Keeping everyone in the loop is key to the success of this flourishing Quebec construction company.
December 14, 2011 By Volvo Construction Equipment
True sports fans know all “the numbers” about their favourite team or player.
True sports fans know all “the numbers” about their favourite team or player. Baseball fans track home runs, runs batted in, on base percentage, slugging percentage… to list just a few. Football, hockey and auto racing buffs all have their own seemingly endless sets of numbers as well. But numbers are also a key component to the success of Lévis, Que.-based Les Excavations Lafontaine Inc. Everyone, from the president to the latest hire, knows the company’s stats. They literally know everything – from what jobs are happening today, what needs to be completed, what wasn’t completed yesterday, where every piece of equipment is working, what equipment is required, and all of the administrative, operational and maintenance costs – right down to a running inventory of parts, from the largest to the smallest. This amount of minute detail may sound onerous to many people, but like true sports fans, the team at Les Excavations Lafontaine Inc. truly enjoy the stats. And like sports fans, they feel very much involved with the team and therefore are extremely loyal.
|Les Excavations Lafontaine will handle more than $80 million worth of contracts this year.
From very humble beginnings in 1975 in the small eastern Quebec townships’ community of Saint-Malachie, where today the first dozer the company purchased sits proudly in the front yard of the family homestead, Frankie Lafontaine has built Les Excavations Lafontaine Inc. to the revered position in the province’s construction hierarchy that it holds today. With contracts exceeding $80,000,000 this year, Excavations Lafontaine is one of the premier municipal infrastructure, road and commercial construction companies in Quebec. Although much of the company’s work involves the placement and/or replacement of municipal infrastructure, including water and sewer mains, and concludes with the building or rebuilding of the roads, approximately 80% of the company’s business is directly related to roadbuilding.
While touring the almost 600,000-square-foot Lafontaine facility in Lévis, one could not help but be impressed with the organization of the maintenance area and storage yard where everything had a referenced storage space. Upon entering the company’s recently completed indoor maintenance garage and paint shop, here again organization and cleanliness were the order of the day.
This past year saw Les Excavations Lafontaine move into a spacious new office building located on its property in Lévis. Currently, the company has almost 200 employees and over 100 pieces of heavy-duty roadbuilding, road maintenance and construction equipment.
Additionally, this year saw Les Groupe Lafontaine expand with a new division to operate exclusively in the Gaspé region of Quebec. Currently, Lafontaine-LeClerc, is working to complete approximately $28,000,000 in roadbuilding and infrastructure contracts before the end of the 2011 working season.
One of the larger projects recently completed by Lafontaine was the building and extension of Boulevard Robert-Bourassa in Quebec City. In addition to the work required to drive a new four-lane road through an urban area, this project included the building of three major concrete bridge structures. This contract, the company’s largest to date, was worth approximately $30,000,000.
|Frankie Lafontaine of Les Excavations Lafontaine Inc.
This past summer saw Les Excavations Lafontaine complete work on Routes 277 and 279 in the south shore region of the Province of Quebec, as well as continued work on the infrastructure, including water and sewer mains in the greater Quebec City area and in the centuries-old, historic section of Ville de Quebec. The 10-phase “Old Quebec” project included the replacement of the city’s aged 30- and 42-inch water mains, many of which date back to 1912, with Hyprescon concrete pressure pipes.
Phase 8 of this Old Quebec contract proved to be a real challenge, but the Lafontaine team had their game face on. In this legendary section of the city, host to millions of tourists annually, the cobblestone streets are very old, with some dating back into the early 1800s, extremely narrow by today’s standards, and in many places extremely steep. Also, this area is designated a National Historic Treasure by both the Canadian and Quebec governments, making accurate historical replacement of the streets and roads a must.
