South East Construction: The Easy Button for Companies
Located in the prairie providence of Canada, Saskatchewan, South East Construction (SEC) is a multi-trade industrial construction company specializing in the Potash mining and milling industry. The company, which began in 1986 as a contractor to local Potash mines in the area, has transformed into an all-in-one service provider for a wealth of industries.
“We looked at our core business and realized there was a lot more we could provide to clients. We decided to revamp ourselves from being just a contractor, to being a service provider,” say Mike Silvernagle, chief operating officer of South East Construction.
In 2010, the company began diversifying its business. It commenced an array of divisions within the company adding concrete, carpentry, electrical, earth works and site services to its repertoire.
The company also has it hands in construction and maintenance, conducting structural steel and piping for companies as well as maintenance and sites service work, including snow removal, road maintenance, water and waste removal. SEC also has a fully integrated steel fabrication and painting facility equipped with an industry leading PythonX robotic CNC plasma cutting machine as well as a full service paint shop.
South East Construction is trained and certified CWB certified, Boiler Branch Certified, ISNet registered, SCSA Certified and a member of the Saskatchewan Construction Labour Relations Association.
“It doesn’t matter what people want, we want to be the easy button for companies.”
In an effort to become the easy button for companies, SEC continuously strives to be better. The company confides in management and team members to find new ways of improving productivity, efficiency and pricing for clients.
“Continuous improvements is learning from one another and continuing to resource consultants and people within our company to help us build what we’re trying to do,” says Silvernagle. “We have a continuous improvement meeting weekly and part of the meeting is focused on changing each section to be more efficient, more streamlined and overall better for the client.”
According to Silvernagle, the goal behind its continuous improvement plan is to build trust among clients.
“It boils down to how fast you can do business when the trust component is there. Once you have trust, the speed at which you can do business is remarkable. We’ve proven the way we do business works.
The company recently invested over a quarter of a million dollars into software programs to better control costs. The investment allows SEC to be more thorough, detailed and conscious of where every penny is going.
“Trust with the client is built through safety, productivity, and cost-effectiveness,” says Silvernagle. “We made the software investment to help us control our costs so we could lower rates and provide clients with the best deal possible.”
“Our clients want to know we are managing there money properly. Trust among the client is vital, and if you have that, the client retention follows.”
Other continuous improvements include personnel. Within its organization, SEC has highly qualified people, including Construction Manager, Project Managers, Superintendents, General Foreman, Health and Safety Manager, Safety Administrators as well as numerous long term employees in foreman and tradesman positions.
However, unlike most companies, SEC doesn’t just look at qualifications.
“It’s all about character and Integrity in our business,” says Silvernagle. “I’ll browse resumes but I like to look future employees in the eye and see if they’re personal, intriguing and what they’re built like. Character is everything to me., and we want employees that will drive to ensure our clients are looked after”
Safety driven company
South East Construction is committed to a strong health, safety, and environmental program that protect employees, subcontractors, clients, property and members of the public from hard.
The company has an extensive training program for new employees that encompass a wide range of training and safety initiatives in the workforce. Along with a traditional orientation with the company, SEC has new employees go through its Safe Start program for training.
“The main question we ask is ‘what would happen if you didn't come home tonight?’ As we force them to write this down, it's amazing what happens. It hits home for people,” says Silvernagle. “After two weeks on the job we bring them back to finish the safety program. It not only helps refresh them and hold them accountable, but it shows we care about their well being.”
SEC focuses on daily assessments. This includes daily job requirements as well as everyday job hazards. It’s reviewed daily with the employee and foremen to ensure employees understand the risks each day and for each job.
In addition, South East Construction has a corporate safety manger that ensures the company goes above and beyond the call of duty in safety.
“We take safety very seriously and we like to reward employees who’ve been exceptional in that department,” says Silvernagle. “We elect an employee at each site who has gone above and beyond the safety bar and reward them a gift. We like to make it personal to show we care.
Recent projects and plans for the future
South East Construction is engaged with Potash Corp and Mosaic in a collection of new and ongoing projects around Canada. The company is involved in numerous Structural Steel , Mechanical and electrical projects on surface and underground.
“We are local to 5 mines in our area. We wouldn’t be were we are today if it wasn’t for Mosaic and PCS. They have helped us grow and supported us all the way.
