From its beginnings in 1947, when the company began manufacturing trailers for rent, ATCO Ltd. has grown to become a diversified, multi-national, and publicly traded company, with its ATCO Structures division a leading global provider of modular shelter. With operations in Canada, the United States, Chile, Hungary, Great Britain, and Australia, ATCO Structures is uniquely able to address the need for shelter facilities whenever and wherever the need arises.
“Our business is driven by the need for shelter in the harshest of conditions with delivery in very tight time frames” says Harry Klukas, president of ATCO Structures. You’ll find ATCO buildings on oil drilling fields, mining operations, and even at high level intergovernmental meetings around the globe. ATCO is able to provide factory built units that include living quarters, kitchen and dining facilities, and recreational areas to myriad locations because of the company’s global presence. As well, ATCO has a line of space rental products, which include offices, classrooms, lavatories and custom designed buildings.
The demanding environments to which the company’s buildings are deployed are second only to the demanding delivery requirements the company faces, and meets everyday. “This is a satisfying business,” Klukas says. “A lot of yourself goes into these projects. Nearly all of them are difficult situations with tight time schedules. Getting our clients to not only recommend us to their associates, but to come back again and again to do more business with us is a testament to the dedication and skill of our team.”
ATCO delivers temporary or permanent structures based most often on the number of beds needed. In some cases the company provides only accommodations, but more often projects include everything a small city would need to survive.
ATCO can provide short term living arrangements as it did for the 2002 G8 Summit conference in Kananaskis, Alberta that housed 2,800 security personnel in 300 buildings for two days. It also provides longer-term facilities, such as the 550-bed permanent operations facility designed and built to serve the entire 20- to 25-year lifespan of a gold mining camp in Argentina.
The majority of ATCO’s business is tied to the energy production market and the company’s growth has ebbed and flowed with the economy over the years. “In the 1990s we resumed our growth,” explains Klukas. ATCO started its Budapest operation in 1992 as a wholly owned subsidiary, and began a joint venture in Chile in 1995. “Our joint venture partner, Tecno Fast ATCO, gave us a quick start in the South American market,” continues Klukas.
ATCO continued its expansion when the company opened facilities in Australia in 1998, then started its U.S. manufacturing facility in 1999. Having opened an office recently in London, the company continues to look at other markets that have opportunities for its products. The Australian division was an acquisition and has proven to be a particularly good market for the company. The fact that ATCO started in the Australian market by making an acquisition gave the company a quick start and has continued to provide dramatic growth.
A recent example of how ATCO’s global presence gives it an advantage is a contract to provide facilities for a gas project in the Sahara desert. “Our contract called for very tight deadlines on this project. We used the manufacturing capabilities in both our Texas and Budapest facilities to meet the necessary production schedule, and shipped our units from both locations.”
But building the units and shipping these on time is only a part of making a successful installation. The company provides complete turnkey services by handling the details for clients, beginning with the order and following through to the setup, so all the client has to do is move into the facility.
ATCO’s highly experienced specialists are familiar with local building codes and conditions in over 100 countries. Klukas explains, “Our local specialists provide a significant portion of our value proposition, and we are very proud of what they do. They handle customs, shipping, and erection requirements at the destinations.” The local staff drives continuous improvement in the company’s processes and products by working with clients to understand their needs and deliver to their unique specifications.
The institutional sector is a growing portion of ATCO’s business because modular buildings are growing in popularity, with banks, schools, and retail establishments increasingly turning to ATCO to supply their needs. Many customers who opt for this kind of building blend pre-engineered structures with on-site construction additions such as brick facing and other special treatments.
ATCO’s main business is in serving the natural resources industries. Oil and gas, forestry, and mining are particularly vibrant segments, and the company is involved for the next two to three years in construction programs for workforce accommodations in these industries. These deliveries also encompass the leasing end of the business for which ATCO maintains fleets of space rental and workforce housing units. In the past year, ATCO has entered the U.K. space rentals market.
“This is a demanding business,” Klukas adds. “Our geographically distributed coverage and tight schedules demand that our entire staff must have high energy and commitment to our clients. I am extremely proud of our organization and its resilience. It’s obvious that our clients are happy with our performance as well by the way they continue to bring their projects to us.”