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COLAS FACES THE CLIMATES, IN CANADA : paving the way with new partners

Report
10 min
07/03/2019

Canada

In February 2018, Colas acquired the Canadian group Miller McAsphalt, a major player in road construction in Ontario and in bitumen distribution all across the country. An opportunity for Colas to strengthen its position in Canada and expand its bitumen business. Here we meet the new team.
By Amandine Sand

BITUMEN AGAINST WINDS
AND TIDES

On this October morning, work is in full swing at the McAsphalt terminal in Oshawa, an industrial town on the bank of Lake Ontario. Founded in 1970 by Leo McArthur and John Carrick, McAsphalt is the largest supplier of bitumen, modified bitumen, and bitumen emulsions in Canada. Since acquiring the group in February 2018, Colas has owned 28 bitumen terminals spread across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, along with two barges and 200 freight cars for bitumen transport.

Looming over the dock here in Oshawa is one of the barges, the John J. Carrick, 122 meters long and with a payload capacity of 11,500 tons. On board, Captain Mark Broennle is savoring the calm on this little inland sea, since when the wind comes up and the water gets rough and the temperature plunges below freezing, sailing on the Great Lakes can be a tough job. “Being a captain is like managing a little company... except it’s one that moves,” he smiles. “You have to be tactful and know how to work under pressure by adapting each day to the weather conditions, which can slow the barge down and delay our deliveries.” From his wheelhouse, he choreographs the ballet of operations that must be performed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for six consecutive weeks, by the 15 members of the crew. When the barge docks, the pace is intense. Today, the men have eight hours to pump all the raw material to the plant, where the onshore team takes over. All the while, there are two imperatives: comply with safety standards and respect the environment.

THE RIGHT FORMULA

What makes McAsphalt special and explains its success is their development of products tailored to its customers’ orders. “We prepare different formulations every day. We have more than 200 of them,” says Niels Schonberg, a terminal installations manager. At the peak of the fall season, when the weather conditions are still good for road construction, as many as 40 employees can be working at the site, which operates around the clock, seven days a week. This afternoon, the team in the packaging unit is carefully pouring a crack-patching product that is still hot as it comes out of the pipes into plastic containers, which are then bundled and loaded onto a truck. “The emulsion product is not stored here,” notes McAsphalt production manager Jeff Haynes “When it is ready, it is sent directly to the customer.” Flexibility, innovation, and the ability to anticipate customers’ needs are the values of this company, which its employees are proud to work for.

Louis Gabanna
Managing Director,
Colas North America
This acquisition offers the teams the opportunity to share their know-how and experience. It enables them to continue doing work of recognized high quality in complete safety and to strive for excellence while giving all their customers in Canada complete satisfaction.”

ON THE ROADS
WITH MILLER

In 1976, McAsphalt acquired Miller, a road construction company founded in 1917. This vertically integrated company uses McAsphalt products to build and upgrade roads and bridges throughout Canada as well as at Atlanta, Georgia, in the southeastern United States. Miller is working on numerous projects in Ontario, the Canadian province with the fastest-growing economy and with increasing infrastructure needs, particularly around Toronto, the fourth-largest city in North America. In 2017, Miller was awarded the contract for the 6.6-kilometer extension of Highway 427 as well as for the widening of 4.4 kilometers of lanes near the city’s international airport. Road-widening work is being done elsewhere too, such as on Highway 404, in the north, while new surfacing is being put down on Highway 407.

“In all the projects, we make sure to respect our three main values: integrity, quality, and safety,”says Rob Rodgers, a manager in the Highway 407 project. In Ontario, one third of the road network is in need of repair. The roads suffer from the repeated freezing and thawing and deteriorate twice as fast as in temperate climates. On Highway 401, the busiest road in North America, one team is renovating a section to the west, while another is working on a bridge to the east. It is three in the afternoon, and heavy traffic is streaming past just a few meters from the men, who are also coping with the fickle weather. “To gain time before the winter period, when it’s impossible to work, and to minimize the impact on traffic, we also work at night,” points out Sebastian Arangio, the project coordinator on the eastern section of Highway 401.

