In the throes of winter, the power feed for a data center’s primary cooling system was failing. While most people in Canada worried about icy roads and snowstorms, the center faced a catastrophic loss of its servers that rely on extreme cooling to stay operating. A call was placed to Sheridan Electric in the late afternoon and while staff at head office began monitoring and providing online support and sourcing critical parts, an experienced field crew arrived to handle the problem on the ground. They had already lost one critical electrical breaker and the backup unit was running at 150 degrees Celsius and on the verge of failing.
“If they had lost that second breaker, they would have had to call in very expensive generator support to keep the HVAC systems online,” says Michael Nightingale. “By sourcing critical parts in a hurry we were able to replace both failing breakers in 20 minutes and restore power.” Nightingale is the General Manager of Sheridan Electric, an electrical contractor based out of the Greater Toronto Area in Canada.
“We’re on 24/7,” explains Nightingale. “Production never stops, and manufacturing never sleeps. When a customer calls at three in the morning, they expect an immediate response. We have electricians on-call for power distribution emergencies and technicians on-call for machinery troubleshooting.”
Sheridan Electric has built relationships this way since 1967 – the long-term promise to deliver its strongest when your company is at its weakest. “Keeping production running is paramount,” says Nightingale. “Downtime costs for our customers can be massive and we must be ready to move swiftly and with expertise into any critical situation,” he says.
“While we have continued to take on bigger projects each year, we remain service focused. We aim to develop relationships and trust with our customers, make it known that we are there to grow with them,” says Nightingale. “We are just as interested in a small job to change a couple of lights as we are in a large project.”
The company is an industrial-focused electrical contractor offering a complete range of services to tackle any problem; “we are built to be able to service anything within the four walls of a facility,” says Nightingale. The company’s range includes electrical contracting, industrial automation, engineering services and preventative maintenance. Its customers include manufacturers in areas such as food and beverage, steel, automotive and plastics as well as data centers, generator installations and water projects.
Many Canadians and tourists alike have seen Sheridan’s work in the automation of the unfolding roof and lighting at Toronto’s famous Dundas Square. Canada’s equivalent to Times Square in New York, the stage has welcomed many world-famous musicians and hosted nationwide celebrations.
Originally founded by Jack Nightingale in the 1960s, Sheridan Electric is now a third-generation family company. “The company’s industrial roots started because Jack was savvy with electrical automation and started getting calls from manufacturers needing support for their equipment problems,” says Nightingale. “Where Jack didn’t know something he would go home and figure it out.” The company grew through word of mouth and referrals and customer relationships were born that exist to this day.
“Peel Plastics was one of our earliest customers when, at the time, they were making plastic grocery carryout bags and needed help getting some used equipment to run properly,” says Nightingale. 30 years later Peel Plastics has grown to more than 400 employees and is an industry leader in custom packaging solutions. “We have been extremely fortunate to have forged such a great relationship with Peel and treat every dollar likes it’s our own,” says Paul Nightingale, CEO and President of Sheridan Electric. “It’s all about the trust relationship between you and the customer.”
Sheridan Electric maintains the same family values to this day of trust and customer service. “We place a huge emphasis on trust, quality, reliability, customer service and feedback,” explains Nightingale. “Your brand is what your customers think of you and the product you deliver more than any marketing materials or logos on vehicles. We are obsessed with knowing what our customers are saying and using the feedback we get to continuously improve.”
The customer service process is driven by follow-up surveys, closeout meetings where projects are scored and a tenacity to be an industry leader by building long term partnerships. “Getting that feedback from customers is critical for us to know how we are doing, if training is warranted in certain areas, and also ensuring that lessons learned and success stories are shared across the company.”
While Peel Plastics took decades to grow to such a large scale, Sheridan Electric has helped others to reach that size within months. In 2015, the company played a key role in a new 350,000 square foot brownfield industrial bakery for Weston Bakeries, “which entailed the complete range of Sheridan’s services,” says Nightingale. “From large power feeds to equipment, control wiring for a large batching system, and plant startup support.”
