Quality and Innovation

Written by Claire Suttles

Fritzall got its start when Tom Fritz began dabbling in pre-cast concrete for his own farming needs. His creative solutions and commitment to quality quickly attracted attention, and Mr. Fritz’ small-time endeavours evolved into a thriving business supplying agricultural precast concrete buildings.
Soon, Fritzall’s talented team crossed over into other fields, delivering innovative, quality structures of all kinds and materials as a general contractor.

Fritzall was one of the first Canadian companies to enter the wind energy sector, using the team’s precast concrete expertise to form concrete bases for wind turbines. The leap paid off, and the company quickly pushed into other renewable sectors, providing high-tech FIT (Feed in Tariff) solar installations. “We have entered into a number of emerging markets at the right time,” explains Business Development Manager Adam Knuckey. “There have been a lot of areas where we have developed our expertise at an impressive rate; solar being a strong example. We are leaders in that sector.”

Fritzall continued its commitment to sustainability by expanding into the lighting sector, becoming the exclusive Ontario distributor of a super-efficient adaptation of the 100,000-hr warrantied industrial Induction bulb, as well as equally efficient LED residential lighting. Partner Michael Butler, who heads up Fritzall Energy Solutions, elaborates: “We provide superior customer service and an energy solutions approach to reducing energy costs. We don’t sell lights, but partner with companies to reduce their energy costs.”

The team delivers a “cradle to grave” service, including full energy audits and analysis, all government rebate paperwork for Save On Energy (SOE), product recommendations and supply, installation, and recycling under the Take Back The Light provincial program as well as all post installation SOE paperwork.

Fritzall continues to specialize in the manufacture and installation of precast concrete and has maintained its place as one of the largest agricultural builders in Ontario. Using precast components made in house, the company constructs the latest in controlled atmosphere buildings, large industrial buildings and condominiums featuring a wide range of exterior and interior wall panels. The team members are experts in forming and building all types of commercial precast panels and components, offering a wide variety of specialty products including wall panels of machine rolled rib design, exposed aggregate, sandblast, brick/block finish exterior and the ever popular sandwich wall system.

Building with precast concrete offers distinct advantages. “Precast’s installation speed can shave months from a construction schedule, thus reducing construction financing cost,” shares Mr. Knuckey. “The number of trades required can be reduced and, with the building envelope being constructed faster than other methods, all trades can be contained to the inside of the building, drastically reducing health and safety risks. Precast concrete is also long lasting, virtually fireproof and has excellent rain screen, soundproofing, waterproofing and insulating properties. We are certified for quality assurance by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA).”

Fritzall’s size offers an additional advantage. The midscale company boasts a 38,000 square foot manufacturing facility, placing the business “in that goldilocks zone.” The company’s size means that it is big enough to handle large-scale repetitive design jobs while still maintaining the ability to take on technically complex, unique projects. “We are not so large that we have to turn away custom work,” Mr. Knuckey says. The company’s size also gives the team the flexibility needed to meet client needs. “We are able to be responsive when it comes to deadlines. We strive to work to the customer’s ideal timeline rather than imposing our own.”

Fritzall’s company culture also benefits customers. “We want to be easy to work with,” says Mr. Knuckey. Friendliness, honesty, and accountability are all stressed, and hard work is valued. “We have a longstanding hard work ethic that goes back to our roots.” Kerry Campbell, Fritzall’s President and Director of Business Development and Strategy, agrees. “Customer focus and attention is paramount,” he says. “Only after we fully understand our customer’s needs and wants can we begin to offer a product or solution that will satisfy these requirements.”

After 40 years on the job, the company still refuses to cut corners. “One of our big strengths is our commitment to detail,” Mr. Knuckey states. We refuse to make cost savings that compromise the integrity of the product. There are a number of products that could perhaps be produced for less, he explains, but these shortcuts would result in lower quality concrete with reduced strength and durability.