SYNERGY
AND MATCHING CAPABILITIES

“We have already met with engineers from Colas Canada and talked with each other about our methods,” says Haynes with approval. To integrate Miller and McAsphalt in Colas Canada, the companies are exchanging best practices in numerous areas, including health, safety, and know-how. Over the next two years, new management systems will be introduced while respecting the cultures and brands of each company. Miller, McAsphalt and Colas Canada resemble one another, are complementary, and share the same values, all important factors in achieving their successful integration.

THREE questions to...


Frédéric Roussel,
President, Colas Canada
How
is the integration
of Miller and McAsphalt into Colas going?
The integration is going very well and happening quite naturally. We share similar values and the ways we operate converge on a number of points. In addition, we are perfectly complementary geographically and in our businesses.
What is being done
to share competencies?
We are exchanging the “best practices” of each company. Concretely, that means about one hundred employees from Colas Canada, Miller, and McAsphalt get together in groups to identify synergies and the best approaches, particularly in the technical, operational, and logistics areas. These working groups are an opportunity for the teams to meet and get to know one another. We are getting a lot out of them. We want to take full advantage of this acquisition to be more than the sum of two parties.
What is
the biggest
challenge in this integration?
The challenge is to integrate these two family-run businesses into an international group. To do that, our approach is to respect and preserve the culture and identity of each one. That’s why they are keeping their name, logo, and colors. And we are very happy to see that the employees are on board with the project.

CONSTRUCTION SITE UPDATE

HIGHWAY
401 WEST
  • Started in May 2018
  • Finished in July 2021
  • Renovation: 5.9 km
  • 80 employees
HIGHWAY 401 EAST
  • Started in 2017
  • Finished in 2019 Extension : 7,5 km
  • 70 employees
  • 3 demolition operations
  • 1 engineering structure renovated
HIGHWAY 404
  • Started in May 2018
  • Finished in July 2021
  • Widening: 8 km
  • 50 employees
  • 1 engineering structure renovated
HIGHWAY 407 EAST – PHASE 2
  • Started in 2015
  • Finished in 2019
  • Extension: 22 km
  • 30 employees
HIGHWAY 427
  • Started in 2017
  • Finished in 2021
  • Extension: 6,6 km
  • Widening: 4.4 km
  • 250 employees
  • 15 new engineering structures
  • 12 engineering structures renovated
Youkon
Nunavut
North West

Territories
Bristish-
Columbia
Alberta
Saskatchewan
Manitoba
Ontario
Quebec
New-Brunswick
Nova-
Scotia
The expanded presence
of Colas Canada
With the acquisition of the Miller McAsphalt Group, Colas Canada becomes a major player in road construction and bitumen in Canada.
Youkon
  • Construction materials
  • Road construction
Nunavut
    North West
    Territories
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    British-
    Columbia
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Road maintenance
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Alberta
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Road maintenance
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Saskatchewan
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Manitoba
    • Road maintenance
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Ontario
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Road maintenance
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Quebec
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Road maintenance
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    New-Brunswick
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Nova-Scotia
    • Construction materials
    • Road construction
    • Bitumen & emulsion
    Added with the acquisition of the Miller McAsphalt Group
    1917
    Founding of A.E. Jupp
    Construction, which becomes
    Miller Paving in 1946.
    1962
    Colas sets up operations
    in Canada.
    1970
    Founding of Industries
    McAsphalt.
    1976
    Acquisition of Miller Paving
    by McAsphalt.
    August 30, 2017
    Memorandum of Understanding signed for
    the acquisition of the Miller McAsphalt Group
    by Colas.
    February 28, 2018:
    Closing of the acquisition.
    8 000
    Employees
    post-acquisition

    Key info

    Work on Highway 401, the busiest road in North America.
    Jennifer Wakefield is in charge of quality control in the Highway 407 project.
    Workers laying a drainage pipe on a highway construction site.