Setting Customers up for Success
Domino Highvoltage Supply
High voltage electrical supply company, Domino Highvoltage Supply, located across North America, specializes in products for constructing substations and OH/URD distribution and transmission lines, and other such products for the high voltage electrical industry. Since the company’s previous feature in Resource in Focus in 2021, Chief Executive Officer Grant Lockhart reports that the Domino group of companies has become “truly coast-to-coast,” in its native Canada.
The company has officially opened its new Canadian headquarters in Surrey, British Columbia, and staffing changes are underway as a result. Domino’s recently appointed President, Deanna Morin, who is now leading the operations in Canada, and other staff promotions will be announced in the near future. Ground has also broken on a new facility in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, and the final designs of the building will soon be in place. The company’s information technology department has grown significantly, offering services such as Inventory Management for its customers.
Domino is now the largest privately-held, vertically-integrated, critical infrastructure supply company, specifically supporting the high voltage sector in Canada, with dielectric testing laboratories across the country. Lockhart considers this a big achievement and proof that Domino is more than just a distributor.
Company growth has been significant south of the border as well. In the United States, Domino Highvoltage LLC (its American corporation) has recently opened a new office and warehouse in Anaheim Hills, California after moving out of its Boise, Idaho location.
The North American business is currently in a strong place, but the company is always looking at making more acquisitions. Lockhart mentions the Eastern Seaboard and potentially Humboldt, Texas as new places to expand into, due to Texas being a good service location. Domino moved into Puerto Rico last summer and now sports fourteen employees on the island after opening locations in Montecillo and Caguas.
The facilities in Puerto Rico are primarily used for dielectric testing and tool crib related services; however, the company has recently opened its distributor division in the Caribbean. Lockhart views the move into the Caribbean as positive, since the company has helped local clients start up and has provided service, maintenance, repair, and greater accountability through utility tracking.
Even through turbulent growth, many of Domino’s internal approaches have remained steadfast. As a resource provider, the company stocks tools and inventory, in Canada alone, valued at just north of $10 million.
In the last decade, the just-in-time model, in which the manufacturer responds to customer needs quickly by increasing production specifically for in-demand products, has become much more popular among competing businesses. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, those businesses ran into difficulties after lead times skyrocketed, meaning these companies could not supply what customers needed. This in turn affects manufacturing industry-wide because when a distributor does not order in bulk from a manufacturer, it can potentially negatively affect the distributor’s capabilities to do its job.
Conversely to the just-in-time model, Domino has always taken care to stock and maintain its inventory to capacity in all aspects so that a customer’s needs can be met at any time. “Just-in-time doesn’t work in our industry,” Lockhart says. “If you don’t have stock in hand, the industry comes to a halt,” which then ripples out to other sectors that are reliant on electric power.
This approach goes together with a firm belief held by Lockhart and Domino: the art of good business is to be a good middleman, and in this case, a good middleman is a distributor. Lockhart further explains that a distributor must have sufficient stock and must always buy in full production runs so that manufacturers can buy their raw materials the right way.
Domino believes in working with its manufacturers and setting them up for success so they can do their jobs, as can everyone else associated in the supply chain. Companies in the power industry can be tempted to “nickel-and-dime themselves to death,” as Lockhart describes it, by not spending where it is most needed and losing the middleman status, acting more as a go-between. He notes that as customers look for what is cheapest, the current race to the bottom results in products being made cheaper and quality diminishes. Customers will find themselves spending more on maintenance and repairs. Quality must be maintained and there is a price associated with that.
Beyond pricing and economics, there are pushes toward renewable energy, industry-wide. Lockhart agrees with the importance of greener energy but also sees that other things need to happen before these initiatives can be truly successful. The parts needed to charge electric cars and charging stations, for example, are being purchased on a massive scale; however, those parts are also needed in the transformers required to step down electricity to a usable voltage so that we can use those charging stations.
This has led to a current approximate three-year delay to get a transformer because of the demand for electric power from different markets. Green energy solutions like wind and solar are potentially viable but still have significant limitations, such as high maintenance costs, Lockhart believes. Instead, companies should be focusing on what is perhaps the largest source of energy in the world right now: the oceans.
He considers not harnessing ocean power for energy as a big mistake: “The minute we harness the oceans is the minute we solve our energy issues.”
Small modular reactors are also cited by Lockhart as not just a potential help to greener energy, but as an immediate source of bulk energy. Lockhart thinks these will eliminate the need for large transmission lines as you can place them closer to the cities and have shorter transmission lines. SMRs and the oceans are the best options toward true generation.
As a global company, Domino has encountered customers in many countries who are not completely sold on going green, whether due to cost or doubt. However, it has not yet run into a scenario that it has not been able to navigate or mitigate for its clients, and it will continue to advocate for cleaner electrical energy while remaining realistic about the difficulties.
Lockhart feels that, overall, the power industry is doing well despite these obstacles and is moving forward rapidly. He cites education as a continuing challenge for both those within and outside of the industry, including the public and politicians. Currently, the sector’s focus should be on power generation and system maintenance, as the latter is crucial to tap into the revenue that is currently available in the industry. If money is spent on improving the systems that already exist, then even more financial gain can be found.
Looking ahead, Domino will continue expanding its brand into new areas after the success found in Puerto Rico. Lockhart names the Dominican Republic and the surrounding islands as potential locations for physical and drop-shipping expansion. Growth into Mexico is also planned. Lockhart chuckles as he mentions that several people within the company have been determinedly studying Spanish several times a week to bolster this effort. Domino is “always looking to expand and find markets that will benefit from what we do.” The company will also continue to invest in its people every day and give employees the space to offer ideas for its future.
Lockhart strongly affirms that, overall, North America has a robust and secure electrical grid and that Domino will continue to support and supply its clients for many years to come.