Piling Canada

Transcending International Borders

Samuel Roll Form employees work together for success
Written by Deb Draper
January 2022

Image: luzitanija/123RF

Canada and the United States share the longest international border between two countries in the world, 8,891 kilometres, but that line hasn’t stopped a long tradition of shared commerce and work opportunities.

Samuel Roll Form Group has been manufacturing and supplying an extensive line of cold-formed and hot-rolled steel sheet piling to the heavy construction industry across North America for over 35 years. The company is also an original equipment manufacturer of railcar parts to major car builders. As a division of Samuel, Son & Co., Limited, one of the oldest companies in Canada, with more than 5,500 employees across North America, Samuel Roll Form Group is well-supported and experienced in working across borders.

Expanding south

“When the Roll Form Group first got started in the mid-1960s, it was known as Canadian Metal Rolling Mills,” said Hal Mulveney, general manager, heavy construction, Samuel Roll Form Group. “The business grew over the years into four locations in Ontario and one in Alberta, primarily servicing three industries: heavy construction (driven pile), transportation or railcar, and building products.

“Over the years, our transportation customer base moved south, including into Mexico, and with the U.S. heavy construction market generally being several times the size of that in Canada, we have had to adapt. In 2007, Samuel Roll Form opened a manufacturing facility in Mississippi, and throughout the last six to seven years, we exited our building products business in Canada. Within the last year, we consolidated our Cambridge, Ont., manufacturing location into an expanded manufacturing facility in Iuka, Miss. Our Roll Form Group head office is now in Iuka, with our heavy construction team reporting through the Green Cove Springs, Fla., office. Still completely committed to our business in Canada, we continue to have experienced sales, estimating, engineering and administration team members, plus a large yard operation in Cambridge. In addition, we have distribution yards in southwestern Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec.”

“As part of a large organization operating in three different countries, we recognize that people are our most important asset.”

– Hal Mulveney, Samuel Roll Form Group

Mulveney says that working in both Canada and the U.S. comes with logistical, business and personnel challenges that need to be addressed.

“There are unique challenges and market differences between and even within both countries,” he said. “Understanding the markets, suppliers and competitors, geography and logistics, material availability and pricing is almost a full-time job. While we manufacture cold-formed sheet piling, we also distribute sheet piles from other steel mills, H-bearing piles and pipe piles.

“Canada and the U.S. are large markets with different logistics/distribution considerations, and Canada tends to allow more imports. This means the supply strategy is going to be very different and can vary from east to west. We must be on top of changing North American and global supply strategies and pricing levels, exchange rates and logistics. Last year, in particular, […] presented many challenges with steel pricing and supply issues, trucking, rail, ocean freight, vessel availability and port access issues resulting in higher costs altogether.”

“Samuel is a large company with a number of different businesses spread out across North America and into Mexico, so the challenge is to keep everyone connected and informed on all these levels.”

– Hal Mulveney, Samuel Roll Form Group

Balancing a multi-national workforce

Samuel Roll Form Group has about 200 employees, 180 working in the U.S., and 20 in Canada, almost the opposite of less than 15 years ago.

“As our business needs were changing and we were consolidating our operations, I relocated from Ontario to Florida three years ago,” said Mulveney. “When our company identifies or recognizes a need for experience and expertise in areas where we don’t have resources readily available, they will move people. I found it to be a smooth transition as our experienced HR teams on both sides of the border were very helpful in all areas of the relocation process, and the company works closely with law firms specializing in employee relocation and immigration to make certain the proper paperwork and visas are in place.”

Being under the wing of its parent company has helped Samuel Roll Form Group keep a consistent workplace environment and culture on both sides of the border.

“As part of a large organization operating in three different countries, we recognize that people are our most important asset,” said Mulveney. “The more diverse our workforce, with different points of view and backgrounds, the better off we will be. We must be an organization managing businesses and operations where people are safe and feel like they belong, where they are empowered and see that they can learn, grow and have a future. This is emphasized the same in both countries.”

Having been in business for more than 165 years, the Samuel name and its various division names are well known across Canada. However, in the U.S., name recognition for Samuel isn’t the same.

“We’re in the steel manufacturing and steel distribution business, and that’s not necessarily a ‘trendy’ industry these days. Finding and attracting people so we can evolve and grow the organization can be challenging,” said Mulveney. “Samuel and Samuel Roll Form Group work to attract new team members though various channels.”

In Mississippi, the company has clear onboarding procedures and career planning paths.

“We look for people with certain skill sets, depending on the positions available. These could be general helpers, material handlers, welders, press operators, technicians or equipment operators,” he said. “We have an extensive training program for employees wanting to become mill operators, as this skill is specialized and there is an art to understanding the steel roll-forming business.

“Other areas we recruit for include accounting, finance, sales, engineering and maintenance. Over the last year-and-a-half, training opportunities have been curtailed because of Covid-19, but we have conducted some training online and anticipate we will soon be back to more normal training plans and opportunities.”

