The old diesel engine that once powered the ice-making equipment at the Montreal Forum is proudly displayed in the front lobby of Hewitt Equipment Limited in Pointe-Claire. The old Caterpillar power plant is a nod to Hewitt’s history, but the company’s commitment to the future is evident throughout the rest of this family-oriented enterprise.
Jim Hewitt is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the company that was founded by his father Robert back in 1952. Jim’s son David holds the title of Executive Vice President, and his daughter Kim serves as Communications and Project Consultant. When Jim Hewitt talks about family, he means his extended family of employees and retirees.
“I’m very proud of our people,” he said. “We have a history of very long-term relationships. We have a Quarter Century Club, and a recent retiree with fifty-five years of service. How many companies can say that?”
Hewitt’s extraordinary Quarter Century Club is made up of over 530 retirees and employees with twenty-five years of service or more. A majority of those retirees were employed in Quebec with the rest from the Atlantic Canada region. The company started with forty employees in 1952, and has grown to a staff of over 2,100 employees today.
Hewitt has a high retention rate because the company operates an in-house training academy. The hands-on training program allows for the hiring of applicants from local schools and trade programs. Trainees are enrolled in a one-year apprenticeship.
The company’s long-term relationships also extend to its customer base. Hewitt is synonymous with Caterpillar or Cat, which is a manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, along with diesel and natural gas engines. The association with Cat goes back almost to the beginning when the company founder began his relationship with Caterpillar in 1935, prior to founding his own company.
As the business has evolved over the years, Hewitt’s major activity has become product support. Service par Excellence has become the company’s slogan. Jim Hewitt says the next big thing for the team is technology and the effective use of technology.
“Every machine we put out has the capability to detect condition monitoring,” he explained. “We can tell if productivity is not optimized before going out in the field.” Which means that each piece of Cat equipment in operation is connected to headquarters with GPS and cellular communication devices. Problems such as overheating and low oil pressure can be spotted before the machine is damaged. A team of technicians monitor equipment in the field from a high-tech control room that would look more at home in the aerospace industry.
Hewitt displays its Caterpillar products in front of company headquarters. The big yellow machines can be seen from the Trans-Canada Highway in Pointe-Claire. Every Christmas, the company decorates its huge trucks and earth movers with bright holiday lights. “We’re a landmark for that,” said Hewitt. “I once saw a guy outside my window taking a selfie with the display.”
As a family-owned company with a history dating back sixty-five years, Hewitt Equipment has put down deep roots in the community. Evidence of its commitment to Montreal is reflected in the extent of its philanthropy and community involvement. Hewitt has played a major role with not-for-profit organizations such as Centraide of Greater Montreal and Atlantic Canada.
“During this milestone year,” says Jim Hewitt with pride, “we’re delighted to be one of Montreal’s longstanding corporate citizens, and one of the city’s major employers. We plan to remain dedicated to our community and our people for a very long time to come.”