B.C. electrical contractor harnesses power of technology
Centre Group is on a mission to tackle some of B.C.’s most complex jobs.
Tony Brock doesn’t back down from a challenge.
He embraces it.
As a principal at Centre Group Electrical & Communications, he is always on the hunt for the hardest, most complex jobs in B.C’s Lower Mainland.
Opportunities in life sciences
The company started as a two-person operation that exclusively serviced Vancouver’s iconic Harbour Centre building. But it has since grown into a much larger design-build, end-to-end electrical contractor. In addition to designing, building and maintaining electrical systems, Centre works on data/communications systems and security/alarm systems.
Recently, the company has been tackling healthcare, science and laboratory space opportunities that are on the rise in the region.
“What makes those projects so complex is the fact that there are so many different systems that run through tight spaces,” said Brock. “It’s a significant amount of various building systems that all have to use the same space.”
One recent example is a 75,000 square foot buildout with office and laboratory rooms Centre worked on for biotechnology company Zymeworks. Brock explained that Centre’s team used BIM technology, Bluebeam software, prefabrication and lots of pre-planning to make the challenging build go smoothly.
“We were heavily involved in pre-construction,” said Brock. “We designed the system before we even had boots on the ground, pre-purchased a majority of our system materials and prefabbed a lot of the assemblies that went to site.”
He explained that the power of combining BIM and prefabrication means racking, conduit raceways and common assemblies can all be designed ahead of time, shared with other trades and then prefabricated before being assembled on site.
“That’s why Zymeworks went so well,” he said. “We are able to design our jobs so we coordinate with the mechanical people so we can avoid any clashes. Where we putting boxes or pipes is exactly where they went. We installed it once. The construction industry is horrible for letting issues be handled at site level which creates a lot of down time. You want to be able to be productive every step of the way, push the construction schedule and deliver the project as promised. This is important to our customers.”
A new direction
He had a vision to transform the company into an elite contractor that specializes in highly complex jobs that scare off others.
“I wanted to do the cool and unique projects, not the run-of-the-mill stuff, the interesting jobs that our people can really get behind,” said Brock. “They are fairly sophisticated jobs, the design is usually intense and that really plays to our strong suit. We feel better delivering those projects at a fair price. We don’t like to compete for the bottom and that’s where a lot of those average jobs usually go.”
The strategy is working. Since Brock took the reins, the company has more than doubled its revenue and its workforce has grown to more than 95. He believes that one of the reasons the company has been able to attract workers in an extremely tight labour market is its approach to building, as it takes away much of the stress of being on site.
“Nobody likes to redo their work,” said Brock. “People are happy when they can be efficient and have all the materials they need. They aren’t frustrated on a day-to-day basis.”
Doing what you say
One of the biggest values Brock has tried to instill in the company is transparency with customers.
“If we say we are going to do something, we do it to the best of our abilities. I’ve always been against over-promising and under-delivering,” said Brock.
This means properly forecasting labour, not taking on too much work and having the right team that can deliver projects. Because of the variety of work out there, it’s important that the right team is allocated to the right project for it to be successful.
“We get a lot of requests for our foreman from our customers to work on their project which is very rewarding and speaks to the talent of our field team,” said Brock.
There is also a family aspect to the company that keeps the team motivated to do their best.
“We are a team with young families and would love to see our children move into the business. I have two boys and seeing them as electricians and involved in Centre would be really rewarding. So it’s important to me that we don’t fail.”
Brock added that his vision is to grow and develop the company’s skills to become the province’s premier electrical, data/communications and security systems partner while pushing forward the team’s commitment to efficiency and delivery.