Employee compensation and total rewards are handled corporately, and very similarly in both countries with adjustments because of different federal, provincial/state requirements.

“We have to understand the difference between working and living in, for example, Los Angeles, Calif.; Iuka, Miss.; or Jacksonville, Fla.; when it comes to such things as cost of living and tax rates,” said Mulveney. “Our HR team does an excellent job benchmarking to ensure that our team members are compensated fairly and consistently across Canada and the U.S.”

With employees in two countries, Samuel Roll Form Group has had to react to various circumstances regarding employee safety, and Mulveney says that Covid-19 doesn’t stop at the border.

“At Samuel Roll Form, we are most concerned about employee health and wellbeing and have kept the lines of communication open during Covid-19, operating within all the guidelines and reporting requirements, and managing any incidents consistently. In both countries the messaging is the same, but there have been different requirements and timelines, etc., between provinces, states and federal legislation, so we have had to manage within these guidelines as well as on the local level. For example, many employees continued to come into work, while others who were able to perform their work remotely were encouraged to do so.”

“The ‘Torch’ is our general go-to portal for all communications, keeping everyone informed and engaged in the business.”

– Hal Mulveney, Samuel Roll Form Group

It all comes down to good communication

“We believe that what our employees value and want from their careers is the same in both countries,” said Mulveney. “Our team members want to be part of an organization where they are valued and appreciated. We are all looking for opportunities to learn, to grow, to have different experiences and to see a future in a place where one is heard and really listened to. We want to make sure all our employees understand where the organization is going, where they fit in and how they can contribute and be an integral part of its success.”

Keeping everyone informed and engaged in the business so that it moves forward efficiently and effectively on all fronts is paramount to the success of any company, especially one working internationally.

“Every team member wants to know how Samuel is performing overall,” said Mulveney. “Next, they want to know how the Roll Form Group is doing and then how our heavy construction business is doing. Equally important, team members want to know how they are performing individually. Samuel is a large company with a number of different businesses spread out across North America and into Mexico, so the challenge is to keep everyone connected and informed on all these levels.”

Mulveney says that consistent communication and regular meetings keep everyone in the management group on the same page.

“At the Samuel, Son and Co., corporate level, we report monthly business unit updates through financial metric meetings, while our CEO provides a monthly general communications ‘Huddle Call’ with leaders across the organization. Transparency and clarity are critically important, and one of our most useful tools is the ‘Torch.’”

The “Samuel Torch” was first issued as an official employee newsletter in 1966, and today remains synonymous with company news as the name of Samuel, Son & Co.’s intranet, found on every employee desktop/laptop.

“This is the company portal, sharing vast amounts of information: key business updates, company performance and metrics, HR updates, new hires, job opportunities, training, health and safety, location information and capabilities, contacts, strategic plans and updates,” said Mulveney. “We have pictures, updates and stories from across the organization, messaging from our CEO, team member spotlights/anniversaries, training opportunities. The ‘Torch’ is our general go-to portal for all communications, keeping everyone informed and engaged in the business.”

On the Samuel Roll Form Group level, team members take part in monthly business meetings, weekly communication meetings/team calls and ongoing one-on-one meetings.

“We use Webex to meet and share information, and have found this to be very effective, especially as we’ve had to up our electronic meetings throughout the pandemic,” said Mulveney. “We also have a separate HR tool that our team members use to update contact information, access online training, share benefits information, manage career and performance, enter absences/vacation and find relevant payroll information.”

The importance of clear, consistent messaging and communication is further evident across the company through BrightSign – electronic signs or monitors that are in all offices, lunchrooms, operations/plant locations and yards.

“Through BrightSign, the company displays important updates, milestones, key updates, to-do reminders, work anniversaries, facility and employee spotlights – whatever is going on within the company. Each location can create and add relevant and important local content.”

The most important thing, says Mulveney, is that all employees are on board with the company’s mission, and that its vision and values are well communicated from the top down.

“Our mission, vision and values come from our parent company, and these are shared across North America,” he said. “We want to ensure that we’re doing right by our customers, team members, owners, suppliers and the communities within which we work. Environmental, social and governance programs are front and centre at Samuel and its divisions, as are the three pillars of our corporate social responsibility: environment (protecting, reusing), community (embracing, supporting), business (growing, investing, innovating).

“We are all stewards of Samuel’s legacy and future as a business, stewards of our employees’ happiness, of the communities in which we operate and of the resources we use to run our business. We are a fifth-generation, family-owned business and recognize that we have a responsibility to support our communities, protect the environment and make the world a better place for the next generation.”

Those are values that every employee of Samuel Roll Form Group shares, no matter where they work and call home. Piling Canada

This article originally appeared in PileDriver Issue 6 2021, and is reproduced here with permission.

Category: Business

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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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