Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

March 16, 2022

EIN Thomas Rountable 400By Blake Marchand

Adrian Thomas has been with Schneider Electric for 6 years, serving in several roles before taking on the challenge of Canadian President for Schneider Electric in January of 2021. We spoke to him about his experience in the role so far, his approach to leadership, energy management, supply chain resilience, how digitalization is enabling sustainability, and the importance of diversity and inclusion.

Thomas stepped into the role during the pandemic, which obviously presented some unique challenges, being in different roles throughout his time with the company, Thomas said he felt that he knew Schneider Electric and the Canadian market well, but COVID provided some uncertainty.

“Nobody knew well the COVID environment and what was happening, it was a very interesting time to transition into a role like that. It gave me a very clear priority and focus coming in, which was really ensuring the safety and well being of our teams.”

“It’s a year where I had to be very focused as a leader,” he added. Being the second year of the global pandemic, beyond business commitments and managing protocols, a key focus was a balance of well-being and mental health for Schneider Electric employees.

Before being appointed Canadian President for Schneider Electric, Thomas managed the company’s home and distribution business, relationships with channel partners, their digital energy business (which houses building automation and digital energy services), as well as their electrical distribution business.

That experience, he said, “gave me a good cross section of the go-to-market models that we have, it gave me good interaction with our different customers across Canada, and, certainly, I got to meet a lot of our different employees. The fun thing about being country president is you get to meet a lot more customers and a lot more Schneider Electric employees.”

“The other nice thing about being country president is to get connected to some of the other facets of the business, in addition to the just sales that we do in Canada.” Those facets include becoming more familiar with a couple of their large factories in Edmonton and Montreal, their R&D groups across the country: the Centre of Excellence for Building Automation in Montreal, the Centre of Excellence for SCADA Development in Kanata, as well as one in Victoria for metrology.

Taking on those various roles throughout a six-year span was in part about gaining experience in different aspects of the company, broadening his knowledge of the company’s operations, and building relationships with different client bases, as well as different branches of Schneider Electric.

“In order to lead an organization, I think it’s critical that you spend some time with customers.”

Schneider Electric’s largest go-to-market in Canada is electrical distribution, Thomas said his time with that division was instrumental in his development as a professional.

 “That time in gaining experience and working with and developing relationships and partnerships with our wholesale distribution partners, that was critical,” he explained, “knowing that very important client set is pretty critical if you’re going to lead the organization. But I can also tell you I didn’t have experience in field service, I think that’s another critical area.”

We also asked Thomas about his perspective on leadership and how he approaches the challenge of leading a company like Schneider Electric:

“My philosophy is really around getting the most out of people. To do that you need to do, I think, a couple things. You need to be authentic. No leader is the same, but you have to be yourself. Two: I think you need to lead with care, and that means a lot of different things. As I mentioned earlier to get the best out of any given team, people have to feel safe and secure and appreciated. So, when we talk about leading with care its about treating people as you want to be treated. The last thing on leadership from my perspective, is you have to care very deeply, yet at the same time you can’t always take things personally. I think that’s an important thing, when I work with my team, creating the context that we look at: what are we trying to do? How are we trying to do it? And when tough times arise, looking for the solution and not the blame. I think that attitude keeps us moving forward.”

Thomas also said that its important not to lose focus on developing the next generation of leaders. After joining Schneider Electric, Thomas collaborated with their HR team to develop their Pulse Program, “that develops our early career talent and gives them an opportunity to bring solutions and ideas to the company.”

“I think that its super exciting, it inspires me, and I learn from them,” he said, “new emerging talent, I think, is critical for the human resources sustainability of a company.”

Supply Chain

“There are two real focus points here and I think the first, which everyone is experiencing, is the demand for residential constructions and residential products growing exponentially and creating bottlenecks in supply chain. Some of the short-term focus is getting supply chain up to the demand cycle.”

Earlier in the pandemic COVID protocols had an impact on manufacturing productivity, transportation, and logistics. “I would say that’s sort of been addressed but at the same time, even if we went back to 2019 and we had this sort of demand, without COVID, the ramp rate was so fast it would be difficult to manage.”

Over the past year and a half Schneider Electric has committed to over $100 million in capital expenditures to build more factories in North America. “Those will contribute to having more supply in the residential market space,” said Thomas to meet the increased demand now and moving forward.

“And we do foresee that the trend in residential to be more sustainable is certainly there, to make sure there’s availability of products for those homes to be built is crucial.”

