Celebrating 80 Years of Pride and Quality

Roberts Onsite

Ever wonder who keeps enormous plants functioning and in top condition? Meet Roberts Onsite, a dynamic team with massive capabilities who not only do design-building, but also maintain industrial plants across multiple trades – to name but a few of the company’s capabilities. This talented contractor specializes in a host of related trades that take the pressure off its clients and free up their time so they can run their companies, while its experienced teams take care of the details.
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Integrated multi-trade excellence is what Roberts Onsite prides itself on – and the proof is in its client list. This diverse specialist has customers who have been a part of the business since its inception, 80 years ago.

Thanks to innovation, discipline, and consistency, this major contributor to the manufacturing construction sector is able to provide customers with a comprehensive range of quality solutions that save time and money and makes customers’ lives a lot simpler. Roberts Onsite customers aren’t left with the minutiae of small details that must be taken care of, because the company takes care of it all in-house, making its clients’ lives easier.

“For us, it’s all about dedication. Our staff’s loyalty and discipline carry through into everything we do,” says Dan Moore, President.

The company is structured in a way that ensures efficient workflow and speed. Its main divisions consist of millwrighting and rigging, where equipment is assembled and moved and where structural steel is fabricated and installed. Equipment maintenance is also performed in this division. The mechanical division’s teams of pipe fitters, plumbers, and HVAC service technicians are in charge of heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) and plumbing installations while the electrical department consists of both commercial and industrial electricians and a number of communication specialists. The latter takes care of LAN cabling as well as fibre optic installations. The company’s latest addition to these divisions is a new utility group that is charged with taking care of high voltage substations and powerlines as well as street lighting and traffic control installations. Roberts Onsite also maintains a specialty controls and automation department that designs and manufactures small, custom-built automation solutions unique to its clients’ specified purposes.

For those in search of a business partner concerned with customer success, Roberts Onsite is the best choice. The company’s impressive staff retention rate means that generations follow one another and clients are always guaranteed a familiar face, consistent quality, and friendly, meaningful service. “The long-term partnership support that we provide really keeps our customers coming back to us. We’re best known for our quality and consistency thanks to our people. We’ve built excellent relationships with our clients. This is possible thanks to our responsiveness to clients’ needs, because our people are all motivated by pride,” says Michael Birmingham, Senior Vice President.

As Wayne Barnard, Vice President, rightfully says, “Here, pride breeds quality.” While the majority of the company’s employees can be found onsite at customers’ facilities, Roberts Onsite’s 40,000 square foot facility in Kitchener, Ontario is home to around 22,000 square feet of fabrication space, a panel shop for custom builds, tooling, equipment storage, and maintenance areas. It has also established satellite offices with full-time staff at the facilities of three of its largest automotive clients, who include General Motors, Canada; Toyota Woodstock, Ontario; Toyota, Cambridge, Ontario; and Honda, Alliston, Ontario.

Roberts Onsite only has praise for its exceptional team of 300 to 400 employees, whose numbers fluctuate with the seasons. A strong multi-generational trend has led the company to have up to three generations of employees following the same trade throughout many decades. “In fact, one of our longest-serving members was with the company for close to 50 years. Our family environment is very important to us, which is why we believe in promoting from within,” shares Michael. Such expertise is rare and the company prides itself on its people’s dedication to quality and consistency, the driving forces originally set forth by its founder.

Roberts Onsite originally started out as Roberts Electric when Bill Roberts Sr. began installing and servicing oil burners in 1938, in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Ontario. A proud moment came in 1953 when his son, Bill Roberts Jr., obtained his Electrical Engineering degree from Queens University and joined the company. This addition allowed the company to expand its electrical offerings and the father-and-son team continued to build the business until it was rebranded in 1980 to W. M. Roberts Electrical and Mechanical. The change came about when heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), as well as a range of mechanical trades, were added to the business’ list of services. Growth became exponential and in 1984 it incorporated even more mechanical trades, which included millwrighting and rigging.

For Roberts Onsite, the game was now really on, and by the year 2000, the company had acquired a large commercial electrical firm that specialized in communications. It quickly incorporated its additional service offering and from here steady growth took it all the way into 2010, when another rebranding led the firm to become Roberts Onsite Inc. with a fresh new look and a name to match.

Development is a large part of the company’s ethos and the team particularly understands the attention to detail that is needed in manufacturing. Timing also plays a big part in getting projects done on time. “The timelines we are given to work in are extremely tight. If we didn’t have people with the level of dedication that we have, we couldn’t deliver the quality that we do, on time,” says Dan. Thus, the stakes are high for manufacturers and so is the emphasis on working collaboratively with customers to achieve their goals.

