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October 07 Businessexcellence 77 When it opens in the spring of 2009, the new Yankee Stadium, home to baseball’s most venerable team, will feature steel fabricated by Structal-Heavy Steel Construction, one of the US division of Canam Group, which has forged a reputation for working on such large projects over its 46-year history as a family-run company. Based in Quebec, Canada, Canam uses 12 facilities to produce, among other things, fabricated steel, bridge girders, open-web steel joists and pre-engineered building systems. It also uses its increasing global reach to help serve its customers. “The Yankees will play in a stadium with a steel structure drafted in part in Romania and a Home Depot that opens in Canada might have components that were drafted in India,” says Marc Dutil, the company’s chief operating offi cer. In fact, thanks to technology, those engineering assets can help keep jobs not only on budget but often more importantly, on time. Even though it has gone international—the fi rm recently acquired a 49 percent ownership stake in United Steel Structures Limited (USSL) in Guangzhou, China, and in early 2007, began production at a plant in Dubai—Canam remains a family enterprise at heart and in each of the 12 plants, the same mantras aimed at ensuring business success are repeated over and over again. “I believe that if you can give the greatest speech in the world once, or say the same simple but true sentence over and over, the simple sentence will be more effective in the end,” says Dutil. One such mantra is about customer service. “All of our employees hear us say over and over that the customer is the boss. From generation to generation, the people who make a living at Canam have heard it repeatedly.” Making sure that message gets across is critical in the structural steel business, Dutil argues. “I wouldn’t like to say we’re in a commodity business because there is differentiation. But at the end of the day, whether it’s a steel joist or a bridge girder, unless you know where it came from, you can’t easily tell by looking at it. That’s why we’ve worked very hard at customer service for the last 46 years.” The other message delivered repeatedly to Canam’s 3,000 employees worldwide with positive results is about innovation. “We are constantly telling our employees that innovation, improvements and ideas are important and that they can contribute to that in valuable ways,” the COO says. Canam operates a grassroots program that collects ideas and rewards them with cash payments and trips to annual awards dinners for those who fi nd ways to save money or time or improve worker or environmental safety. In 2006, Canam created a new corporate division, known as Strategic Innovation Services, and tasked it with managing more long-range and holistic improvements. That group’s industrial engineers often partner with various parties at plants, such as fl oor workers, maintenance, management and information technology, to bring about improvement in all parts of the product development process and the supply chain. Focusing heavily on lean manufacturing, the company relies mainly on its own employees, including a corporate team called the “Research Center for Manufacturing Excellence”. The plants also share their best ideas with each other at a series of benchmarking meetings and more informally through a sense of camaraderie developed within the company. That family atmosphere has also helped Canam win several national Canadian awards for its human resources activities, including a recent award for creating work-family balance. Having positive employee relationships is key, says Dutil, because qualifi ed workers are increasingly hard to fi nd in many markets, particularly those in North America. CanamGroup Algoma Steel has supplied plate and sheet products to the infrastructure and construction industries since 1963 and is dedicated to being North America’s leading supplier through innovation, product improvements and the knowledge of an experienced work force. Algoma has proudly served Canam for over 30 years and will continue to support their growth and development by providing the Advantage in Steel™. Algoma Steel