Hewitt Equipment Limited thrives in a tough Canadian climate
A tough economy only accelerates and exposes the Darwinian nature of industry. Only the strong survive. And indeed, it has not been an easy year for the Canadian industry, particularly for the construction, commercial and industrial sectors. For example, the Heavy Equipment industry is down 25 per cent in Québec and 23 per cent in the Maritimes; however, it still does not compare to the 50 per cent drop that occurred in the industrial and manufacturing industries of Ontario. In times like these, the cream rises to the top.
Let’s take the Hewitt Group as an example. By staying true to the company’s philosophy, that has made them leaders in their field, and they have not only survived, but have thrived, even in these lean times. As the authorized Caterpillar dealer for the province of Québec and the Maritimes, as well as being the authorized Caterpillar and Jungheinrich lift truck dealer for Ontario, Hewitt specialises in the selling, renting and servicing of the full line of Caterpillar products. As such, they are in amalgamation with a whole slew of industries on which the Canadian landscape is built: construction, mining, forestry, agriculture, transportation, warehousing, and any industry that may require machinery or generator sets.
According to Jean Yves Grand, General Manager of Marketing for the Hewitt Group, during downturns, customers have a tendency to partner with secure and financially healthy companies. Hewitt subscribes to the three entrepreneurial pillars—expansion, full service range and investing in people—to create and sustain a Canadian business success story. As a market leader in almost every sector in which they operate, Hewitt has the strength and ability to be adaptable to change, and has made lemonade from economic lemons.
The expansion model
Hewitt’s success is based on years of wise decision making and an adherence to the expansion model. Founded in 1952 by Robert Hewitt, Hewitt started with approximately 40 employees operating from a parts and sales office in downtown Montréal, a service shop in Rosemont and a branch operation in Québec City. Hewitt was soon awarded its first major project, supplying and supporting the equipment to build the Q.N.S. & L. railroad from Sept-Îles to Schefferville.
Piece by piece, Hewitt extended its branch network throughout Québec and Western Labrador. Now with 14 branches, Hewitt puts its know-how and experience to good use, servicing businesses of all sizes from various industries.
In 1995, Hewitt acquired Atlantic Tractors & Equipment Ltd., the Caterpillar dealer for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Atlantic Tractors operates a network of eight branches throughout the Maritimes where its markets are very similar to those of Hewitt in Québec. The two companies work in close collaboration on many fronts, including marine engine installation.
In 2001, Hewitt expanded West by launching Hewitt Material Handling Inc., a Caterpillar lift truck dealer in Ontario that offers material handling and warehousing solutions to their customers. HMH now has four branches which employ over 150 employees.
Hewitt continued its expansion by opening their first Rental Store in 2000 and by creating in 2002 a subsidiary named Hewitt Rentals Inc., Hewitt adds yet another feather in its cap. Under The Cat Rental Store banner, Hewitt offers short-term rentals for a wide range of compact tools and equipment to meet the needs of small businesses and the general public on a daily basis. With over 100 employees and 16 stores throughout Québec and the Maritimes, Hewitt Rentals Inc. is fast becoming a major player in the tool and equipment rental industry.
In 2004, Hewitt acquired Montréal Hydraulique 04 Inc., a Jungheinrich lift truck dealer that specialises in hydraulic and pneumatic component system sales and repairs in addition to cylinder manufacturing.
Hewitt Equipment Limited has a large team presence in Québec and Western Labrador with four divisions (Heavy Equipment, Material Handling, Energy and Engines, and Agricultural Equipment) and with four subsidiaries in Québec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces (Atlantic Tractors & Equipment Ltd., Hewitt Material Handling Inc., Hewitt Rentals Inc. and Montréal Hydraulique 04 Inc.). The Hewitt Group offers sales, services and equipment rentals to their customer while always being true to their mantra of ‘Service par Excellence’.
According to Mr. Grand, “‘Service Par Excellence’ signifies that we work as a team to continuously surpass our customers’ expectations. Firstly, we consider ourselves to be partners for our customers and work with them to reduce their operating and maintenance costs. Secondly, we provide our customers with highly trained experienced technicians, excellent service quality and quick response time. We have the largest network of branches in today’s marketplace. This, in addition with our field technicians and our flexibility to quickly mobilize our team in different situations and areas, makes us a leader in the industry. Also, we always try to offer innovative solutions to our customers; solutions that are oriented on preventive maintenance rather than failure. Our ability to offer condition monitoring on site or from remote locations (via satellite connection) and our multiple online applications (fluid analysis or parts ordering) are a direct result of our ‘Service par Excellence.’”
Since 1952, Hewitt has grown and now employs 2,200 employees, from Ontario to the Maritime Provinces. Mr. Grand says, “I credit the company’s philosophy and mindset that drives us to innovate and develop our business, even when the industry is facing challenges.”
Four divisions of Hewitt—strength of the network
Hewitt’s success is mainly based on their wide product line, their innovative service solutions and a long-term partnership with Caterpillar. They have taken great steps to become a ‘one-stop-shop’. They are perhaps best known for their Heavy Equipment division, which has any and every piece of Caterpillar equipment necessary to the industry sector. (The Hewitt website has a very user friendly and informative catalogue). Hewitt also operates a very successful Material Handling division, complete with specialised advisors who can ease the decisions of material handling and warehousing solutions for their clients. Next is the Energy and Engine Division, whose role is the design and assembly of customised turnkey power generation systems, instrument panels and electrical systems, as well as selling parts for the Caterpillar truck engine division. Finally, the Agriculture Equipment division provides customers with all their soil, hay, harvest and snow removal needs.
“We consider our customers as long-term partners. We have integrity in regards to our prices. We also actively participate in helping them develop fleet management plans to help them reduce their operating and maintenance costs,” says Mr. Grand. He continues, “The company is growing, despite the economic downturn, mainly because we are very focused on market share increases, new product line integration and innovation. It is very invigorating to work for a company with this type of mindset.”
Investing in their people
There is a common thread amongst successful companies, and that is a willing and conscious investment in the most important resource: the employees. At the top of reasons to which he contributes to Hewitt’s success is “the team, and the development of our soft and technical skills.” When asking Mr. Grand about the priority Hewitt places on its employees, his sincerity and enthusiasm resonate through his words. “We take care of our people and this is very important to us. Hewitt’s investment in the apprentice program is vital. We consider it to be a wise decision to reinvest in the resources that contribute to our success. We truly believe that our success is based, for the most part, on our employee’s loyalty, therefore we make it a priority to continuously invest in our most precious resource: our people. Aside from training, Security and Health is also our top priority.”
Crème de la crème
“Caterpillar and their dealers are pioneers when it comes to developing new equipment and tools to help with our customer’s fleet management and maintenance,” says Mr. Grand. A quick glance at just one of a massive list of projects on Hewitt’s resume illustrates the success of the company perhaps even better than describing their business model. Over 70 per cent of the heavy equipment mobilized in La Romaine, the multi-billion dollar hydroelectricity project located North East of Havre St-Pierre in Québec, are Caterpillar. Hewitt Equipment Limited is forging, building and developing a considerable part of Québec major infrastructures. They show how a solid and well-implemented business plan can and will take one through the inevitable ebbs and flows of the market place. They are an example of how if you treat employees greatly, they will show themselves to be great. As the economy shakes off the challenges of the past months, Hewitt will continue to rise to the top and be leaders in their sector and in the Eastern Canadian business climate overall.