“If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.” So said Albert Einstein. Indeed, there’s something to be said for innovation. It requires a disciplined approach to the process of sorting through new ideas. Not to be confused with invention, innovation implies the idea of doing things differently, to step out of the comfort zone of the status quo into the realm of creative problem solving.
It is through innovation that many successful businesses maintain their competitive edge. This is something Aspin Kemp and Associates already knows. It is fundamental to how they do business, and it is this knowledge that is gaining the company global recognition.
Established in 1996, Aspin Kemp and Associates (AKA) is a Canadian systems integration company specializing in engineering solutions for a number of industries, primarily those specific to the offshore oil and gas and marine sectors. With 155 employees worldwide and over $30 million in annual revenue, AKA has offices in Prince Edward Island (recently headquartered and manufacturing facility in Stratford); Nova Scotia; Ontario; Texas; Singapore; and a sister company in Bulgaria.
From initial concept and design to manufacturing, Aspin Kemp’s niche is power generation and propulsion of vessels. “We use a lot of automation to facilitate that,” explains Jason Aspin, AKA’s Chief Executive Officer, acknowledging that meeting a client’s need is very much dependent on finding resolutions to a unique set of challenges – seeking solutions to identified process problems.
“We’re very much a project centric company,” he continues. “Because there are differences in every sort of job that we do, we need to keep the company very nimble.” Vertical integration is very much a part of AKA’s strategy to secure its position in the marketplace and enables the company to offer a broad spectrum of deliverables. “We are either buying standard product that exists or we’re building right from the mechanical side to the electric side and the controls and automation side,” Jason says. Ninety-five percent of AKA’s product delivery is attainted without having to involve a third party. “We do all of that in-house. That’s unusual for a company our size.”
Clients are Part of the Solution
AKA’s close working relationships with clients are of paramount importance and form the pivotal framework of its business model. After all, it is clients who know best what their process problems are. Partnership enables the client to realize any particular challenge to be addressed while becoming part of the solution. “If we work with them to develop the solution to the process problem, then work with them through the design of concept development, then the design phase, by the time we have a solution the client has ownership in that solution,” explains Jason. Cooperation through partnerships establishes that clients are “a technology partner as well as a client. We are providing that innovative solution… I think that’s a big differentiator with our company.”
Some of AKA’s clients include TransOcean International; Foss Maritime Company; Canadian Coast Guard; Siemens Oil and Gas; and GE Canada. AKA’s recent contract from GE’s Global Offshore and Marine division to provide electrical components, frequency drives and switchboards for drilling ships is expected to create 50 new jobs on Prince Edward Island, welcome news for both the company and the Island. “We’re happy to be in Atlantic Canada,” shares Jason. “We’re hoping that we can build some momentum here and we can partner with other companies and build a cluster that makes this part of the world a marine centre of excellence.”
Jason explains that AKA has been partnering with both Siemens and GE since the company’s inception and that these companies are both client and supplier. As AKA continues to grow, an interesting dynamic is likely to evolve with these companies in terms of competition. “That will certainly cause some interesting challenges as we go forward,” suggests Jason. “I think that keeping an open and honest business relationship and really looking for the win-win sort of scenario to enter into projects when we partner up is what’s critical to making sure that those relationships are maintained and that they’re positives for both parties.”
Building Success through Hiring the Best
Any successful business maintains that hiring staff who have the ‘right stuff’ can be a daunting task. The need to engage employees in a corporate philosophy and vision “is a constant challenge,” shares Jason. Yet AKA has proven successful in the last year alone, growing from 50 to 155 with some very specialized people. “When we’re looking for those types of people we’re looking all over the world. We do have a large element of it where we train in-house.” AKA seeks people with common skill sets and those who can be found in the Maritimes so that through in-house training these employees can fine tune and enhance their skill sets. “When they work with various elements within the company, they can continuously learn as they’re being productive within the organization.”
AKA is a small company – like family, Jason shares – and employees enjoy their work while they acknowledge that “they’re delivering very technically advanced and interesting elements to the industry. There’s a lot of room for them to grow within their own professional career… we try to be as good as we can to our people and treat them well.”
Caring for the Planet
AKA’s vision is to continue growing as a technology leader while ensuring the integrity of the planet isn’t compromised, that challenges are embraced through taking a stand on how businesses could and should operate. It’s a paradigm shift in thinking and operating that breaks free from the status quo and contributes to the well being of all living things on this planet – a social and environmental responsibility mindset. AKA wants to continue participating in green technologies and providing the solutions for these technologies through a constant commitment to innovation and a firm belief in leaving the planet better than they found it.
Says Jason, “We’ve got one planet that we’re responsible for looking after. We’ll look back on what we’re doing today and what we’ve done in the past, 50 years from now.” We’ll really shake our heads and be astonished at how gluttonous we were as a society… we want to make sure that our company tries to leave the world a better place… we want to continue to advance in that area to deliver better, safer and more environmentally friendly solutions to the world.”