For example, the slats in Fritzall’s slatted floor systems are uniformly deeper than competitors’. “Our competitors reduce the amount of concrete that they put in, which reduces cost,” he explains. “It means a cheaper product for the customer in the short term. But our slats will last five to ten years longer; they are stronger, more durable. Our customers recognise this, and word of mouth referrals are very strong for us,” Mr. Knuckey reports.

Fritzall’s attention to quality makes the company an ideal fit for work in the nuclear energy sector, which must adhere to the strictest standards. Since adopting a Level 3 Nuclear Quality Assurance Program in 2007, the company has supplied high-density insulating bricks that shield nuclear boilers from their reactors and highly sophisticated concrete liners custom-designed to fit within three types of Retube Waste Containers (RWCs). As a Level 3 Nuclear Facility, Fritzall officially meets the exacting standards required to supply products and services to the international nuclear industry. To meet these standards, a third party inspector investigates every step of the process flow from procurement, to material handling and storage, concrete mixing and pouring processes, curing and of course intense scrutiny of the end product before it may be shipped.

Fritzall has been so successful supplying the nuclear industry that the company is called on to come in and finish jobs that other Level 3 Nuclear Facilities fail to complete correctly. “We come in to do a rescue job,” Mr. Knuckey explains. “We have the reputation of being able to consistently make a complex product to scale.”

Looking ahead, the medical marijuana sector is one area within the industrial / commercial sector that is showing quite a bit of promise for the precast concrete industry. “As you can imagine, there is a real security element to pharmaceutical grow operations of this nature,” Mr. Knuckey says. “So many customers are coming to precasters to say they would like a concrete building that is completely secure.” These marijuana growing facilities must meet stringent codes and standards and have very sophisticated security features. “We are one of the first precast companies out there offering a turnkey precast solution to Grow Op buildings that will meet the building code and everything else they need to evidence in their design.”

With so many new opportunities on the horizon, Fritzall’s precast division has been growing at a remarkable rate. “Precast concrete is probably the fastest growing segment of construction,” Mr. Knuckey reports, so it should come as no surprise that these longtime experts have managed to make the most of a growing market. “Our staffing is double what it was a year ago; our sales revenue is more than double what it was a year ago. We’ve tripled the amount of concrete that we have poured at the plant.” Now, with market demand currently so high, Fritzall is refocusing its attention onto its precast division, bringing the company back full circle. “Precast was our foundation, but for the last ten years it hasn’t been the primary focus for us; now we are prioritising it once again.”

“Precast is one of the fastest growing markets in the construction sector,” Mr. Campbell agrees. “Reduced on-site requirements and innovative new Precast products will continue to propel the Precast market. Fritzall has identified this market trend and has continued to grow by winning more long-term customers and adding additional products and services.” And of course, the energy, lighting, and solar divisions will still remain important, and active, parts of the company.

Frtizall hopes to grow the precast division by a half over the next three years. “We have already doubled production from the year before, so we are ahead of our business plan in many ways,” Mr. Knuckey reports. Eager to continue moving forward, the company is busy developing sustainable strategies for the division. “It is all about [creating] more efficient ways of manufacturing precast; embracing new technology and automation while not losing the human connection to what we do. The team plans to continue our focus on tried and true products, while simultaneously developing new products to meet the market’s latest needs. We have some very exciting ideas in the pipeline.”

“After many interruptions in the renewable energy sector,” says Mr. Campbell, “Ontario has a quality long term energy plan in place. This provides project owners, developers, lenders and constructors a stable market in which medium-term and long-term planning can take place. This is especially good news for Fritzall, having worked through the ebbs and flows of a relatively new market sector earning their place as a leading constructor in this market. The long term trend is evident: renewable energy and energy conservation initiatives are here to stay and will only continue to play a more prominent role in future of energy requirements.”

To operate successfully in this shifting marketplace, the team plans to keep focusing on current tried and true products, while simultaneously developing new products to meet the market’s latest needs. Whatever these new products may be, it is a good bet that they will win over even more customers. After all, winning over customers is what Fritzall has been doing for 40 years.



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