Today, Sheridan is still helping support Weston Bakeries’ day to day operations as well as future expansion plans. “If you deliver a project but are not still with that customer years later, something has gone seriously wrong,” says Nightingale.
The company has seen great growth in the last five years as it has taken on challenging new projects that have pushed the boundaries of what it once thought possible. Most recently, the company delivered on a large $1.6M project to help expand Magna’s Karmax Heavy Stamping Facilities’ production capacity. “The project was very challenging with tight deadlines,” says Ross Kalanda, Construction Manager, “but the field team worked extremely hard to meet all critical milestones and hand the project over to Magna on time.”
“While we have always been known for our emergency service response capabilities,” says Nightingale, “we are increasingly also becoming known as a leader in delivering on large industrial projects. Our in-house engineering abilities mean we don’t need outside drawings to quote a project,” he says. “We can, for example, take our customer’s unique requirements and then design an electrical solution that’s both well-engineered and cost-effective by having complete control over the engineering effort.”
Last year, a company was soliciting contractors to help bring in more power to support a new line expansion. Rather than jump and quote the project, Sheridan Electric’s engineering team suggested performing a power study first and based on that information, they were able to avoid a costly new substation by taking another approach. “By analyzing the production peaks and re-arranging the power distribution network, we were able to bring the new equipment online using the existing power within the plant,” says Nightingale. “We are here to build long-lasting relationships by providing the most value to our customers and sometimes that means talking them out of doing something in favour of a less expensive solution.”
The ability to see the bigger picture and understand a problem from many perspectives is encouraged through ongoing training and Sheridan Electric’s collaborative approach to problem solving. “We focus heavily on training to continuously equip people to reach new heights in their career, while bringing added expertise and value to our customers,” says Nightingale. “We try and identify knowledge gaps from an overall company perspective but also at the employee level and then address them through training and field experience. Anyone who receives training is also given the time to write up an internal training document that can be shared with others. We also have technical experts within the company host regular training events and provide hands-on training to other staff, thereby increasing the technical level of the entire company over time.”
As power systems, automation and technology become more complex, a contractor’s expertise is expected to match, something Nightingale takes seriously. “If you fall behind that curve and you can’t support the state-of-the-art machine or process that your customer is putting in, then you’re not in a position to service them well,” he says. Staff members are continuously trained and have formed a knowledge library where the top experts are always sharing information with staff on the ground.
Six months ago, a major pharmaceutical company suddenly lost the main substation that powers their entire facility. The entire building lost power and Sheridan Electric was there within an hour. “We arranged generator rentals to tie into their service to bypass the main high-voltage transformer that had failed and to get the plant back up and running that day,” Nightingale explains. While the generators were running, Sheridan Electric replaced the substation and all damaged downstream components and was able to bring the new systems back online several weeks later. The plant’s production was quickly restored due to the team’s rapid response, expertise, and commitment to the customer.
Certainly, a lot of backend support is required to make a call like that successful but it’s having the right field people that makes the difference. “Sure the office has to organize people in a hurry and you’ve got to make sure they have the right equipment and tools, but without the technical expertise onsite and a team willing to do what it takes, none of those things matter,” says Nightingale. “All our people share a passion for the type of work we do and understand that our customers are relying on us. Nothing feels better than getting a note when something has been fixed thanking everyone for the effort,” he shares.
“Our company is built to handle any issues that might pop up,” says Nightingale. “One day it could be an automation robotics issue or it could be you’ve lost all power in your building. We have different people in the right places on-call to handle those situations.”
With its focus on customer service and long-term relationship building, Sheridan Electric should be the first and last call your company makes to get the job done. “We aim to be the last electrical contractor that a customer will ever need,” says Nightingale, “by ensuring we have a depth of technical expertise across all departments and a service experience that keeps them coming back.”