Piling Canada

The Market Leader

Solutions-based company Structal-Bridges goes above and beyond
Written by Margaret Anne Fehr
August 2018

Solutions-based company Structal-Bridges goes above and beyond

Structal-Bridges is the largest steel bridge supplier in Canada. The compa-ny, established in 1956, is a division of Canam Group Inc.

Structal-Bridges specializes in the design, fabrication and erection of bridges with over 400 projects per year in the civil engineering sector, provincial and state departments of transportation, railway companies and forestry businesses both in Canada and the U.S.

Robin Lapointe, vice president of Structal-Bridges, explains that maintaining its top tier position requires a per-petual dedication to re-invention and connection within the bridge building industry to deliver a host of products and services that meet, and often exceed, customer expectations. The acquisition of Goodco and Z-Tech, for example, represents a value-added service and product package. In November 2006, Canam Group acquired the two Quebec-based companies specializing in the fabrication of structural bearings and expansion joints. “We made the decision to own both these companies, now called Goodco Z-Tech, and have their services and their products in our portfolio. For our customers, it makes sense to have one complete package available with one company only.” Structal-Bridges’ operations include its Quebec City plant, with a total surface area of 300,000 square feet (27,870 m2), which is equipped with a lift capacity of 135 tons and has an annual production capacity of up to 25,000 tons, one of the highest in Canada. In July 2007, Canam Steel Corporation acquired Eastern Bridge, a structural steel bridge fabricator in Claremont, N.H. This 248,650-square foot (23,100 m2) plant specializes in the fabrication of steel structures for road and railway bridges. The expansion undertaken at the Claremont plant in 2011 allowed the facility to double its annual production capacity from 12,500 to 25,000 tons. In 2007, the Canam plant in St. Gédéon, Que., began fab-ricating girders for Structal. A 100,000-square foot (9,290 m2) section of the facility is reserved exclusively for the fab-rication of bridge components, which allows for an annual production capacity of 10,000 tons. Another Canam plant in Points of Rocks, Md. began fab-ricating bridge girders in 2009. Structal currently occupies 96,000 square feet (8,920 m2) at this facility, which also fea-tures a 10,000-ton annual production capacity. Painting facilities in Quebec City and Claremont, N.H. spe-cialize in the surface preparation, metallizing and painting of large-scale structural steel and metal components.

Learning from experience

Structal-Bridges brings a vast database of experience to any project it undertakes, explains Lapointe. “We are involved in Quebec as well as other provinces in Canada and in the U.S.,” he said. “As a result, we have access to a large quantity of projects per year and we can see the differ-ence between individual markets in New York, Massachusetts, the Midwest and Western Canada because all designers and engineering firms have different solutions to build their proj-ects. Because we have access to all of these solutions, we can offer very good ideas that save money and meet scheduling issues for our customers.” A staff of experts in various disciplines represents another plank in the Structal-Bridges service and product platform that follows from first estimates to the final stage of erection onsite. From estimators to shop welders to project managers and engineers, the business unit counts approximately 500 employees working for the bridge division in both Canada and the U.S.

A hands-on approach

When is Structal-Bridges brought into a project? “We try to be involved from the beginning,” said Lapointe. “As soon as we know that there is a new construction project, we try to be involved and help the owner and designer at all stages to give some alternatives to what they think the best solution is.” Structal-Bridges has a reputation for often proposing innovative construction solutions that had not been initially envisaged by a client and helping to change the direction of a design at a critical stage. “For an important overpass project, just beside our plant here in Quebec City, the preliminary design was conceived using three or four piers and concrete girders as foundation and we came up with a one-pier and steel girders solution that reduced the cost as well as the lead time for the construction. In the end, the designer and the owner used this solution to build the project,” said Lapointe. Lapointe has been witness to market changes in bridge construction in Canada and the U.S. over the years as more design-build and public-private partnerships (PPP or P3) are undertaken. “PPP projects include design, construction, financing and long-term maintenance,” said Lapointe. “Instead of going out for the tender for separate packages (engineering, construction and long-term maintenance), the constructor has all responsibilities for these different tasks. For the owner, it makes sense to go with this option. It’s a new way to proceed and we see more projects like that both in Canada and the U.S. I would say in the last five years, we have seen more projects like that than 10 years ago.”

Innovation is integral

Innovation is part of the Structal-Bridges corporate culture. “For example, we have developed a new orthotropic steel deck to replace the traditional concrete deck and also to accel-erate bridge construction. We have invested a lot of money because we see that the market needs this product. We have spent over two years before we saw this project in our portfo-lio, but now we are working on many different projects at the same time,” said Lapointe. “The same applies to our painting bays and the equipment in our plant. These are our tools and every year we invest money in our plant to be sure we satisfy the demands that come from the market,” he added. Customer service is also a cornerstone of Structal-Bridges’ success. “For our customers, we are always open to hear their com-ments and how we can do more to help in their construction, to reduce their risk, and to be more innovative than our competi-tion. At the end of the day, you can buy steel from some other resource or supplier but with Structal-Bridges, if a problem occurs, we are always there to resolve the situation. Ultimately, we want our customers to be satisfied with the cost, the quality and the schedule. This is our commitment for the pursuit of a better customer experience.” 🍁

Category: Profile

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