Since 2011, SEC has been providing site services for the exciting new Jansen Potash mine for BHP Billiton. These services include snow removal, Dust control, Janitorial, misc carpentry, offloading , electrical maintenance, and land management. There workforce has grown to include construction of roads, ponds, potable water, septic and Hydrovac services, road building as well as concrete foundations.
“BHP Billiton’s commitment to safety and operational efficiencies is serious and it forced us to be better at what we do,” says Silvernagle. “BHP is an outstanding client to work for and we are extremely proud to there”
One of the larger, and more challenging, projects South East Construction has undertaken was rebuilding the Tazin Lake Dam for SaskPower.
“It was extremely challenging but it really represented who we are. It was a job we had no experience in but our team stuck together and got it done. The project turned out great and through all the challenges it really showed our integrity as a company.”
Mining Profile: Mike Henry, CEO, BHP
Mike Henry has over 30 years’ experience in the resources industry, working across the globe in Australia, Asia, North America, and Europe; he joined BHP in 2003. A member of the executive leadership team since 2011, Henry has held roles spanning operational, commercial, and technical.
Mike Henry graduated from the University of British Colombia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry. He began his career in the resources industry working for Japanese tech giant Mitsubishi. Henry’s first contact with BHP came in Australia in 1999 when he helped set up the company’s coal joint venture, the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA). By 2001, Henry had risen to Vice President of Business Development for the BMA before joining BHP’s energy coal business full time.
During his time at BHP prior roles have included President HSE, Marketing & Technology 2013-14 and President of the company’s coal business from 2015-16. Prior to succeeding Andrew McKenzie as CEO in January 2020, Henry served as President for Operations, Minerals Australia focusing on iron ore, copper, coal and nickel. Henry led 40,000 people across six assets, with revenues of $29bn, EBITDA of $16bn and a capital spend of $3bn
Under Henry’s leadership, BHP’s Minerals Australia business reduced the frequency of high potential injuries by 60% and, for the first time, became the world’s lowest-cost major iron ore producer.
Mike Henry’s exposure to the company’s global marketing efforts between 2010 and 2015 saw him earmarked for the top job at BHP, developing crucial relationships with the mining giant’s customers in China and Japan.
“His operational experience, his commercial experience, his strategic skill, his global experience … that makes him a great candidate to be the next CEO of BHP,” said outgoing CEO Andrew MacKenzie of Henry’s appointment to the role last year.
Inclusion & Diversity
Growing up in a biracial family with a mother of Japanese heritage who worked as a nurse in emergency services, Henry witnessed and experienced both ends of the inclusion spectrum.
“[Inclusion & Diversity] is quite personal for me.. I am absolutely convinced that having an inclusive culture and diverse workforce is mission critical for BHP,” he says. “Inclusive, diverse teams perform better – because they promote safety, productivity and wellbeing. Getting this right will be a serious competitive advantage for BHP. It will help us secure and motivate the best people, we’ll be more creative, and we’ll make better decisions.”
Henry spent the first half of his career in an environment where he was not from the mainstream, but where people went the extra mile to ensure he felt wholly included. “Without exception, it’s been in high-inclusion environments that I’ve thrived,” he recalls. “Where I’ve felt most fulfilled as a person. When I’ve been most committed and motivated, and where I’ve made my most significant contribution. On the rare occasion when I’ve been in an environment I experienced as less inclusive, I haven’t been at my best – a lost opportunity for both me and those around me. I have two adult daughters and my aspiration for them is that they are able to realise their dreams and potential, unconstrained by gender, or race. I need to demonstrate the values and leadership that reflect where I’ve come from and the world that I hope for and believe is possible.”
Having lead teams globally, across cultures and disciplines, Henry’s experience has been that the teams that have unlocked exceptional outcomes have been those that are highly inclusive. “There’s been an excitement and enthusiasm in those teams that sees people challenge themselves, reach higher, and be more creative,” he notes.
“Those teams are the ones that everyone wants to be part of, and the ones that truly innovate and push the organisation to new frontiers. Being part of those teams and leading them has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my career. I am passionate about seeing people stretch themselves, learn that they’re capable of more than they perhaps thought and experience the joy of realising great outcomes.”
What does the future hold? "BHP is a company that is steeped in history,” said Henry on his appointment last year. “The one constant for the whole of BHP’s 153-year history had been great people. If you’ve got the right people you can do amazing things."