The engineers of innovation, solutions and action
By Rajitha Sivakumaran
If a single Canadian small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) could be praised for boundless innovation in the electrotechnical sector, it would be the Québec-based Technologies DUAL-ADE Inc. Modest in size with a staff base of 95 people from various technical and professional backgrounds, the company has developed a number of fresh perspectives and solutions, allowing for exponential growth over the years and unwavering customer satisfaction.
The company was formed in 1999, when founder Eric Ducharme merged two of his former creations, DUAL Electrotech and ADE Technologie. Individually, one focused on electrotechnical services and the other on switchgear manufacture, respectively; integrating the companies into one business enterprise allowed for the collaboration of many talents.
Now serving as the DUAL-ADE’s president, Ducharme attributes the company’s success to its staff, saying, “We rely on our competent staff by promoting values like communication, rigor and innovation.”
DUAL-ADE specializes in the area of energy distribution and transformation by designing, manufacturing and installing low and medium voltage switchgear. The engineers at DUAL-ADE help clients with a variety of issues, by providing evaluations such as power factor correction, protective and control study and electric arc flash risk assessments.
“We are an innovative company,” Ducharme said.
True to that statement, DUAL-ADE has developed a number of market firsts. In 2006, the company unveiled a novel aluminum-based design for modules used in Switchgear structure, called the MODU-AL. The company was the first at this time to develop such a unit, giving them a competitive edge in the industry. The design simultaneously minimized engineering and allowed for flexibility. The latter, in particular, is very important to DUAL-ADE as the company prides itself on its ability to satisfy the needs of clients through custom-built solutions. Having a flexible design is an integral part of DUAL-ADE’s success.
Ducharme compared the sensation of being on the floor at DUAL-ADE to LEGOLAND. Like pieces of Lego, Dual-Ade’s products are designed in such a way to ensure an easier assembling of parts. Although there are some challenges, in the end it’s simple and the aluminum-based structures really make a difference, Ducharme said.
Another innovation lies with the development of a universal cradle for the breaker of a switchgear. This cradle can support various brands of breakers — again, DUAL-ADE emerged as the first SME to use this technology. This innovation complies well with their goal of flexibility and guarantees customer satisfaction. Clients reach out to DUAL-ADE with their needs, but they also have preferences such as which brand of breaker to use. DUAL-ADE’s innovations allow for these preferences to be addressed in the most efficient manner possible.
“We have to adapt our product according to the requirements of the customer and these requirements are changing all the time,” Ducharme said.
Despite generating unique designs as dictated by their clients, DUAL-ADE manages to decrease the amount of engineering each time, working from a foundational design to which distinguishing features are then added.
Presently, the company is engaged in a number of projects with Hydro Québec and various other clients in Ontario and Alberta.
Innovative research and a compassionate staff
Extensive research is the key to innovation and DUAL-ADE has a team of experts allocated to do exactly this. “We have invested a lot in the research and development of our products,” Ducharme said.
It all starts with a bright idea — a revolutionary précis that reaches a tangible level through intensive research. But there is nothing simple about the research angle of business; it can take years to investigate and perfect a product. The R&D phase of the MODU-AL project took two years to complete. As time-consuming as the process may be, it is a prerequisite for innovative technology.
The value of innovation transpires through the staff, Ducharme said, adding, “We have a lot of innovative people here.”
In the past, the company has been involved in external research opportunities with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Hydro-Québec and the Université du Québec.
But high-tech gadgets are not the only things on the minds of DUAL-ADE’s staff. The people at Ducharme’s company are both motivated for success and compassionate about human welfare. Working together as a collective force, the staff recently organized a campaign to raise funds for an employee who had been diagnosed with cancer — clearly, the notion of family transcends beyond the domicile and into the workplace here.
In fact, DUAL-ADE is invested in helping anybody in need. The company has been involved in everything from benefit dinners to golf tournaments in order to raise money and bring awareness to illnesses like cancer. Sponsoring youth sports and involvement with the United Way are other ways DUAL-ADE is giving back to its community.
Increasing demands and other challenges
Increasing market demands of the electrotechnical sector fuelled the move of the company’s headquarters back in 2011. Now occupying 21 acres of land in Sherbrooke Industrial Park, DUAL-ADE has increased the size of its production site by three times. The company has undertaken growth outside its home base as well in order to meet the demands of the Canadian market. Connecting with manufacturing agents has increased DUAL-ADE’s presence elsewhere in Canada. The company also offers a lot of technical training opportunities to increase the number of skilled workers in the industry.
Despite this, hiring the best people for the job is a never-ending challenge, Ducharme said. Although the company enjoys a large team of competent specialists, future growth demands a larger number of personnel and hiring can be a cumbersome task.
On the technical side of things, mechanical and governmental challenges often surface, particularly due to DUAL-ADE’s aspiration of increased involvement in foreign contracts and projects. Differences in standards call for a re-adaptation of DUAL-ADE’s products when working outside Canada’s borders, Ducharme said, but this is something the staff at DUAL-ADE can remedy. However, restrictions and laws imposed by other governments are not as easily tackled.
Challenges closer to home echo the countless cries of the entrepreneurial world; dips in the Canadian economy and the low dollar have unsurprisingly increased the costs of doing business.
Future plans for a progressive growth
Although headquartered in Québec, the company has worked in nearly every province in Canada, employed mostly by industrial companies and public utilities, like hospitals and universities. They have also worked in Indonesia, Haiti, the UK, the U.S., and the Arabian Peninsula in collaboration with engineering firms. Economic instability is not holding DUAL-ADE back; the company is presently building a route for expansion with the aim of securing more projects on a global scale.
The fundamental goal, of course, is to be the leader in the development of ground-breaking solutions in the transformation and distribution of energy — this is a commitment that DUAL-ADE staff takes on every day by constantly perfecting their line of products through new developments from their R&D department. Increasing the speed of production flow even more for efficient operations is another future goal — the idea here is to exceed expectations and deliver inventive solutions with increased efficiency.
For more information about Technologies DUAL-ADE Inc., visit www.dual-ade.com.