Those investments also address supply chain resiliency, “what we’ve seen over the last couple years, winter storms, the freezing in Texas disrupting plastics. We’ve seen issues around electronics and material availabilities. So, in terms of building that resiliency, we’ve worked a lot with suppliers and qualifying additional suppliers into the supply chain,” he explained, “it’s more than just building a factory, it’s making sure the whole upstream supply chain has the capacity and capability to support you.”

“This is our primary priority when thinking about our customers, it’s our responsibility to find solutions that help us get them the products they need, when they need them.”

Residential Energy Management

From the long-term perspective in Canada, Thomas said, with building codes evolving to be more energy efficient, and “as we look at energy costs rising and energy conservation being a bigger piece of our lives, then we have to find ways to manage this,” explaining that, “The way we see the future of this, is not just more electricity but using electricity and energy smarter. This is where we’re focused.”

A big part of that is Schneider Electric’s Wiser Energy, which has been recognized by industry awards as an innovative solution for energy management. Our article with Schneider Electric’s Lorne Hedges looks at how Wiser Energy works, as well as their Square D wiring devices, which utilize the same technology to monitor energy usage while also providing home automation functions.

Thomas said what they are hearing from home builders is more and more clients are looking for a more sustainable house and Wiser is a key piece to that. Additionally, they’ve added a Wiser Approved Installer Program for electricians.

The goal of the program is to educate electricians on the product and how to explain its benefits to customers, while providing additional benefits to electricians getting access to discounts, technical support, as well as visibility to new customers through Schneider Electric’s Partner Locator.

“That’s created quite an upspring in terms of adoption. I think there’s a benefit of really making sure the ecosystem and how consumers access the product is well co-ordinated, and that’s what we’ve done with the installer program.”

Sustainability

Schneider Electric has made a lot of progress on sustainability in recent years and were recognized by Corporate Knights in 2021 as the most sustainable corporation. A big part of that is employing their own technologies on their operations as well as throughout their supply chain.

“Our strategy for 2022 is to build on this journey we’ve been on around being more sustainable and helping our customers be more sustainable. In terms of supply chain, not only is it about bringing on additional suppliers, we have something we call the Zero-Carbon Project. This is a project where Schneider Electric is working with their top thousand suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint by 50% by 2025.”

“We have a tremendous amount of digital technology that we can help customers,” he added.

Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Platform is the IoT system architecture that drives sustainable operations from a performance standpoint as well as energy efficiency by collecting and analyzing data to optimize operations across a number of different industries. Some of which include building operations, IT, electrical grid, manufacturing, microgrids, automotive and eMobility, mining, and water/wastewater.

Thomas explained that “this is all about connecting products on the shop floor, providing control so they can better optimize that, and bringing that data into the cloud so we can do advanced analytics.”

EcoStruxure and the data analytics is also about improving productivity, which is only becoming more important, “When you’re in a supply chain constrained environment, helping customers get more out of the factories, facilities, and equipment they have is really crucial. So, we’ll continue working with customers and driving our EcoStruxure platform to help people be more productive and be more efficient and sustainable at the same time.”

“In this whole discussion around sustainability, the enabler is digital,” he explained further.

“Software is playing a bigger and bigger role in all our lives, in the industrial setting as well, our focus is: technology is a way that we can really make a positive impact on the world. We have a lot of commitments at Schneider Electric in terms of being sustainable and we’re delivering those through digitization. I think that to some degree COVID accelerated this digitization, we’ve gotten comfortable with remote work, we’ve gotten comfortable being more and more active in a virtual setting and I think this is just the tip of ice burg. I’m really excited about what software will bring us and how that will help, not only customers perform better, but how it will help us achieve a climate positive world in the future.”

As part of that strategy, Schneider Electric recently launched their EcoStruxure Microgrid Solution in Canada, as well as a supply chain decarbonization service, which utilize digital tools to help companies and organizations become more sustainable. Additionally, a recent report from Schneider Electric and CNBC shows that companies can reduce emissions by up to 19% through digital tools.

Diversity & Inclusion

Another core focus for Schneider Electric, Thomas said, is diversity and inclusion. Broadening the perspectives within the organization has been key to their success as a company. They have signed on to Canada’s 50 – 30 Challenge, which is an initiative by the Canadian government to encourage organizations to adopt practices that improve equity. The two main goals of the challenge are to improve gender parity by making executive boards and senior management 50% women and/or non-binary people, and improving representation at board/senior management level to 30% for people of colour, people with disabilities, and 2SLGBTQ+ people.

In addition to the 50 – 30 Challenge, Schneider Electric has also earned the Women in Governance Parity Certification for gender pay.

