Piling Canada

New VP at ECA Canada

Ray Kemppainen has been with ECA Canada for close to 30 years and was recently promoted to vice president
Written by Paul Adair
October 2019

Photo courtesy of Fraley Construction Marketing

In January, Ray Kemppainen was promoted to vice president at ECA Canada Company, a leading distributor of specialty foundation equipment in Eastern Canada. He had previously served as a branch manager since September 2009.

“Ray has been an asset to ECA Canada and this promotion will position him to provide even greater value to our Canadian customers,” said Jeff Harmston, ECA’s vice president, sales and marketing at the time. “We have the utmost confidence that he will strengthen and expand our foundation in this critical market.”

This move to vice president is just the latest step in a long journey for Kemppainen to this point. Born and raised in Toronto, Ont., Kemppainen started in this industry fresh out of Centennial College in 1990 as an apprentice mechanic. He cut his teeth at Toronto-based, Special Construction Machines (SCM), which was the first dealer for Delmag diesel pile hammers in North America. As an apprentice at the shop, Kemppainen was primarily responsible for repairing, rebuilding and setting up diesel pile hammers; repairing and setting up vibratory pile hammers; and building piling leads. Before long, he was promoted to SCM service and parts manager as a recognition of his competency and dedication to his job.

In 2000, SCM was purchased by Equipment Corporation of America and became ECA Canada Company, at which point it became more involved with foundation drilling equipment. In 2004, the company became a dealer for Bauer and its daughter companies, such as Klemm and RTG.

“Then, in 2007, I left to work for another company for two years as a travelling mechanic; setting up and repairing equipment across Western Canada, Mexico, and Panama,” said Kemppainen. “During this time, I was able to gain invaluable experience from the different job sites and received extensive training from Bauer in the U.S. and Germany; before returning back home to ECA Canada as a product support manager.”

In the fall of 2009, Kemppainen was promoted to branch manager for ECA Canada where he remained until his January promotion to vice president.

Overcoming challenges, building opportunities

Throughout his career, Kemppainen has faced a number of challenges. Fortunately for him, he considers overcoming these challenges as being one of the best parts of doing what he does. One project in particular stands out as being especially memorable for its complexity. His crew was required to lower a Bauer BG 20 H drill rig into a shaft approximately 60 feet deep.

“Because of the size constraints of the shaft, the rig needed to be standing up in its drilling position when we hoisted it, as normally you would lift the rig when it was folded down as if in transport configuration,” said Kemppainen. “We managed to pull it off without a hitch, I was extremely proud of our team for figuring it all out.”

Kemppainen also greatly values having been involved with his customers as part of the Toronto Transit Commission’s York/Spadina subway expansion back in 2011-12 and, more recently, the Eglinton Crosstown LRT project; both because of the huge scope of work involved. He is now looking forward to the tackling the 67-kilometre Réseau Express Métropolitain transit project in Montreal, Que., which is of an even
grander scale.

An evolving business

In his three decades as part of this industry, Kemppainen has witnessed tremendous change. In just 20 years, Equipment Corporation of American and ECA Canada have grown from a mid-sized company employing 35 people to more than 85 strong, with a reach that extends from Florida, all the way to Ontario. The branch in Uxbridge, Ont., started with only three people when first acquired and today has 14 employees housed in a new facility that was built in 2012.

From his vantage point as a former mechanic, the skills required to become a technician in this industry have grown exponentially. Diesel pile hammers, vibratory hammers and mechanical drills are all fairly simple mechanical and hydraulic equipment, yet modern drill rigs have multiple onboard processors that use Controller Area Network communications. Due to this, today’s operators need to acquire an in-depth knowledge of electronics, in addition to the traditional mechanical and hydraulics skills that were called for previously.

As another example, when Kemppainen began, the normal practice for drilling caissons that required temporary casing was to vibrate the casing into the ground and later drill them out with mechanical drill rigs and crane-mounted drills.

“But when we brought Bauer on board in 2004, we demonstrated to our customers that you are able to turn temporary sectional casings into the ground by using the Bauer BG hydraulic drill rig; all with steady production and basically no vibration,” said Kemppainen. “This brought about major changes in our local market, since using a vibro in the city core could potentially disturb the adjacent structures. When the city saw that we had a viable vibration-free alternative, vibros quickly became frowned upon.”

Planning for the future

As for the future of his industry, Kemppainen recognizes that, as with many industries across North America, a widening gap in the workforce supply is calling out for more people to start exploring opportunities in the trades; and enrolment at a trade school is a good place to start. Whether it is in heavy equipment mechanics, geotechnical or construction drilling practices, he feels that any related study will give a leg up to those looking at entering the industry. However, that being said, Kemppainen also believes that, even though experience is still an invaluable asset, having people skills and the ability to think on your feet is as equally important in today’s market.

“The business is ever-evolving, and you will need a skill set that will enable you to keep up with the changes in innovation; not only in regard to the equipment, but also changes related to best practices,” said Kemppainen. “Keeping an open mind to changing industry methods and new ways of looking at foundation construction is increasingly critical to finding success. Also, a willingness to work hard is a major requirement. It can be a tough job to work in our field… but it can also be very rewarding for those who work hard.”

In many ways, Kemppainen’s future career plans have already been set in motion with this recent promotion and he intends to use his new position as a means to do what he can to help the company in its continued growth. As such, Kemppainen is looking forward to becoming increasingly involved with ECA Canada’s strategic planning, as well as playing a larger role in the company achieving its long-term goals.

“We are always looking at ways to expand and I am looking forward to being part of the continued and sustainable growth of our company,” said Kemppainen.

Outside of work and in his free time, Kemppainen’s interests include activities such as photography, travel and travelling fast.

“In the summers I enjoy riding my motorcycle and drag racing my SRT Jeep,” said Kemppainen. “I used to be more into photography and I am thinking of blowing the dust off of my camera gear and getting back into it… if and when the time allows.” Piling Canada

Category: Profile

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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.

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