MRO Magazine

MAINTENANCE SERVICES: ‘If it spins we can look after it’

"We're in the business of preventing failure," says Jim (J.R.) McDonald, secretary-treasurer and co-founder of Kadon Electro Mechanical Services Ltd., Calgary.He was speaking during the recent grand o...


June 1, 2001
By Harry Pegg

“We’re in the business of preventing failure,” says Jim (J.R.) McDonald, secretary-treasurer and co-founder of Kadon Electro Mechanical Services Ltd., Calgary.

He was speaking during the recent grand opening of the company’s new $5.1-million, 44,000-sq ft rotating equipment repair and training facility which, he says, is one of the best in the world.

The company, formed in 1977 by McDonald and Stu Mugford, specializes in rotating equipment maintenance and repair solutions. “If it spins, we can look after it. Anywhere, any time,” is how McDonald puts it.

Kadon “helps customers to get the most from their investment in plant machinery and rotating equipment, says McDonald. “We help reduce downtime and machinery failures.”

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To provide that service, Kadon has four operating departments: electric motor solutions, turbo machinery solutions, engineering services and instrumentation sales.

The company has clients throughout the world.

Not bad for a couple of guys from Saskatchewan, chuckles McDonald, a native of Prince Albert. Mugford is from Caron. The two met at the University of Saskatchewan and both went to work for Westinghouse.

“Ultimately, Stu and I ended up in the service division.” In 1977, McDonald was in Toronto (where he got his MBA at McMaster) and Mugford was managing the Westinghouse repair division in Prince George, B.C. “We did a market survey and determined Calgary was the place to be.”

With a lot of support from their wives, Kathy and Donna (Kadon is a combination of their names), the two went into business, raising money by selling their homes; their wives went back to work to support the families while the business got off the ground.

“Stu and I were well-trained and knew how to run a business. Hell, we’d been doing it for Westinghouse,” says McDonald. “Maybe that’s why the bank looked favourably on our proposal.”

The fledgling company’s first job came on Oct. 27, 1977 (Stu’s birthday); it was an electric motor McDonald brought into the shop on the nose of his Volkswagen.

McDonald and Mugford didn’t draw a paycheque from the company until February 1978. It was for $1,000. “It was nothing for us to work 80 hours or so a week,” says McDonald. “The economy was booming and it took five or six years to pay off the debt.”

Kadon had been running debt-free for the past 16 or 17 years, until setting up the financing for the new facility which opened back in November, 2000.

“We’re very risk-averse in our approach,” he says, adding that until now, the company has rented its space, preferring to put money into machinery to make money.

“We’re in a game of machinery and long-haul performance. Everything we’ve done has been done for the long haul, nothing we do is on a short-term basis.

“We are a very consistent, solid performer for our customers and we’re not just a nine to five business; we are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And we answer our phones. You don’t get a recording, you get a real, live, person.

“We know the latest technology and processes and we know how to do the work correctly. We know plants inside out and we’ll sell you the equipment and teach you how to use it,” says McDonald, “and we have the experts to handle the tough problems.”

He says his people know what’s required and have made numerous suggestions to suppliers which have brought about changes in their product.

Kadon’s staff of 47 includes electrical and mechanical engineers and journeyman technicians who work closely together to solve and prevent problems. McDonald says its the people who make the difference.

“Anybody can buy any assets you want, but they’re useless unless you get people who are skilled, capable and want to do the job.

“We want our people to be challenged and have a variety of things to do. We cross-train everybody,” he says. “We’ve never had a layoff because in the repair business you never know what you’ll get next.” And when you’re dealing with resource-based industries, downtime is costly time.

McDonald is firm in his support of schools like the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and their apprenticeship programs.

“If anybody tries to mess with those schools, they’re in for a fight. We need the people and that’s how we get them. “We’re fixers, remanufacturers and redesigners. Our engineers aren’t off in another building someplace,” he says. “They work directly with the journeymen.”

He says Kadon brings multiple technological solutions to the customer’s plant manager or maintenance supervisor. “We bring the technical skills needed to solve the problem, we can do the repair on site or bring the machinery here to fix it if necessary. And we can do predictive maintenance to keep the equipment from failing again.”

The company’s products and services include machinery repair and life extension, engineering upgrades and modifications to rotating equipment, predictive and proactive maintenance program implementation, on-site emergency troubleshooting, and machinery maintenance training.

Vibration analysis of machinery uses state-of-the-art instrumentation to ensure problems are diagnosed and fixed right the first time. And the Kadon staff has the expertise to redesign and manufacture replacement parts.

The company supplies turn-key continuous monitoring systems (vibration, temperature, pressure volts, amps, etc.) and will provide training on the equipment and software systems.

The new facility has a state-of the-art, hands-on, teaching facility which provides practical training courses to Kadon staff as well as customers.

Scheduled or custom training courses, which use fault simulators to develop skills needed to diagnose common machinery faults under controlled conditions, are conducted in Calgary as well as at Kadon’s Edmonton facility, or custom solutions can be conducted on-site.

McDonald says there’s a new monitoring system in the works. “We’re working on a system to allow customers to see the analysis of tests with our equipment in real-time on their own computer at their own desk.”

Harry Pegg is a Calgary-based journalist.