“This will continue to be an important focus for Schneider Electric and Schneider Electric Canada, but I think it’s also something where I’ve also been a voice in the market itself. The electrical market is a market where we have a labour shortage and a great opportunity for us is to find a way to encourage more women to come into this industry. It’s a very exciting industry with a tremendous amount of growth, I think there’s a huge opportunity for the whole industry to benefit by getting more diversity.”

GescanMeet Doug Palmer, Lighting Specialist for the Manitoba region working out of Gescan's Winnipeg office. He helps determine the most efficient and cost-effective lighting solutions for your commercial or industrial project. From new-build layouts to retrofit of existing spaces and interior/exterior lighting solutions, Doug provides a one-stop-shop of lighting expertise.

In addition, Doug supports the application process that allows business owners to receive rebates through Efficiency Manitoba’s Business Lighting Program.

 

 

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Statistics CanadaInvestment in building construction increased 4.0% in February, reaching $20.0 billion for the first time. Most provinces reported gains, with Quebec accounting for over 50% of the increase. On a constant dollar basis (2012=100), investment in building construction increased 3.9% to $12.7 billion.

Residential construction continues to show strength

Investment in single family homes rose 4.9% to $8.0 billion in February. Increases were posted in seven provinces, led by Ontario (+5.3%) and Quebec (+8.2%).

 

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HousingBy Linda Longo, Managing Editor, Electrical Trends

Electrical distributors who do big business with contractors and electricians in new home construction will struggle through another tumultuous year of trying to satisfy record-setting demand while facing down materials shortages. According to recent housing reports, home buyer demand remains strong, but supply chain troubles are holding back growth.

Nationally the numbers will be challenging while within specific markets there could be growth, but supply chain issues could dominate and prolong residential construction projects.

 

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Electric Shock Podcast Interviewby Daniela De Marco, Marketing Manager, EFC

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In EFC's electro|POD "Electric Shock" podcast episode, Gurvinder Chopra, VP of Standards and Regulation, and I connected with experts to explore this topic further. We interviewed Robert Mitchell from Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), the Safety and Technical Program Advisor, and Kaylyn Kretschmer...

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Franklin EmpireThe year was 1942 and Abraham Backman began humbly, working out of his garage in his Montreal home, until he slowly built up a volume of business to afford a modest storefront. This year Franklin Empire celebrates our 80th anniversary, with the 4th generation of family at the helm.

"Today, we are the largest independently owned electrical distributor in Canada, with over 500 employees, 23 branch locations, five assembly and repair shops. and an inventory investment exceeding $35 million," said the company via LinkedIn.

 

 

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Changing Scene

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Gerrie ElectricThe Executive of Gerrie Electric Wholesale Limited announced the acquisition of FM Supply, effective April 1, 2022. They will continue to operate as FM Supply and do not anticipate changes in the way they currently do business with their locations in Waterloo and Stratford; they will now however have access to Gerrie’s inventory and a broader range of products and services.

“The team at FM Supply have a great reputation for treating their customers’ business like our business and work together to deliver an outstanding customer experience. When Colin Moore, Chris Watamanuk and I came to the decision to sell, we wanted to ensure that these customer traditions would be continued and supported in the future” 

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The latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change advised that global scale transformation is urgently needed to combat climate change, however, the Johnson Controls Energy Efficiency Indicator Survey found that organizations are still facing challenges to accelerate their sustainability efforts in key areas. 

 

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John RichardsonThe EFC announced the appointment of John Richardson to the executive position of Vice-Chair for the CMG Committee.

John is Vice-President, Sales with ANAMET Canada and has been in the electrical industry for more than 30 years. ANAMET manufactures flexible conduits in a newly expanded factory in Eastern Ontario. John has served on the CMG Committee for the past few years and has joined the ranks of leading the committee with CMG Chair, Jeff Beare, Stanpro. Both John and Jeff will work closely with CMG Team Lead, Nathalie Lajoie, EFC.

 

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Sandra PedroThe EFC announced that Sandra Pedro will be joining the company as the new Vice President of Membership and Corporate Partners, effective Monday, April 18, 2022. John Jefkins is retiring from his position on May 6th and will work with Sandra over the next three weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

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With a total turnover  of more than US$ 339 million in 2021, Centelsa’s three manufacturing plants in Cali, Colombia and their distribution center in Ecuador will complement Nexans’ presence in Latin America. 

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Peers & Profiles

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SESCO CDCThe Sonepar Ontario Region is proud to announce the relocation of their SESCO Central Distribution Centre (CDC) to its new location in Brampton, ON.

This move has facilitated an amalgamation between Texcan’s large Brampton branch and SESCO’s CDC, as both businesses work together within one facility for the first time. The expansion of the building and the merging of the Operating Companies (OpCos) will assist with facilitating their customer service value proposition.

 

 

 

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