Cole Engineering

Engineering a Culture of Canadian Excellence

In a fiercely competitive global market, the mantra “bigger is better” is a goal for many small-to medium-sized Canadian businesses. But Cole Engineering Group Ltd. is jettisoning this tactic and making excellence and innovation its modus operandi. The firm has recently been working on projects for municipalities, such as Toronto, Peel, York, Niagara, Durham, Halton, Peterborough and Ottawa.

Founded in 2003, Cole Engineering provides civil engineering and advisory consulting on infrastructure projects to private developers and the public sector. Its four main divisions include the environment and energy, water and related infrastructure, transportation and urban development.

The Canadian Business Journal spoke with President Mohsen Mortada about Cole Engineering’s future focus, its commitment to excellence and recent projects.

“We’re strong believers in sustainable infrastructure. We look at development in an environmental context to make sure we’re minimizing potentially negative impacts on the environment,” Mortada says. “And also looking at sustainable infrastructure, using renewable energies, where possible, and creating efficiencies that reduce operating costs and environmental footprint.”

With 280 technical and support staff in Canada and the Caribbean, Mortada says the mid-size engineering firm is more innovative and client focused than larger corporate firms. With its headquarters in Toronto, it has a client-centric culture and consolidated decision making leadership team. “Everything we do and all the decisions are made within the same office in Toronto in collaboration with our four regional offices,” he says. “It’s pretty convenient for our Clients.”

“Cole Engineering’s teams work with global talent from industry and academia to bring best value to our clients,” Mortada continues.

A New Direction

Cole Engineering has private sector roots. However, the firm recently expanded into the public sector because of the growing demand for environmentally sustainable infrastructure. “We realized that it was necessary to provide services to the public sector in an integrated fashion, looking at all stakeholders with an eye on the environment, because it is very important for growth to be calculated and environmentally sound.”

Cole Engineering’s public sector services focus on larger infrastructure projects and its skill set and talent is transferable between the private and public sector. “We give clients a deeper perspective not just in one or two specialized services. We bring a wider perspective, and expertise” he says. “And we always look at solutions from our clients’ perspective and from a community perspective.”

Cole Engineering has just finalized its strategic plan. The strategy outlines the firms vision, mission, values, and roadmap for achieving its vision: To be the preferred consultant and employer of choice.

A Holistic Approach

A key feature of Cole Engineering is its holistic approach to infrastructure development. For example, in revitalizing Oakville’s wastewater systems, Cole Engineering has worked closely with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and Halton Conservative to guarantee that its innovative micro-tunnel design does not negatively affect Oakville’s vibrant natural environment. Cole Engineering also created a community involvement program to ensure the project’s construction has residents’ support.

“Our planning and asset management group looks at ways to operate municipal systems more efficiently; we look at the environmental impacts. The whole lifecycle of “intelligent” infrastructure, from planning to decommissioning,” Mortada says. “We take a holistic approach that considers the environment, operations and maintenance costs while minimizing disturbance to local communities.”

Other examples include large infrastructure projects in Peel, Niagara, Hamilton, amongst other regions.

Business Excellence the Canadian Way

Cole Engineering strives to be the consultant of choice for both clients and employees. To help achieve this goal, in 2015, Cole Engineering joined “Excellence Canada”, an independent, not-for-profit corporation dedicated to advancing organizational performance across Canada. To ensure the firm maintains a culture of excellence and high performance Mortada says it is currently going through a certification process with Excellence Canada.

The firm develops Canadian talent by hiring new talent, new graduates, and engineers, providing them with training and career development opportunities. We support projects throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East “We strive to create excellence in the workplace and export Canadian talent and knowledge globally,” he says.

And the effort is paying off. Cole Engineering was named Top 200 Fastest Growing Companies in Canada by Profit Magazine, Top 400 “Best Managed” Companies in Canada (under 400 employees) and Top 50 “Best Managed Companies.” The firm also reports that 80 per cent of its work comes from repeat clients.

To develop a culture of excellence, Cole Engineering promotes lifelong learning and knowledge sharing. In September, it participated in Calgary’s Livable Cities Forum on building flood resilient communities. As a leader in storm management, the firm discussed some projects and methodologies used to prevent and resolve flooding in Ontario.

In October, it participated in the Water Environment Association of Ontario’s first annual Utility Management Forum. The forum discussed utility management, including adapting to change, succession planning and bridging the workforce generation gap, as well as emergency preparedness and determining the value of water.

In fact, the value of water is an important issue for our environment and Cole Engineering actively promotes a culture and practice of water reuse. “I believe that water reuse will become a necessity for every country including Canada which has over 18% of the world’s fresh water supply,” Mortada says. “We need to develop the proper policies, infrastructure, governance and standards in order to provide the generations to come with clean potable water.”

A Leader in Storm Management

Many of Cole Engineering’s public sector recent projects involve storm water management. In 2012, the firm identified areas in Peterborough that are susceptible to basement flooding, and designed a cost effective solution to decrease the impact of major storms.

In Oakville, Cole Engineering is currently modernizing the city’s wastewater system. For this project, the firm discovered innovative solutions for Oakville’s unique infrastructure and ecosystem. For example, it developed a “large, cast-in-place concrete chamber with integrated valves and controls, and a custom-designed vortex funnel,” according the Cole Engineering website.

Cole Engineering is also a leader in real-time environmental monitoring and solutions. This includes streamlining data collection and analyzing the estimated average rainfall in certain areas during major rainstorms. Cole Engineering provided a storm analysis almost immediately after Toronto’s major July 2013 rainstorm. It used “rain gauges equipped with wireless cell technology and dynamic spatial analysis tools.” As a result of these technologies, “Cole Engineering provided graphical representations of the rainfall distribution across the area,” according to the website.

“Our road to achieving excellence is one of continuous improvement while focusing on our clients, employees, and business partners,” Mortada says.