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Piling Canada Q4 is here!

Diversification sees company through downturn of traditional market

By Kim Beggar

Morton Jagodich Incorporated (MJI), headquartered in Calgary, Alta., certainly faced a challenge when the oil and gas downturn began in 2014. Just a few years old at that time, the company relied heavily on the oil and gas industry for its livelihood.

“A huge portion of our work was in that sector,” said Jason Jagodich, managing partner of the civil, structural and geotechnical engineering firm.

The company had to refocus, and it did so quickly. The last couple of years have taken MJI to Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Korea, and into the public sector across Canada, in its efforts to diversify in terms of both geography and industry sector. This diversification and a focus on safety and innovation have allowed the firm to flourish in tough times.

Company overview
In addition to its Calgary head office, MJI has offices in Grande Prairie, Alta. and Huntsville, Ont. Jagodich, the company’s geotechnical principal, is based in Alberta; Jon Morton, the civil engineering principal, works out of the Ontario office. With 40 employees, the company is a full-service civil, structural and geotechnical firm specializing in deep foundation design and testing, permitted to practice in nearly all provinces in Canada.

 

Asked to describe what MJI does in a nutshell, Jagodich lists foundation design, PDA testing, static load testing, geotechnical investigations, near-surface geophysics and earth retention systems design. Among its diverse services are:

  • Geotechnical engineering: Foundation design, pile testing, geotechnical investigations, pavement engineering, horizontal directional drilling design
  • Structural and welding (CWB) engineering: Welding procedure development, steel design, bridge design and inspection, building assessments and structural repair, construction review and administration
  • Geophysics: Detection of buried infrastructure/utilities, resistivity surveys, exploration for groundwater, sand and gravel
  • Mining and exploration: Prospecting, exploration planning and execution, geological mapping
  • Environmental: Environmental impact assessments, municipal water-capacity studies, floodplain studies
  • Municipal and civil engineering: Grant applications, cost estimates and project schedules, infrastructure rehabilitation, road-condition assessments
  • Land development: Due-diligence investigations, preliminary/functional engineering design and cost estimates, design, plan preparation and approval applications, management of municipal assumption process, cost analysis
  • Project management: Project financing strategies, assessment of approval-agency requirements, alternatives/feasibility analysis, project reporting
  • Quality assurance/quality control, testing and inspection: Preparation of inspection and testing plans, welding, concrete, soils/compaction, construction inspections
  • Construction management: Tender preparation, proposal analysis, contract administration and management

Since it was created in 2011, the company has designed, tested, optimized and helped to build thousands of foundations worldwide, says Jagodich. The MJI team makes use of high strain dynamic pile testing equipment (PDA) and E-Saximeters from Pile Dynamics. In the geoscience space, MJI utilizes Syscal Pro electrical resistivity tomography equipment, as well as OhmMapper capacitively coupled resistivity meters to measure the electrical properties of rock and soil in the subsurface.

In terms of R&D, MJI is currently experimenting with high-strain dynamic testing on helical piles, in an effort to achieve significant cost savings.

“Typical static load testing is very costly,” said Jagodich. “We’re attempting to apply driven pile testing technology to helical piles.”

Projects
For a recent project in Kurdistan, Iraq, MJI provided engineering design services for a major facility expansion. The design included civil site grading, 12,000-barrel tank foundations with secondary containment, pipe rack foundations and structural components, an access platform, manifold skids, vessel foundations, gas-boot foundations and  are stacks.

“Innovation was a necessity,” said Jagodich, as the company was able to plan only for the use of the limited equipment available on site.

In a project closer to home, the company did foundation engineering and testing work for Tecnicas Reunidas on the sulphur recovery unit the Spanish company is building at the Sturgeon Refinery in Redwater, Alta, northeast of Edmonton. For MJI, this meant working on a “high-profile project with a foreign client, providing local testing and design metrics,” said Jagodich.

MJI was commissioned to design a lift assembly with a 100-tonne load rating. The lifting device – three spreader beams and a system of slings and shackles – was designed in Canada to European codes and fabricated in the United Arab Emirates, and is to be utilized for heavy lifts of high- and low-pressure oil and gas separators in Iraq – truly an international project.

In Manitoba, MJI completed foundation engineering, testing and inspection work on an expansion of the Alberta Clipper, an oil pipeline owned and operated by Enbridge.

While many of its projects have been in Alberta, the company has completed work across Canada, from B.C. to Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Until there’s a significant bounce-back in the Alberta economy,” said Jagodich, MJI will continue to focus on projects throughout the country and around the world.

Focus on safety
In two important ways, MJI works to ensure that its employees are safe on the job. First, it makes sure, as Jagodich says, that workers are competent, thoroughly capable of completing their assigned tasks before entering an active worksite.

“We do immense due diligence in this area,” said Jagodich, noting that employees gain and prove their competency through experience, training, third-party certification and peer auditing done about once a quarter.

Second, on any project, the team meets each morning to complete a safety and job-hazards assessment; these discussions provide a daily safety refresher for all employees and support a strong safety culture.

The company is a member of ISNetWorld and PICS, two contractor prequalification and screening companies. Its safety program is governed by those and other certifying bodies, including ComplyWorks, Deloitte and the BC Forest Safety Council.

Future plans
“We plan to continue to diversify our business into new geographic regions and industrial sectors, and enjoy continued growth,” said Jagodich. “ at strategy has allowed us to flourish in tough times; we don’t want to lose sight of that.”

Diversification is a strategy espoused by people in all kinds of industries. According to a November 2015 report by the Business Development Bank of Canada, a survey of nearly 1,000 Alberta businesses found that diversification “correlates strongly and positively with financial success.” Clearly MJI has discovered this truth and is making good on its promise.

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.