Recognized as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Mar 28, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why D&D Automation Inc. was selected as one of Canada's Top Small & Medium Employers (2016):
- In addition to helping employees save for the future, D&D Automation lets everyone share in the company's success through a profit-sharing plan
- D&D Automation encourages employees to give back to the community by offering paid time off to volunteer and matching employee donations (to $500)
- D&D Automation invests in the ongoing development of employees through subsidies for tuition and professional accreditation, formal mentoring opportunities, leadership training and a variety of in-house training programs, including apprenticeship opportunities
Play, learn and mentor at D&D Automation
When D&D Automation Founder and President Michael McCourt is asked what type of work he and his employees do, he replies simply, "We play with robots."
McCourt isn't being coy, given that the Stratford, Ont.-based company is a contracting engineering firm that designs and implements control systems for industrial machinery, manufacturing lines and other automated facilities. D&D's control systems can be found, for example, in automobile factories, wastewater-treatment plants and the mining industry.
When it comes to workplace culture, safety training is key. "We work in dangerous spaces, and we have to have each other's backs," says McCourt, who personally trains new employees on safety protocols. "If people have any concerns, I want to know about them."
That emphasis on not getting hurt on the job means that employees wear their safety glasses not because they have to, but because they respect the potential dangers of not doing so. It also means that McCourt won't contract clients who don't adhere to the Lockout Tagout procedure that disables a machine so a technician can safely service it. "If a company doesn't want to do it, we don't work for them," he says.
To balance the demanding nature of the work, McCourt encourages employees to have fun - and it's an attitude that trickles down from the top. "I want to enjoy work," he says, "so I do my best to surround myself with like-minded people." The employee-driven Fun Time Fund has been put toward such activities as poker tournaments, private boxes at local OHL hockey games, go-carting and a trip to the Kentucky Derby.
"We have a work-hard, play-hard mentality," says Senior Manager Jason Carter, who with his wife took part in a poker tournament. After earning an electronics engineering technology diploma from Toronto's RCC Institute of Technology, he was hired in 2000 to work in the Controls and Automation department. He left in 2004 but only worked elsewhere for six months before realizing how much he missed D&D, so he went back.
"I love the variety and challenge of the different types of projects," says Carter. Over the years, he has moved his way through the company's professional-development TechLeader program and achieved the top "guru" level in several areas. "We're encouraged to develop ideas we're passionate about and advance skills required for future projects."
McCourt fosters a culture of ongoing teaching and learning. "We want employees who want to come to work and learn every day," he says. "The technology shift is going fast and furious. If you aren't learning something new every day in technology-driven industries, you'll fall behind."
Something both McCourt and Carter are proud of are the partnerships that D&D has formed with local schools. Employees mentor high school, college and university interns who are strong in science and math and interested in careers in engineering, robotics and automation. "Parents have cried when they've thanked us for the opportunity we had given to their kids who had attended one of our summer robot camps," says McCourt.
Carter loves the energy and enthusiasm the youth bring to the camps and to D&D's Awesome Battle of the Bots annual competition, where students build and program a robot with Lego Mindstorms. "D&D wants to ensure that students understand that engineering is a possible career path," he says. "We're trying to help students connect the dots between Lego robots and industrial robots. Helping the students learn is one of my favourite parts of the job."
At D&D, McCourt promotes safety and fun, balanced with learning and sharing - and helping shape the next generation. "I'm a huge believer in giving back to the communities in which you work," he says. "I think it's a corporate responsibility. It's not about return on investment to our company, it's just a great thing to do. I want people to love working here and be proud of working here."