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Efficiency key to Graham’s massive growth: Dawe

Russell Hixson
Efficiency key to Graham’s massive growth: Dawe
GRAHAM CONSTRUCTION — Graham Construction is looking to innovate and become more efficient as the company plans for major growth.

Graham Construction has come a long way since 1926 when it was building stations for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Moose Jaw, Sask.

A massive acquisition by the builder is now poised to transform it into one of the largest in North America and a key player in the region’s transition to low carbon energy.

Cecil Dawe, Graham’s vice-president of industrial and infrastructure, has been with the company for 25 years and sees opportunity for innovation on the horizon.

“We are a strong provider of self-executing construction,” said Dawe.

“The energy business is also heavily driven by craft labour and self-hire, self-directed work. With the change in the marketplace and the drive both on the new energy side — blue and green energy — along with the need to maintain what we have, we are seeing a huge market increase. A lot of drive towards maintenance and sustainable capital projects. We want to be a larger part of sustainable capital work.”

Acquiring AECOM’s energy operations and maintenance (EOM) division will boost employee-owned Graham’s annual revenues by more than $550 million, making it Canada’s third largest construction company and one of North America’s top 50 largest construction companies, providing access to a 3,000-worker pool of skilled labour through allied subcontractors.

Post-acquisition, the company will be a leading player in the industrial services sector in Western Canada, creating opportunities for growth there, in Ontario and the U.S.

Dawe noted the acquisition is mostly people, including management staff, leaders and craft personnel who bring with them deep knowledge and abilities. They also bring with them various systems and processes. Graham will go through these systems and processes, picking the best to adopt.

Dawe noted implementing efficient systems and processes across the business as it grows will be critical to its success.

“Their labour force is probably equivalent to ours, so essentially we are doubling our craft labour force,” said Dawe. “We are substantially increasing our capabilities. When you look at that volume of labour, efficiency in the business comes into play. It all becomes more strategic and actually drives effectiveness to those clients. They will see that as opportunity, value and a competitive edge.”

Part of this could come from growing the industrial side of the business.

“It will make the industrial business a larger footprint at Graham and drive some of those ideologies of industrial safety across the business which will evolve us some,” said Dawe.

“The biggest thing is the efficiency of our own internal processes. It will be a new way of looking at how to run the business, around what the systems and mandates are. It will change information technology and be the next level of IT services.”

In terms of where Graham is setting its sights on growing, much of it is in the east.

Dawe said that southwest Ontario around Sarnia is of particular interest as well as petrochemical facilities on the central and eastern seaboard down south which provide long-term opportunities.

It is energy project opportunities that has Dawe most excited about the future.

“I have been a proponent of western Canadian energy most of my career,” said Dawe. “Being a big part of these changes and how Western Canada energy can change and be viewed globally is exciting. As a business person and engineer it’s exciting to be part of that.”


Follow the author on Twitter @RussellReports.

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