Hartford Installations

Standing behind quality work

Located in Mississauga, Ontario, Hartford Installations is what you would call a contractor for industrial structures. Providing everything from engineering and fabrication, to installation and maintenance, Hartford is a one-stop shop for a range of industrial sectors, as well as wastewater and petrochemical sectors.

Max Marzetti, Hartford vice president, illustrates: “When you’re on job sites with large storage tanks, you will also find things like pipe bridges, catwalks and platforms to give you access to those areas. Not only does Hartford construct the tanks ourselves, but we also get involved in all of the associated work, such as the detailing, design, fabrication, piping and installation of those structures that would connect these tanks together.”

The storage tank example is a good one because they represent Hartford’s specialty. In fact, approximately 60 per cent of the company’s business is storage tanks and pressure vessels. Interestingly, the company didn’t set out to cover this niche market. They started out by building one in Winnipeg; it was successful and they went from there. Eventually, pressure piping was added to the list, as was pressure vessels, after obtaining the proper licensing.

The specialty has certainly paid off. “There aren’t too many companies that do this sort of work,” says Luca Marzertti, general manager (and Max’s brother). “For those that do, a lot of them end up subcontracting out elements of the project, like the piping or framing. In fact, sometimes we are that subcontractor. The interesting part is a lot of companies will advertise that they do storage tanks, but they hire us to do the job. Or we bid on a job and lose, but end up doing the work anyway for the competitor who won the bid. That only really happens on the storage tank side of the business, because it’s niche and there’s not a lot of competition.”

Company philosophy  

Hartford Installations started in 1993, but its leaders have over 50 years’ experience. That industry knowledge has no doubt been a significant factor in the company’s success. Also key has been a strong work ethic and a customer-first approach. “Our philosophy is to do the job as best we can,” affirms Max, “and to do it on time—even if that is at a cost to us. That way, no one can ever come back and say that Hartford let them down in any way, shape or form. If there’s repair work, it’s also at our cost. We have never left the job incomplete.”

“It comes down to standing behind what we do, no matter what,” adds Luca. “If there’s a mistake, we fix it. If another contractor makes a mistake, we fix that too—sometimes at our cost—just so the customer has a complete product. Ultimately, it’s our name and reputation, and we will not ruin that under any circumstances.”

Hartford Installations’ dedication to its customers has gone a long way; 95 per cent of the business is from repeat customers. “Our return business shows that our philosophy stands,” says Luca. “It’s not to say we have never had to go back and do a repair, because we have, but we always go back and fulfil our commitment and the customer leaves feeling satisfied.”

Responding to the downturn

It is no secret that the industrial sectors, particularly in Ontario, have taken a sizable hit in the last two years. Hartford Installations is no exception. “From what we have seen, everyone in our industry has been affected,” says Max. “We have seen companies that have been around for 30 years who have had to close their doors because they have no work. We get a lot of auction invitations for those selling their assets.”

“When you look at our industry—the prefabrication and installation side—it has everything to do with supply and demand,” Luca explains. “With the huge market boom in the last 10 years, we have seen a lot of new contractors in the field (especially out west). So you have all this supply, but the demand has suddenly dropped off. The banks have pulled back credit, you have less people buying and whatever was in storage people are using. You have an excess supply of tradespeople. And I know, in Canada, there aren’t enough skilled tradespeople overall and there won’t be enough people when the boomers retire, but right now, there are too many people sitting idle.”

“We are taking a hit, there’s no question about it; there’s not as much work,” he continues. “It has meant we have had to be a lot more efficient with the work we do have. We have also been careful with the projects that we are chasing. We don’t want to get locked in to a contract where the general contractor goes belly up, because then you’re left with material supply and no one to pay for it. We have been selective to protect ourselves.”
“We also had to scale back hours to four days a week,” says Max, “but we have worked hard to not lay off any of our core staff. It comes as a cost, but we want to carry people even when times are slow. We’re back to five days a week, which is a good sign.”

Looking ahead

The Marzetti brothers believe the company is well positioned to come out strong. “The industry still needs to get out of its financial issues,” says Luca. “But I think things will get better. The one positive thing I do see is people starting to build things out of necessity, as opposed to speculation. I think the construction projects that move forward will be those with a real, long-term plan.” Max elaborates: “Five years ago, people were spending a lot of money in anticipation for business, and there was no market there, necessarily. I think we’ll see people making wiser decisions.”

As for Hartford Installations, the company will continue to do what it does best: getting the job done right. “When things turn around, you will see us grow, but grow efficiently; we will operate lean and mean” says Max. “We’re optimistic because now is an opportunity to bring in new customers. When other businesses closed their doors, they stopped being able to service their customers. There will be new opportunities to show those customers what we can do.”