Driving the Industry Forward

Domino Highvoltage Supply Inc.
Written by William Young

Domino Highvoltage Supply Inc. is one of Canada’s top critical infrastructure supply chain businesses, serving both North and South America. For CEO & President Grant Lockhart, what makes the company stand out is their understanding of the two different worlds of the public and private sectors in the electrical utility industry, as well as Domino’s dynamic group of companies, which includes AllPower Tools, AllPower Rentals, Domino Highvoltage Supply, Domino Highvoltage Test Labs & Transmission Innovations.

With over 15 years in the industry, as a private sector company, Domino is always on the go, elevating their presence by continuously finding new initiatives to support and lead. Their clients have come to depend on Domino to educate them on new products and services being offered and where the future of electricity is heading.

It’s become apparent, Lockhart notes, that many businesses in the public sector have capitalized on years of complacency, inaction, outdated knowledge and regulations. Domino is committed to pushing past the status quo by forcing the industry to modernize and re-evaluate the way things have “always been done”.

“We recognize the future needs of the industry; that is how we think and operate,” Lockhart says – noting this mindset has guided Domino for the last decade and a half.

Much has happened for the company since its previous feature in Resource in Focus Magazine in early 2020. Lockhart says that, as of last year, Domino is officially the only privately held electrical utility focused critical infrastructure supplier, with stocking locations across the country in almost every time zone. Their suite of vertically integrated services and businesses in the Canadian market has a foothold in both the Pacific and Atlantic regions.

Domino currently has offices in operation or under construction across Canada (in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia), as well as having made the first steps into the continental United States, with a base in Texas. The company has also expanded to Puerto Rico, investing in a new two-story office in the centre of Caguas, and are currently sourcing new regions where they can expand even further.

Lockhart mentions that the company has joined up with RFID (radio-frequency identification) manufacturer Star Systems International to boost its considerable in-house SAAS (software as a service) system. This robust Customer Relationship Management System (CRM) is used by Domino as their centralized database, used across all of their divisions to ensure the client receives reliable and accurate information every time they place an order or request a quote.

Lockhart describes his intention to make Domino the “’Amazon of our industry’ as it relates to our core businesses,” noting that the company is three to six months away from customers being able to view stocked inventory in Domino warehouses, place orders or request services online. Customers will have access to product information, order history and reports, and can manage their own inventory and track their orders. This will boost the high level of customer service Domino customers already receive.

COVID-19 created unforeseen obstacles for many businesses; however, Domino was able to navigate through and ultimately, their efforts resulted in growth. The company did initially experience delays in projects but was able to keep most of their North American employees working. Domino’s in-house software and established procedures helped keep business running as usual, while adhering to both provincial and federal quarantine guidelines.

Lockhart recalls various occasions where Domino went the extra mile, offering employees home-delivered meal programs, rides to work for those who usually take public transportation, and the precautionary suspension of inter-office travel, avoiding even a single COVID-19 case within the company. The Domino team has maintained their enthusiasm and their commitment to support their clients and the industry in general.

The company has placed a growing emphasis on understanding consumer needs, an understanding which has to constantly evolve as new technologies and ideas are presented. Lockhart observes that today’s consumers want innovation, speed, and quality, at an affordable price. Domino sees this demand and proactively sources solutions.

Lockhart enthusiastically promotes Six Sigma, a disciplined, data-driven continuous improvement methodology that aims to improve efficiency and reduce or eliminate errors. The quality and timeliness of product delivery consequently improves, and employee enthusiasm gets a big boost. Domino’s take-up of Six Sigma principles applies to all areas of the company, boosting employees’ understanding of the company, its products, and ways to best serve its clients.

As customers’ demands intensify, a growing trend in the electrical utility industry has been the consolidation and shrinking of former competitors within the market, leading in turn to fewer options for the client and the end user. Domino’s response to both the increase in demand and the decreasing supply option is to ensure coast to coast accessibility, availability of stock, and access to both the domestic and global market space for immediate comparable and competitive pricing for delivery options. Domino gives their customer a customized “made to fit” experience. Domino’s customers receive quotes with multiple options, offering different manufacturers, material, delivery methods, et cetera which best suit their budget, timeline and scope of work.

Domino recognizes their clients’ needs to move away from unsustainable material toward new and innovative products like their Fibreglass Reinforce Polymer (FRP) crossarms, through their division, Transmission Innovations. Domino’s FRP products are lighter to ship and install and add decades to the lifecycle of its application.

