Aspin Kemp & Associates (AKA) is an engineering solutions leader in power and propulsion systems for the marine and offshore oil and gas industries. The company offers a full suite of integrated products and services that improve reliability and safety and decrease emissions and maintenance costs. Most importantly, its leading edge technology saves energy.
Our research shows that sustainability is a mother lode of organizational and technological innovations that yield both bottom-line and top-line returns. – Harvard Business Review
This excerpt from the publication’s article titled, ‘Why Sustainability Is Now the Key Driver of Innovation’ (2009), suggests that there is a transition taking place among ‘smart’ companies. This shift comes in the form of corporate innovation goals, one goal of which is to become more environmentally friendly while lowering operational costs and increasing revenues from efficient, innovative products.
Innovation leads the way toward progress and subsequently, sustainability. However, innovation is not easy. Those companies that manage to change, while remaining competitive, are a unique presence on the world stage. It would be fair to say that Aspin Kemp & Associates (AKA), is one such company that is taking a lead role and characterizing what an innovative and environmentally-conscious company could and should look like.
Aspin Kemp & Associates was established in 1996 by Jason Aspin and his business partner Neil Kemp to be an innovative systems integrator for the marine and offshore oil and gas industries.
AKA currently employs 170 people at its headquarters in Montague, Prince Edward Island and its eight offices worldwide including five in North America. Its specialized services of power generation and the propulsion of marine vessels have garnered the company not only international attention but strong long-term partnerships with big name clients including Transocean International, Siemens Oil and Gas and GE Canada.
It is the partnerships that “have really made the company,” says Senior Marketing Manager Mike Bonga. He notes that the drilling rig supplier Transocean, “supplies most of the global fleet of rigs.”
Transocean requests the best engineering possible, and that accounts for the majority of AKA’s projects. “That’s really important to us, because Transocean demands innovation,” Mike says. “We, in turn, deliver that innovation. It’s a win-win partnership… the partnership with Transocean really defines who we are and the activities that we undertake.”
AKA experienced substantial growth in 2015. The company doubled its workforce, doubled its revenue and increased its manufacturing space by five times. Mike explains the increase was seen in Prince Edward Island, “where we’re in the midst of these projects that we started working on in 2014.”
Certainly, growth comes with its own set of rules, challenges and complexities. Any successful business will affirm that growing too quickly can, and probably will, lead to implosion. Growth requires not only a focused strategy but a customer-centric approach and a constant improvement in services, operational excellence and accompanying skills.
AKA is proving to be successful on all fronts. Mike states that the company had to bring in new technology to a rural area of Prince Edward Island while identifying real estate that it wanted to utilize. That facility also had to be filled with skilled talent, much of which was found on Prince Edward Island. “We’ve trained that skill, and we’ve used skill from our global engineering base as well.” AKA have engineers from Bulgaria, Singapore, China and around the world. “They’re all working in tandem with the skills and engineering skills that we’ve gained from Prince Edward Island as well.”
AKA’s vision comes from the mind of Jason Aspin, the company’s chief executive officer in Prince Edward Island. For more than twenty years, he has been working with the “leadership of Transocean to build a better power solution for offshore drilling facilities.” With the last delivery of drill ships, “they are realizing the whole package of technical vision. That has directly benefitted the province of PEI in terms of where we build and what they envision.”
The past couple of years have involved taking the vision and technology developed for drilling and expand it to other industries. “That’s a new challenge and a new vision,” says Mike. “We’ve realized that we’ve developed technology that the rest of the world is trying to figure out, and we’ve done it on a whole fleet of drill ships.”
This new energy technology can be incorporated into new sectors in PEI or northern communities where power generation is required. “It’s technology that we can apply to general industry to make industry more reliable,” explains Mike.
Now, AKA recognizes the added potential in projects for municipalities and the wastewater industry, “which we’re really interested in because we see energy in waste.” Mike acknowledges that developing new technology in the wastewater industry can be difficult for municipalities because it is expensive and most municipalities have to rely on the government for innovation, to a large extent.
It was recently announced that AKA will receive a loan of close to $3 million from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) for the development and marketing of a power bridging system, a project that AKA has been working on for several years. This system will give companies a steady output of energy, rather than fluctuations and will ultimately save money and reduce environmental footprint.
As a corporation, AKA believes that it has a responsibility to improve a community’s infrastructure while lowering energy consumption. Wastewater management is a big consumer of energy. “If we can cut down the amount of energy that waste requires and actually turn it into an energy opportunity rather than energy consumer, then we’re having a positive influence on society by reducing its energy demand.”
AKA formed a partnership with Island Water Technologies (IWT) as a manufacturer of IWT’s new municipal wastewater treatment system. IWT’s system, “operates with a very low energy cost, and it’s in a very small package with a positive by-product, With this new system, we can do that same aeration and the same processing with very, very little horsepower by using a medium in the decomposing of the waste.”
This is just one example of AKA’s plans to diversify its market into land-based projects. Other opportunities for diversification come in the form of, “regional energy projects like powering up remote villages and islands.” Additionally, AKA’s diversified innovations can be utilized to power remote industrial operations like mines, some of which the company has already visited in the Ring of Fire (James Bay) in northern Ontario.
“Technology can be on the natural gas line to generate power into the grid, where our technology would load share with the main power grid,” he says. “We have a lot of interest in that area. We’re balancing our activities between keeping our current business moving along in the offshore industry and developing new business in land-based systems.”
Ultimately, Aspin Kemp and Associates aims to make the world a better place through its commitment to sustainable methods and systems that challenge the status quo. The company wants to be the true mentor of innovation in sectors that have traditionally been large consumers of energy.
“We’re making something better from an energy consumption perspective,” concludes Mike. “And our partners are all working in that exact same direction.”