A certified success
Kennicon Engineering Limited (KEL), located in Marabella, Trinidad, is a premier provider of mechanical engineering and fabrication services for its industrial customers in Trinidad/Tobago and several other countries in the Caribbean region, including St. Kitts, Dominica, Barbados, and Grenada. The company was founded 32 years ago by Nazamudin Mohamed and Mr. Kenneth Salick, both of whom serve as Managing Directors. The two partners had come from the Caroni Limited Sugarcane Company after it shut down operations. “I was a sugar boiler there and he was a senior welder,” says Mohamed. The pair first began a small, two-man burglar-proofing manufacturing business in 1982. “Then we got together and we established ourselves as Kennicon Engineering, Limited.”
Today, KEL employs about 70 workers in various trades – welders, pipe fitters, tank builders, machinists, etc. – in its 65,000 square foot fabrication/machine shop on the outskirts of the Point-a-Pierre oil refinery, near the Point Lisas Industrial Estate. KEL is a specialty, heavy-metal fabricator. Some of its services include: Complete Factory Installation; Machinery Repairs; Industrial Machining; Parts Manufacture – Gears, Shafts, etc.; Specialized Fabrication – Including Sheet Metal Work, Conveyors, Ducting, Coils, Cyclones, Silos, etc.; Industrial Tank Construction and Installation; Structural Steel Works Erection, Installation, Piping, etc.; Civil & Structural Works – Including General Concrete Work, Foundations, Masonry, etc.; Sheet Cutting, Bending, Punching, Rolling of Pipes, Plasma Cutting, Specialized Welding; etc.
Mohamed recounts how, some years ago, the company changed its business strategy and set itself on its current course: “We were like any other fabricator,” he says, “looking for jobs and being a normal contractor. In 1997, one of our employees approached me and asked, ‘Why don’t we get ISO 9000?’” (ISO 9000 is an international quality management standard that presents guidelines intended to increase business efficiency and customer satisfaction. The goal of ISO 9000 is to embed a quality management system within an organization, increasing productivity, reducing unnecessary costs, and ensuring the quality of its processes and products.)
“He convinced me to try it,” Mohamed continues. “So, I went to the Bureau of Standards and I took all the available courses in quality. And we decided that that was what we were going to do. So, in 1999, we became ISO 9001 and 9002, certified. We became the first company doing our type of business to become ISO in Trinidad.” Once KEL achieved that certification, it had to change the way it did things, including doing quality checks on everything from the planning stages of a project, onward. “You had to do a quality plan to get a job done,” he explains. “You had to have quality inspectors; you had to do an inspection at every process before moving on; and then you had to do a final inspection.”
As demanding as they were, the ISO standards allowed the company to improve it operations; there was reduced spoilage, better quality products, and more timely completion of all projects. Mohamed believed that in addition to improving performance internally, certification was a sign that his company had been recognized for efficiency and expertise, and that certification could be employed as a good marketing tool. “In 2002, we added an APIQ1 Certification for oil and gas,” he says. (APIQ1 is the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) Quality Management System Specification for manufacturing organizations in the petroleum and natural gas industry. In a competitive sector, APIQ1 provides a powerful driver for improving organizational efficiency, effectiveness, profitability, and long-term survival. Nearly 4200 companies in 78 countries are APIQ1 certified.)
Market success, however, took a little longer than anticipated. “What we found during the first couple of years,” says Mohamed, “was that companies were not gravitating towards us. It took us a couple of years to really understand that the ISO is not a marketing tool, but a tool that you have to work inside/out to change your company into something that you could market. ISO is a system where it depends on you. You have to control it. You have to develop it. How you use it is up to you. We used it very wisely and we’ve developed the company in such a way that, after three or four years, we established our self in the market as the company that produces a quality product on a timely basis.”
As time went on, KEL’s reputation flourished as it became the recipient of several industry awards. In 1999, it received the Prime Minister’s Competitiveness Award for Services, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Quality in Construction Materials. In 2000, it was recognized by the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce, through the Robert Montano Award for Excellence in Services. In 2005, KEL was awarded the Business Development Company Limited (BDC) and Republic Bank Limited Award for Excellence in Business, and in 2013, it got the Corporate Social Responsibility Award from the South Chamber. Mohamed reports that all of these awards were reported in the local press, affording the company some very positive, as well as free, advertising.
An additional certification for KEL came by way of the Energy Chamber of Trinidad and Tobago’s STOW, or Safe TO Work, program. STOW certifies that a company in the energy sector governs its business according to industry best practices. This gives the major upstream and downstream operating companies confidence that the inherent risk to the health and safety of workers in the industry will be effectively managed. The greatest and most obvious benefit that STOW brings is providing an HSE net to our greatest asset, our workforce. KEL is the fourth company in Trinidad and Tobago to achieve STOW certification and the first to achieve 100 percent compliance.
Today, getting that work in Trinidad’s energy sector has been more challenging, due to the reduction in the size of the island’s oil industry. A company that fabricates large field and other oil tanks, and does contract work for drilling firms, is, naturally, going to feel the effects of a shrinking sector. “About 25 years ago, we had 100 employees,” Mohamed relates. “Right now we have about 70. Our bread and butter are the smaller works that come in over the counter to our industrial machine shop.”
And yet, according to Mohamed, Kennicon has managed to stay in business and hold its market share because it developed itself from the inside/out. “Instead of putting people on the road to market us, we developed our quality, we developed our delivery, and so on,” he states. The company also paid careful attention to the development of its customer base over the past many years. Summing up, Mohamed says, “If you have a customer base that supplies you with continuous work, even when there is a downturn, you will have work to do.”
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Kennicon Engineering Limited
WHAT: A provider of mechanical and fabrication services
WHERE: Marabella, Trinidad
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