Looking back over the past decade, Hartley Harris has seen many changes take place in Western Canada’s Oil and Gas sector. Hartley is president of Catch Engineering – a privately-owned partnership created with Executive Vice President Chad Smith. The specialized engineering services consulting company is widely known for its talent pool of experts who work closely with clients on electrical power distribution, telecommunications, automation and control instrumentation.
Catch Engineering’s reputation for working closely alongside customers to provide unique, practical and often innovative solutions to meet ‘electrical-centric infrastructure needs’ is at the core of the company’s success.
“Our people are our greatest asset,” says Hartley Harris. Catch Engineering has a staff of about forty, with several contractors placed directly in client offices. “We have a significant number of professional engineers who are specialists in electrical power distribution, telecommunications, automation and control instrumentation,” says Harris. The company also counts designers, programmers and draftsmen among its ranks, and its tight, core group of trained professionals have decades of combined Oil and Gas industry expertise.
Prior to the creation of the business, Harris, an Electrical Engineer, worked with Smith, a veteran Master Electrician and Project Manager, who has worked internationally at Ber-Mac Electrical and Instrumentation. The two became friends and soon realized they not only shared the same entrepreneurial spirit, but unique and complementary skill sets.
“Since I’m an Electrical Engineer, I served up the theoretical side, and Chad’s got the practical side,” states Harris. Running projects on behalf of Ber-Mac, the pair were responsible for significant client interactions, budgets and scheduling in what was essentially their own ‘mini-company’ within the main business.
This experience helped inspire them to form their own company, a stable, reliable, independent and cutting-edge source of electrical, instrumentation and controls (EI&C) engineering services concentrating on the Oil and Gas sector.
From its headquarters in Calgary, Alberta, Catch Engineering has evolved to meet client needs. The company’s core principals stem from ‘the desire to create an organization that would provide uncompromising commitment to the delivery of engineering and design services focused exclusively on the electrical and automation fields of expertise.’ Its straightforward business model of providing a value-add service to clients through highly-qualified and professional resources continues to generate satisfied clients.
Catch Engineering has a reputation for professional, timely work, which has allowed it to maintain clients who have been with the company since its early days in 2006. After bringing in additional partners in 2013, the business continued to build on its strengths while it fostered new working relationships in the Oil and Gas industry.
The company works with many respected clients, such as Fjords Processing of Oslo, Norway and Husky Energy, one of Canada’s largest integrated energy companies. Catch Engineering is often in the field in rural Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan with consulting licenses for Manitoba and westward through Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. It also works with engineers who have licenses in Ontario and has operated on projects in the United States and, recently, Columbia.
As the majority of its work involves rural Alberta’s Oil and Gas facilities, Catch Engineering has continued working closely with its customers to help reduce operational expenses through innovation in the wake of declining oil prices.
“We’re a niche consultancy, and we don’t only have one or two clients that we work with; we work with twenty clients a month on average and have a list of sixty clients that we’ve worked with over the past couple of years,” comments Harris. “Some are large and some are really small, but because we’re a specialized consultancy, we can offer services to many companies. We become abreast of industry best practices because we work with a large variety of companies, and participate in industry groups in our areas of expertise.”
Since Catch Engineering is an independent, private organization owned by the partners who work for it, it provides advice and determines the best fit for its customers without vendor or platform influence. Catch Engineering focuses on the best available technology and solutions.
This vendor-neutral company is not tied to any particular supplier of electrical equipment such as switchgear, motors or control systems, giving the company a unique strategic advantage which substantially benefits all of its customers. Over the years, Harris and Smith have seen several small to mid-size engineering companies get picked off by large multinationals, which are often purchased by product and equipment vendors. Catch Engineering does not have any hidden agendas and puts the needs of clients first by helping them find the most cost-efficient and best solutions for any particular application.
The company is well-versed with changes in the Oil and Gas industry and has adapted its business to provide services which complement its existing skill sets. This includes database-driven software to manage engineering data and equipment on-site, implementation of on-site electrical generation and telecommunications for critical data.
“We have a lot of experience in Western Canada, and certainly we are one of the few shops to offer that to our clients,” says Harris. “Telecommunication is something that we can do and is within the skill set that we can provide. It’s technology-based, it is engineering-based, and our clients need this. It’s a critical part of their operations.”
The company is also active in substation design and “behind the fence” power generation. “All of these are interconnected,” he says. “So, if we look at electrical engineering as a broad topic, what we did was a narrow band of that, and [we] are standing on that band to add either to our client base or to a number of services that we can provide to any one of our clients, and that has been successful over the past couple of years.”
While providing a range of electrical instrumentation and controls engineering services, including design, drafting and engineering, the company has a strong commitment to safety which is spearheaded by Chad Smith, who is an Electrical Safety Codes Officer in Alberta. As well as a Certificate of Recognition Program (COR) through the Canadian Federations of Construction Safety Associations, Catch Engineering continues to foster a culture of safety through updates, safety equipment and compliance with specific needs from customers.
Staff work in the field most days of the week to meet the needs of customers and accommodate their deadlines, something that the people of Catch Engineering have done since the company was created. This October marks the tenth anniversary of the inventive niche engineering consultancy, and Harris says that an event will be planned in the coming months. “We throw good parties in our office,” he says, “and rest assured, we will have a good party.”