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Bestech expands into electrical construction division

March 1, 2010
by Norm Tollinsky
In: News with 0 Comments

Bestech, a system integration and industrial automation company based in Sudbury, has discovered an ideal way to overcome a depressed business environment. Faced with the worst recession in the post-war era and a seven-month strike that has idled Vale Inco operations in Sudbury, Bestech has broadened its service offerings to include electrical construction and installation.

The new division, led by Glen Dagenais, formerly with Xstrata Nickel, will feed off the company’s advanced technology division and its NRG-1 software product, an energy management solution for ventilation and other mine infrastructure.

Rather than farm out the manufacturing and installation of hardware components required by the system, Bestech opted to bring the work in-house.

An NRG-1 ventilation-on-demand system being developed for Vale Inco’s Coleman Mine requires zone controllers, for example, to control the system underground.

“We’re building these products that complement our software and offering a turnkey solution,” said Dagenais, an electrical engineer who also serves as Bestech’s master electrician.

The division is also building an air quality interface box with instrumentation that monitors air quality and air flow underground.

“We’re building these boxes and electrical panels in-house rather than going out and getting someone else to do it,” said Dagenais. “And we’re also offering installation service.”

The Bestech construction division has created eight jobs and will ultimately employ between 15 and 20 people, he added. In 2004, the company had 20 employees. Today, there are 72 people on staff.

Bestech boasts a half dozen installations of NRG-1 for ventilation management, but all of them are based on schedules or time of day control.

A proof of concept installation of a more sophisticated ventilation-on-demand system integrated with RFID tags on underground equipment is currently being developed for Coleman Mine.

The zone controllers built by Bestech’s construction division will provide backup control in the event of a loss of communication with surface.

“We don’t want to rely solely on surface software controlling everything,” said Dagenais. “If you lose communication and don’t have zone controllers underground, you don’t have anything to tell the system to start or stop.”

The construction division is also working with Westburne Electric Supply and Allen-Bradley, doing some of their assembly work for panels sold into the northeastern Ontario market.

“We have seen enough growth within the division and enough potential for electrical construction work and panel building, both for external clients and internal requirements that we’ve leased a shop and are in the process of outfitting it,” said Dagenais.

A focus on safety is a key differentiator for the construction division, he added.

“I was with Falconbridge and Xstrata Nickel for 10 years, so I was part of their safety culture. I’m a huge advocate for electrical safety.”

While the division will focus primarily on opportunities in northeastern Ontario, the company as a whole is aggressively going after other markets.

“There’s potential business in Latin America, but we don’t want to make any announcements before the P.O.’s are issued,” said Dagenais. “We’re also going after business in the Saskatchewan potash mines.”

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