During this most recent construction phase the company encountered a large area of highly contaminated soil. The soil was toxic to the point that the entire crew had to wear full hazmat suits to work in the area. Eventually the source of the contamination was found to be benzene, a liquid gas piped throughout the old city in decades past and used to fuel the street lanterns. The company had to carefully remove the residual gas and fill all the remaining gas lines with a concrete slurry, thus eliminating the problem. The successful handling of this once-in-a-lifetime challenge won the company an environmental award from ACRGTQ (Québec road builders and heavy construction association) and the City of Quebec.
The Lafontaine Way
Lafontaine speaks very proudly of his people and his facility. “We couldn’t find a system to keep track of everything the way that I wished it to be, so our people created our own,” he says.
The computer-based Lafontaine system allows for the detailed tracking of every job, every person, every piece of equipment, how much work was done, how much fuel and lubricants were used, right down to the smallest of replacement parts. There is no detail left out. Lafontaine goes on to explain, “By 5:30 p.m. each day I have a report on the company’s activities for that day. I know what worked and what didn’t and I know what we need to do tomorrow to remain on schedule and most importantly continue to be a viable and profitable company. It’s a completely buttoned-up system. It’s the winning team Lafontaine way.”
As with sports, there are many players out there for construction teams to choose from. In addition, it would appear that there is a new construction equipment manufacturer entering the arena on a regular basis. So how does Volvo Construction Equipment stack up under the close scrutiny of the Lafontaine team?
|80% of the work completed by Les Excavations Lafontaine is directly related to roadbuilding.
“I am very pleased with Volvo and I like the Swedish quality and Swedish way of thinking,” Lafontaine states. “Both Volvo and its dealer group (Strongco) have worked with us over the years and the benefits have been mutual.” When asked “why Volvo?” Lafontaine is emphatic.
“I have the detailed cost and performance analysis for every piece of construction equipment that we own. I know how much it costs to purchase, finance, maintain, and the daily operating costs including fuel and labour. I know how it works… and what works and what doesn’t. Over the years we have been able to work with both Volvo and Strongco to improve the performance of both the machines and our respective companies. Our numbers indicate that Volvo is a winner.”
Then, with an Irish/Quebecois twinkle in his eye, Lafontaine adds, “And in the end I look at the colour,” referring to the fact that the Volvo equipment is yellow and black, the same corporate colours as Les Excavations Lafontaine Inc.
The Volvo Stat Sheet
Currently, Lafontaine owns 11 Volvo crawler excavators ranging in size from the versatile Volvo EC210C to the powerful Volvo EC460C: 17 Volvo wheel loaders, including Volvo L90, L120 and L150 models; one Volvo motor grader and three Volvo A25C articulated haulers. In addition, the company owns 10 Volvo/Mack trucks ranging in size from 10-wheel dump units to large tractor-trailer models as well as a Mack truck-mounted sweeper. Mack Trucks Inc. is a member of the Volvo Group.
So for those who are keeping score, the total number of Lafontaine rolling stock pieces sits at over 100. The total pieces of Volvo/Mack rolling stock is at 42 pieces for a Volvo/Mack ownership percentage of over 40. This roster is supplemented with additional rental equipment when necessary. The only areas of the Lafontaine lineup where currently there are no Volvo players are the ones where, to date, Volvo Construction Equipment has not invested in development and production – areas such as dozers and loader-prompters.
Rules for Success
“But this game has not been easy for us,” Lafontaine states. “We have worked very hard. Success does not come without much effort. Today I am proud to be working with my two sons and I am looking forward to passing on this Legacy of Numbers to them.”
Certainly the numbers, along with the support of Volvo Construction Equipment as well as Serge Bergeron and his Strongco team, are working for the Lafontaine team.
Once again with that twinkle in his eye, Lafontaine continues, “I tell my sons and all my staff, for the game of life, God gave us three things – one head and two hands. Use them correctly and you will have success. If you make a mistake, don’t worry. Stop. Think about it… and do better the next time.”
But don’t forget to always check the numbers.
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