A New Era of Growth and Success

Cessco Fabrication and Engineering
Written by Claire Suttles

For almost seventy years, Cessco has served western Canada as a leading custom heavy fabricator. The company has been providing clients in the oil sands, gas processing, petrochemical, pulp and paper, power generation and mining sectors with design integrity, quality workmanship and unsurpassed customer service.
It is this commitment to service, paired with its extensive capabilities, expertise and long-standing industry reputation that has led to the company’s continued growth and success throughout the decades.

Since the discovery of oil in Leduc in 1947, Cessco has taken full advantage of the burgeoning demand for pressure vessel fabrication and related field services. The company originated as Sparling Davis and later became Canadian Equipment Sales and Service Company or Cessco for short.

Making the most of the historic Leduc oil discovery, the company has remained at the same address since its founding in 1948. However, since those early days, its state-of-the-art facilities have tripled in size and are unmatched in North America for employing the latest technologies.

The site spans twelve acres and is occupied by three large assembly shops, as well as plate preparation and machine shops. Cessco has three heat treating furnaces, the largest of which is modular and its portability allows it to deal with vessels of any size. The company specializes in the largest and heaviest pressure vessels and can fabricate vessels up to thirty-five feet in diameter, 250 feet long and weighing as much as 750 tons, from materials up to eight inches thick.

Cessco has developed strong relationships with steel mills around the world to provide it with the variety of products necessary to meet a customer’s needs: from carbon and alloy steel to clad metals (composites of a cladding metal welded to a carbon or alloy steel backing material), Monel (corrosion-resistant nickel alloys), Inconel (oxidation- and corrosion-resistant austenite nickel-chromium-based superalloys) and aluminum.

The company enjoys the benefit of its Fort McMurray location in the heart of Alberta’s oil sands. This shop boasts a fabrication area of 9,000 square feet on a 2.5-acre property to offer clients the same certification, quality and service upon which they have come to rely.

Cessco designs and manufactures under American Society of Mechanical Engineers Section VIII (pressure vessels), Division 1 (operating at pressures exceeding fifteen pounds per square inch gauge) and the more stringent Division 2.

It produces heavy custom fabrications and performs steel plate forming and heavy machining services. The company’s field services include plant maintenance and repair, shutdowns and turnarounds, emergency repairs, field erected equipment, construction, piping installation and heat recovery steam generator erection.

For all its services, Cessco’s professional, cooperative, effective and safe solutions are rooted in exceptional engineering and quality. The company’s industry knowledge, expertise and commitment to relationship-building guarantees easy interaction that will save clients time and effort, while giving them peace of mind.

“It’s a very well established industry. It’s all based on the standards of high quality and on-time delivery,” said Dave Turner, Cessco’s president and general manager. The company differentiates itself through factors like the ease of customer interaction and the flexibility its employees offer when dealing with the project modifications that happen in the course of any job.

Cessco is also differentiated by its expertise. “I think we have some of the industry’s most recognized experts in terms of our technical knowledge and ability. And I think we can also differentiate ourselves in terms of our willingness, our flexibility and our capability to look at different opportunities, different offerings, different products that we can produce,” said Turner.

The company has grown with the market and, as the market has changed, so too has Cessco. With the plunge in global commodity prices, Alberta’s oil industry has been particularly hard hit. Even in these challenging economic times, the company has managed to remain strong and viable. In doing so, it has been able to maintain its best asset: its people.

“We have done everything we can, even in these economic downturns, to not let people go by our decision. In return, we have very few people who choose to leave. So, we’ve worked very hard to establish that in our organization,” Turner noted.

Instead, Cessco has used this period of slow growth as an opportunity to retool and improve its processes in order to position itself better for the inevitable return of commodity prices and thus its future.

“One of the opportunities of the economic downturn: if you have more time available, that’s not time to be wasted. It can be spent on improving your safety training and improving the capability of your people, investing in the people you have,” Turner explained.

Cessco has undergone a significant transition of late and has welcomed a new senior management team to spark a renewal of the company. Much of the team had retired, which is a common trend when considering the age demographics of the industry and the country.

