When a plane at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, the fourth busiest airport in Europe, received the wrong information about de-icing procedures, it knocked over a de-icing truck with its wing. The incident almost killed the truck operator, completely destroyed the truck and damaged the wing of the aircraft. Airport officials soon realized then that the airport needed an overhaul on de-icing procedures and that’s when it turned to a “boutique” operation of pros in Canada.
Jeff Campbell and Associates International Inc., or JCAII, is a Canadian operation founded in 2010. The Mississauga-based company designs and builds a suite of communication and information systems that supports airport and airline operations through two product streams: The SmartPad and the IceLink.
The SmartPad is a collection of safety equipment (hardware and software) that guides pilots to their de-icing docks through a single-point control from the operational tower.
“It’s surface guidance equipment,” explains company president Jeff Campbell. “It’s lighting, electronic message boards and sophisticated software platforms that co-ordinate all the personnel and equipment precisely through the command centre.”
The IceLink is a web-based information and operational system that works in parallel with the SmartPad. It provides real-time information on what has happened in the de-icing area.
In other words, SmartPad manages the traffic of the aircraft and the IceLink provides information for users and stakeholders involved in de-icing; information on everything from real-time schedules to amounts of fluid sprayed and traffic time.
“It takes information from the SmartPad and lets the stakeholders know about timing. If there were any issues or problems with the de-icing, it magnifies that,” he said.
JCAII: From LED signs to de-icing
Campbell started his career in less technically advanced message boards. He then studied engineering and some software to further his possibilities.
“We were working with LED displays and large electronic displays, fibre optics and the control systems that operated them,” he says. “And we got a call from the Toronto division of Giffels Design-Build to help them build a system for de-icing at Toronto Pearson Airport. That was in 2003. Pearson has the highest level of de-icing in the world and it happens to be the largest system as well.”
The airport business was born at that point. Pearson liked the work of this small shop and recommended them for other jobs at other Canadian airports, including Vancouver, in advance of the 2010 Olympics. Airport officials wanted to avoid airport jams that can be caused by storms.
“We provided a system that allowed them to process aircraft without issues or problems. We made a significant impact on their operations,” Campbell says.
That’s when their word of mouth hit the big time. Heathrow Airport came calling after it was completely shut down for two days following a snowstorm.
“They didn’t really like shutting down a $12 billion asset,” Campbell says, “so they came to us. Today, we’re doing several major international airports, all because of word-of-mouth.”
In total, the company is in 14 airports across the globe. That’s a real vote of confidence from an industry that moves slowly and cautiously on every contract, because the stakes are so high.
Though the company isn’t large, with only eight employees, up from three in the early days, it now has sales of well over $5 million.
A recent contract in Helsinki was made possible in part by Export Development Canada (EDC), which provided a letter of credit to the airport under its account performance security guarantee, where it guaranteed a $500,000 loan from JCAII’s bank.
“JCAII is a first-class company, providing an important service,” said EDC account manager Anna Piekarska. “They needed the money to grow and EDC is proud to contribute to their success.”
Campbell is extremely grateful to have found EDC, which he refers to as a “no nonsense” organization.
“We’ve all suffered through a global financial meltdown and it’s these types of programs that have helped people get to the next level and take advantage of opportunities that are out there internationally,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do it with the velocity we have without EDC.”