box in terms of design and trends has helped Kelvin Emtech not only expand their portfolio through new projects but also maintain a strong roster of return clientele. The industry knowledge gained over the course of more than 20 years is how the company helps their customers save money, make long-term decisions for continued growth and feel supported through future changes and challenges.

“We’re still in the same place, we’re still growing as a company, we’re well-placed in the market. We have an extremely good reputation everywhere that we go,” Chartier said. “I think this is why we’ve been in the market for 22 years. I hope we’ll still be here for another 22.”

For a look at Kelvin Emtech’s services and achievements, visit www.kelvin-emtech.com.