Turner sees this transition as, “an opportunity to re-evaluate a lot of things that have become very routine and very established within our company, and I think this is a great opportunity to find new and different ways of doing things, especially given our economic circumstances.”

In Cessco’s case, it has simply become a matter of finding new ways to improve what it already does very well: not allowing complacency to reduce its ability to remain an industry leader. As a specialist in a very niche market for extremely large pressure vessels, the company is trying to identify and diversify processes, products and markets.

The size of the pressure vessels being fabricated by Cessco are not easily shipped, limiting its reach. The size of the vessels make shipping cost-prohibitive and pose a logistical challenge.

The weakened economic environment has led to the deferral or cancellation of large projects in the oil sands. To adapt, Cessco has considered the possibility of fabricating smaller pieces and finding potential clients in new markets where its technical abilities can be put to good use.

“The history of this market is such that there was so much demand for what we were producing – what our local competitors were producing – that the local supply could meet the demand. So, there was never the need to do more than was being asked for locally. That’s not the case anymore,” acknowledged Turner.

The company has the support of a strong team and a work culture that breeds excellence. Through this culture, it has been able to attract and retain industry-leading professionals who add to the company’s expertise and increase its reputation for quality.

“We can’t have those capabilities, as an organization, without having the people,” Turner noted. “The technical expertise resides in the people we have. So, in order to attempt to differentiate ourselves at that level, we need those people who have differentiated themselves from other people in the industry.”

Cessco has some employees who have been with the company for over forty years. Its employees are well trained in quality and safety as well as a thorough understanding of the company’s brand of project management. From project planning to completion, the employees work diligently to guarantee results.

The company’s certified quality assurance team is dedicated to upholding standards in all facets of inspection, examination and testing. Quality assurance is measured in every fabrication activity and field service operation. By working with certified industry sub-contractors, Cessco makes every effort to attain the highest standards of quality and levels of productivity.

Quality and safety are of utmost importance to the company. In addition to internal training programs, it has developed industry partnerships that have helped it to comply with industry standards.

One of these is Cessco’s participation in a pilot program taking place with the Alberta Boilers Safety Association, Alberta’s pressure equipment safety authority. “They are running a pilot program for companies that have established themselves in terms of their technical competency, in order to do some expedited design review and approval process,” Turner stated proudly.

Another example is a partnership that has been established with the Edmonton Economic Development Corporation (EEDC), which has a manufacturing centre of excellence. Cessco was awarded a seal of excellence, recognized by EEDC, acknowledging the company’s technical excellence.

The company also has a certificate of recognition (COR) from the provincial government, indicating compliance with Alberta’s safety regulations. “We’ve been a recognized partner for a long time, and we’ve been highlighted as a leading member of the industry in safety,” said Turner.

The company invests in its people and its processes to pursue continuous improvement. “We’ve worked really hard, and we have a fresh team who can look at new things so that we don’t rely too heavily on a great past performance – that we continue to improve and continue to do things better, even if we already did things great,” added Turner. Cessco has taken great effort to re-evaluate its safety program.

“Even though we’ve had great success and long term positive results through our emphasis on safety, it just proves that you should never get comfortable, no matter how good you become. This is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate all the things that have worked well and try to find new ways to continue to improve to avoid any issues in the future.”

As a longtime member of the Edmonton community, Cessco has also found a way to share its success with the area that supports it. It proudly contributes to hockey teams, local schools and charities. The company is a founding patron of the Dogs with Wings charity that trains service animals. It is also a major supporter of The United Way and of programs that provide meals for schoolchildren. Cessco sponsors the Silver Skate Festival, a popular event that is held in Edmonton each year.

It is being led by a strong management team, backed by Canadian ownership that is focussed on long-term success in an industry that demands innovation, productivity and stability. Under the leadership of its new senior management team, Cessco is making the most of a weak economic environment.

As the company moves forward, the focus will remain on diversifying while remaining flexible and adapting its technical expertise. It continues to identify ways in which it can reassert itself as an industry leader, building on its technical knowledge and expertise by investing in its people, its processes and its community to be prepared for the economy’s eventual return.



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