By Cheryl Mah
Dangerous environments, risky work and remote locations are just some of the challenges industrial construction contractors face. For TVE Industrial Services Ltd., safety is paramount with the goal of a zero incident rate on every job site. The diverse industrial contractor prides itself on its quality of work and safety record.
TVE is COR certified with a full time occupational health and safety manager. It also offers an in-house safety recognition program that rewards employees for safe work.
“We don’t have injuries on our job sites,” says Wayne Welsh, TVE president and general manager. “We encourage a good safety culture and a high level of safety.”
TVE serves a wide range of sectors including pulp and paper, energy, mining, oil and gas and energy in B.C. and Alberta. The company performs regulatory inspections, repairs and upgrades, new equipment installations and are available for emergency response. Work ranges from complete mine construction and mechanical and mill installations to civil and earthwork, steel erecting and commissioning of industrial processing plants.
The majority of the company’s work is focused on repair and maintenance with 25 per cent coming from capital work.
“We are one of only a couple of companies in Western Canada that specializes in boilers and pressure vessels,” notes Welsh.
With more than 40 years of industry experience, Welsh has successfully built TVE into a trusted and reliable name with many long term customers.
“It’s very rewarding work – coming out of a job with a good safety record, and making a profit has been key to our survival,” says Welsh.
Born in Saskatchewan, Welsh grew up in Prince George and went straight from high school to work as a carpenter’s labourer in sawmill construction. He worked his way up the ranks in sawmill construction for more than 10 years, obtaining his welding ticket and crane operator certification, before moving into pulp mill construction in 1988. He started in estimating before undertaking project managing work for pressure vessels, digesters and other equipment.
In 1992, he went into the overseas mining division with Noranda Minerals. “Noranda was shutting four mines down in Canada and we moved existing mine structures and equipment overseas to different countries – Chile, Dominion Republic, and Central America,” recalls Welsh.
He started his own company CAD Mechanical in 1996, working on various mine projects in Western Canada. In 2005, he founded Thompson Valley Erectors Ltd. with a partner. The company name eventually evolved into TVE Industrial Services.
“It was an opportunity to expand into different areas of construction,” says Welsh about starting TVE. “TVE started as a steel erecting company. Our first job was the Thompson Rivers University stadium. Then from there, we expanded into mechanical piping, vessels and mining.”
Today, the company operates out of its headquarters in Kamloops – an 18,000-square-foot facility with a warehouse, fabrication shop and office space. It has a second office in Kelowna and employs an office staff of about 20 with crews ranging up to 250 during peak construction.
The management team, consisting of five owners, bring decades of industry trade experience to each project and ensure that each step of the process from start to completion is done to the highest standards.
“The key to our company success is that it’s owned by a partnership of individuals from the trades – iron worker, boilermaker, millwright – and we have hands on involvement on jobs,” says Welsh, who oversees operations.
TVE is currently busy working on Teck Resources’ Highland Valley Copper D3 expansion project and a new package boiler installation for West Fraser’s Cariboo Pulp and Paper. The company is also undertaking the annual fall shutdowns for Paper Excellence’s pulp mills at Howe Sound, Mackenzie and Skookumchuck.
“We were lucky that the price of pulp has stayed up and pulp mill work has been good for us. We’ve also partnered with a First Nations company, Kikinaw Energy Services, at Site C,” says Welsh about the current market conditions. “It has been pretty flat over the last few years with the fall of oil and gas, but we see substantial increase in work and opportunities coming up in latter 2018 into next year.”
TVE’s largest and most challenging project to date was at the Quintette Coal Mine in Tumbler Ridge where they had to remove and salvage a 13KM Overland Conveyor through the winter months and over two mountain ranges.
“That job went a long way to getting future work with Teck,” says Welsh, citing other key customers include BC Hydro, Canfor and Domtar.
Moving forward, Welsh says areas of opportunities include liquefied natural gas (LNG) and the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (currently stalled and mired in legal setbacks). “There are lots of large projects that have been sitting on the books… so I think these projects are going to take off in 2019.”
With more anticipated work, the current shortage of skilled tradespeople will only grow. Welsh says the market is busy, especially with the annual maintenance shutdowns for most industrial facilities which require hundred of trades. “Right now large shutdowns and capital projects are straining the workforce,” he says.
Another issue is the steel and aluminum tariff war with the U.S., which is creating supply shortages and driving up prices. B.C. is particularly vulnerable with limited suppliers. For TVE, the impact has been minimal so far but Welsh says, “fabricators won’t hold prices for more than 10 days due to the tariffs and general uncertainty.”
At 63, Welsh is still very dedicated to growing the company, but is contemplating retirement with a succession planning strategy in place.
“We’re going to focus on taking the company to the next level and maintaining our high level of safety and quality,” he says. “The next five to 10 years in B.C. look positive.”
Cheryl Mah is managing editor of MCABC Plumbing & Mechanical magazine.