Another division within the Domino Group is AllPower Tooling and Rentals. AllPower is a tool and equipment company that offers specialty tools for sale and rent. Lockhart saw the need to alleviate the stress of buying costly tools, for his clients, and quickly added this business to the Domino Group of companies.

Lockhart feels that the electrical utility maintenance and construction industry has been stifled by long lead times, which is why Domino carries over $9 million in inventory in Canada alone. The company’s Major Projects Team presents a global package price to the customer, with assurance from Domino’s Global QC/QA Team that the quality of the products has been vetted and approved for use. The team travels around the world and inspects and audits manufacturing facilities and sub-suppliers – in person – to ensure a safe and quality product that meets and/or exceeds the clients required specifications.

Lockhart believes that it is Domino’s responsibility to provide a product that surpasses the current standards and safety specifications. It is the company’s responsibility to ensure extended factory warranties and that client-mandated increased product lifecycle requirements are met. Meeting these challenges and delivering this type of quality product and service provides, not only to the client but also the end user, a more reliable and consistent means of delivering electricity to their homes and businesses.

Lockhart points to how, decades ago, public utilities had the responsibility of building electrical transmission and distribution solutions and competently devised safe ways to do so, communicating with manufacturers and distributors to create industry standards. With this concern for safety in mind, Domino partnered with ComplyWorks, a compliance management company.

Domino’s collaboration with ComplyWorks has created an ability to see the cradle-to-grave ingredients of every product that is eventually put into service through Domino. “This acts as a centralized library of the global specifications, with historical data, for every product we supply.” If you are a manufacturer, Domino has auditing practices for the types of material used and the processes they go through before being delivered to customer. Those practices may include audits for smelting, forging, stamping, rolling, threading, machinery or equipment, and the transportation of the product. Every stage a product goes through must be approved and documented. “It’s about reducing risk.”

20 to 40 percent of the total cost of a project is in the materials used. It’s above our heads and below our feet every day. The most important thing for Domino is to ensure the best quality is provided to clients at the best price but provides the most current and available safety technology for the end user in day-to-day life. Lockhart asks, “Why are we racing to the bottom price on items that haven’t been updated in 50 to 60 years?”

Lockhart sees remarkable developments in electrical power coming soon to the industry. There is a general trend now toward education and information for consumers. Having a “middleperson” is necessary to deliver, support, teach, and share risk. This is a role that the Domino Group fills perfectly, according to Lockhart.

A trend on the horizon is the move away from massive generation, and overspent public utility transmission supply, and the move to SMRs (small modular reactors). This could mean that, instead of a city or township buying electricity from a local utility as is common, they can buy a few of these reactors to power an entire city with no transmission lines for big generations.

“Someone needs to come up with a new and innovative way to transmit the electricity we generate. Voltage loss on an open-air conductor is huge. So much is spent on making electricity and sending it out, however a lot of that energy bleeds off the line into the air.” SMRs help this problem because they generate power locally instead of across miles, so line loss is minimized.

Beyond this, Lockhart foresees a greater place in the industry for tidal technology, as the planet’s oceans are the largest source of our much-needed energy on the planet. The oceans are much more dependable than wind or solar. As the world has moved toward electricity as a primary source of power over traditional sources, the current infrastructure will need to be upgraded, inclusive of generating stations, T&D and substations.

For Domino Highvoltage Supply, the company’s growth plan includes a move into the public sector. They have secured several utility contracts across the areas they service and operate, which allows them to make further impacts in the electrical utility industry. Lockhart observes that with manufacturers buying each other up, and with the current appetite for M&A within the manufacturing sector, there are fewer than a handful of manufacturers left servicing the public sector market. This ultimately has led to a reduced competitive environment and potential for price gouging.

Consequently, there is opportunity for customer-centric competitive practices in the public sector, although monopolistic practices pose a challenge, as does the education of public utilities that purchases do not need to be made from only so-called “approved manufacturers and suppliers.” The end user loses when there’s no competition.

Latin America is also part of the company’s growth plan. Domino is excited to step into a new world, where they can put their knowledge and practices into place to help improve the delivery of electricity to the end user by providing reliable and sustainable infrastructure.

Lockhart says he couldn’t be more proud of every employee across all of the Domino Group divisions and companies and is excited to see how they will reshape the industry moving forward.

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