To this end, Roberts Onsite prides itself on being there for its clients every step of the way and on providing as much support as possible throughout the entire process. And this isn’t just talk; while the company is a member of numerous trade associations, it also recently voluntarily applied to be audited by the official Infrastructure Health & Safety Association (IHSA) team to obtain its COR™ (Certification of Recognition). This certification aims to ascertain and guarantee that Roberts Onsite does what it claims to do in terms of best health and safety practices both on and offsite. The company passed with flying colours and has since become a fully recognized COR™ compliant operator.

“This certification is not mandatory, but we chose to do it because it reflects our safety culture. We are very proud of the fact that we passed so easily because our people are genuinely committed to helping us do what we say we do,” says Wayne. And that’s exactly what a leading edge safety culture and daily safety practices can do for a company of this size and complexity.

With a history of excellence, the company’s successes have been many. While Roberts Onsite has done a phenomenal amount of work in and on automotive plants, it is also very much respected for its achievements and projects in other fields. These sectors include renewable energy and design-build projects for a number of local universities, to name a few. “Our projects stretch across many market sectors and they have all been great. We’re not a company that can be pigeonholed. For us, excellence and knowledge drive everything we do and we take that into our entire spectrum of capabilities,” says Dan.

Certainly, this company’s vast range of work is as substantial as its expertise, as evidenced by its successful completion of complex, turnkey upgrades of the luggage handling systems at MacDonald Cartier Airport in Ottawa, Ontario. Before this project could take shape, existing equipment had to be demolished. New equipment assembly and fitting followed, and the Roberts Onsite team also implemented the new technology that controls the whole operation – all without impacting the usual flow of this busy airport. Needless to say, the project is only one proud achievement amongst many. Another came about when General Motors’ GMC Terrain and Chevy Equinox became so popular that the automotive giant needed new space in which to build the vehicles. Roberts Onsite was there to expand its Ingersoll facility’s body shop under a fast track design-build contract that included a range of interesting sub-projects such as rooftop houses with their own building management systems.

Here, it is not only evolution alongside the industry that has ensured many successes; the executive team has also come a long way. President Dan Moore joined the company in 2002 and for him, development and planning is a very big focus. “You can’t survive for 80 years if you don’t think about the future. At Roberts Onsite, it’s all about mentorship and pride,” he says. As such, the company’s development focus centers around its team, and personal development is very much encouraged.

Michael Birmingham and Wayne Barnard are both homegrown talents who came up through the ranks over the past 20 years. Michael started out as a resource manager and Wayne in the accounting department. Together the two leaders have evolved with the company and have gained a deep understanding not only of its inner workings but also of its customers’ needs. Michael came to know Roberts Onsite when he started out working for a client of the company as a young man. He was so impressed by what he saw that he decided to join its ranks and has been here ever since – and his previous company remains a customer to this day. Management all firmly agree that business is all about longevity, and are happy to say that even the company’s managers have all been tenured for a lifetime.

Roberts Onsite’s caring extends beyond the organization itself, as it contributes generously to causes close to its heart like Earth Day and a wonderful three-year scholarship and mentorship program through the Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region. Students can choose a course of their choice and where warranted, the company’s contribution includes guidance and conversation about the students’ future studies and life direction. The program also supports young candidates in preparing for interview processes as they approach job-readiness. “It’s a win-win situation because it helps children who may not otherwise have such opportunities and at the same time, we get to introduce them to what we do and perhaps gain valuable new team members,” says Wayne. As part of its 80th Celebration BBQ, the Foundation was also awarded a cheque for $6,000 that will go toward the program.

Despite the current labour shortages that many markets – including the construction industry – are faced with, Roberts Onsite’s reputation as one of the best employers in the local industry helps it to mitigate the effects of the problem. Furthermore, the company is mentoring and recruiting bright young stars from within its community and beyond to ensure a strong team of leaders who will be equipped to usher in the future with confidence. Its growth is supported by a clear vision for a steady increase through acquisition, and to attain this successfully, the company will continue investing in people, processes, and technology.

These principles form the foundation of the company’s planned expansions and the three leaders are confident that grooming a solid base of young contributors as their future successors will keep Roberts Onsite in the lead, as a long-lived company that also remains at the vanguard. We look forward to following this dynamic team’s successes closely in the years to come.

Industry Changemakers

The construction industry has historically been slow to evolve, drawn to tradition over technology. As the industry is in a state of rapid innovation and advancement, organizations like the Toronto Construction Association (TCA) are working tirelessly to build strong member businesses that won’t fall behind.

June 26, 2019, 12:56 AM EDT