Muthu Palanisamy’s Metalcare Group is ready to take off
Growing Concern: Pedal to the Metal
by Nick Frost
#12 on the 2013 Fast Growth 50
Head Office: Fort McMurray
Industry: Inspection Services
2011 gross annual sales: $16,048,362
2010 gross annual sales: $3,484,882
Photograph Greg Halinda
Companies like Suncor and Syncrude tend to soak up most of the attention when it comes to business in Fort McMurray, but it’s operations like Metalcare Group that keep the oil sands going strong. The company was founded in May 2005, and has since grown rapidly thanks to the efforts of CEO Muthu Palanisamy, a mechanical engineer who has worked in inspection services for nearly two decades. Palanisamy was raised in the Indian village of Aniyapuram and completed his diploma and technician apprenticeship in nearby towns. He worked in Singapore before first settling in Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo region and then relocating to Fort McMurray on what he thought would be a short-term contract. He’s lived in northern Alberta ever since.
His company, which was rechristened as Metalcare Group in 2012, provides services in three main areas: quality assurance and control, non-destructive testing and geotechnical material testing. In plain English, that means everything from providing inspection services to working on pipeline and welding projects to testing soil and concrete to filling out construction support teams that consist of field engineers, construction co-ordinators, planners and schedulers.
The company’s bread-and-butter is its testing methods, and they have become renowned within Alberta. As a result, its client list includes major players like PCL, Suncor, Shell and Atco Electric.
Metalcare’s teams use their testing methods to review a company’s equipment and materials for potential faulty parts, and to critique the effectiveness of their practices. From there, they assess any risks that could potentially affect the health of the company’s workers or the safety of the environment and provide solutions to alleviate them.
While oil sands-related business makes up the largest portion of its current workload, the company branched out to Singapore in 2008 to fulfil the needs of an Indonesian customer that was interested in Metalcare’s long-range guide-wave ultrasonic testing services. “We were fortunate enough to have a specialist on our team who was able to support those kinds of areas,” Palanisamy says. “There are a very limited number of companies there that can provide that kind of technology.” Since then, Palanisamy says, the company has added clients in India, Malaysia, Thailand and parts of the Middle East.
But Metalcare’s main focus remains Alberta. Three months ago the company launched a subsidiary based in Calgary called Professionalcare Staffing Services, which also focuses on quality assurance and quality control testing as well as recruitment and project management. Palanisamy isn’t done looking for new opportunities, either, and says Metalcare is “looking into acquiring another service-related business” in the near future. “We are actually very busy here so rather than concentrating our efforts overseas we can direct it towards local [projects] and efficiently manage all of our business here.”
As the company’s business lines continue to expand, so too will its roster of employees. Since day one, Palanisamy has made it his mission to increase the number of people that his company employs, and he hopes to grow its current complement of 120 to 400 by 2015. He intends to do that, he says, by ensuring that he treats his people right – an approach that goes beyond mere financial compensation. “I don’t believe in firing people or letting people go, and different people come with different sets of circumstances,” Palanisamy says. “When they need job satisfaction or they’re in trouble and they need our help, they need to know that we are there to support them. That’s the way I see an employer-employee relationship. As much as we need our employees, they should feel that they need us.”