The History of Schwing in Western Canada
Schwing and Western Canadian concrete pumping contractors have a long history together. Early pumpers who adopted the German-engineered Schwing brand pioneered the way for almost every concrete pumper in the region back in the days when concrete pumping was suspect. The reliability of the Schwing equipment helped accelerate the acceptance of the concrete pumping method and established an industry that supports hundreds of concrete pumps in Western Canada today.
Schwing’s first customer in Western Canada was Arco Concrete Pumping. They were established in 1965 and lay claim to owning the first Schwing concrete pump in the western region, with the purchase of their first unit in 1975. The company split into two companies in 1984 with the original operation in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta, and the new operation in West Kelowna, British Columbia.
ARCO in Alberta has a fleet of Schwing boom pumps including the truck-mounted boom pump S 31 XT with a unique telescoping five-section boom that allows the unit to work indoors and in low overhead situations. Other pumps include S 39 X and S 41 SX units that work in commercial and residential construction. Peter Appelt, president of the operation states, “The biggest advantage of using these Schwing pumps is that they can be run without electricity. We can have a total electrical failure with the pump but as long as the truck engine is running we will finish the job for you. This ensures that your project gets completed on time and with little fuss.”
Ed Rutkowski of Arco Kelowna operates a 32-meter boom pump and four line pumps doing mostly residential work. “We bought our first Schwing pump in 1984 and have never looked at any other piece of equipment,” he says. Rutkowski cites the lower cost of rebuilding the Rock Valve and reliability of the Schwing pumps for his loyalty. He also lives the brand on the Internet with an email address of Schwinger@telus.net.
Another early customer of Schwing is Reynolds Bros Concrete Ltd. They are located in New Westminster, BC, and are a third-generation company that started after WW II and specialized in concrete pre-cast products, residential and commercial concrete placement. Robert Reynolds Jr., became involved with the company and focused on developing the concrete pumping side of the business, including using separate placing booms for high-rise construction. Today they are exclusively concrete pumpers and founder Robert Reynolds Sr. is amazed at the “evolution of concrete conveyance” and the multiple high-rise pumping projects the pumping contractor has accomplished in downtown Vancouver.
The company bought a KVM 32 XL Schwing truck mounted pump with detachable placing boom for their growing commercial work in 1994. “We had no intention of getting the detach option but it was the next one on the assembly line when we were ready to buy and we took it, which was a stroke of good fortune,” explains Reynolds, “We have that boom detached and on a structure and the truck-mounted pump is supplying it today.” Chris Reynolds, the third generation in the company, cut his teeth in the pumping business in the late 1990s. “In 2000, I was lucky to be involved in my first placing boom job on a 25-story office tower using that 32-meter and I quickly became sold on that method of concrete placement.”
Reynolds characterizes the customer who chooses this method as a motivated contractor or owner who wants the efficiencies of the latest technology. Reynolds is supplying that technology with Schwing equipment on multiple projects. “Once we got one started the others followed,” he said.
Because concrete pumping was firmly established as a proven method of placement in the 90s, other companies began to embrace pumps and purchased them to increase the efficiencies of their business. One such Alberta company was Rolling Mix Concrete, who established themselves as a ready-mix producer in Edmonton in 1994. Today, the company works with several homebuilders to provide ready-mix in place and finished. “When home builders are busy they only want to make one call for their concrete, and that is the key to our success,” explains Keith Holloway, Rolling Mix fleet supervisor.
Working simultaneously on several houses provides efficiencies because of the ability to coordinate truck mixers, forming crews, finishers and pumps. “It’s easier to communicate and control the flow of work when it is all internal,” according to Holloway. With 45-percent of their work in residential construction, the company has been able to maintain a high level of productivity completing concrete work for 3,500 houses per year.
With four to five pump visits required per housing start, the company chose concrete pumps with a small footprint, quick set-up and boom versatility. “We have two of the latest Schwing S 28 Xs,” says Holloway, “We like the small footprint since we prefer not to set up on the pavement.” With two-story houses averaging 1400 square feet, the 90’ 11” reach of the 4-section boom handles the majority of the pours. The pump’s outrigger spread is a compact 19’ 7” in front and 11’ 10” in the rear. “We were particularly intrigued with the 28’s 4-section double Z boom,” according to Holloway, “We pump the footings, foundation walls, basement floor, garage floor, driveway and sometimes small piles for other structures like decks and we need the boom versatility. The S 28 X accomplishes that for us with 270-degrees of articulation on the last two boom sections making for some interesting boom configurations.”
The company owns nine Schwing concrete pumps up to an S 41 X and also Schwing Booster Series truck mixers. The company pumps year round and the smaller booms are invaluable operating on weight-restricted roads in Spring when homebuilders are anxious to get started and larger pumps are banned. “We view the pump as an invaluable tool to provide the total package for our customers who now request a pump almost automatically,” Holloway notes, “With the ability to place ten times faster than a wheelbarrow it helps us keep our ready-mix trucks rolling.”
Another strong Alberta company that recognized a growing demand for dependable concrete pumping equipment was the Noremac Group. They are one of western Canada’s largest concrete pumping firms with branches in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Cameron Currah, CEO of the firm started the company in 1984 after receiving both his BA and BComm and working for a large general contractor for three years. He started as a concrete contractor and manufacturer of pipeline weights for the oil and gas industry. In 1987 Noremac purchased its first Schwing concrete pump from D&R Equipment, Calgary to compliment its existing placing and finishing division. Noremac began to focus mainly on the concrete pumping industry in 1996. The company shifted from placing/finishing and precast to growing their fleet of truck-mounted concrete pumps, trailer pumps and separate placing booms. This allowed them to support the growing demand in the residential, industrial and commercial construction industries. Today Noremac, with headquarters in Edmonton, has a concrete pumping fleet of more than 40 Schwing concrete pumps strategically positioned in Kamloops, BC, Saskatoon, SK, and Regina, SK, with a mission to be the most respected and therefore requested concrete pumping contractor in Western Canada.
Currah was influential in starting the Concrete Pumping Association of Canada (CPAC) and has served as vice-president or president of the association for the past seven years. He says of CPAC, “All indications are that our industry needs a cohesive voice that addresses the needs and requirements of the Canadian concrete pumper. There is strength in numbers, and with more members we will have a stronger industry capable of making informed industry choices.”
The company has separate placing booms in all three provinces that they serve. They are the only company in Canada with concrete pumps and ready-mix equipment mounted with railway gear allowing them to supply concrete and pumps for remote railway construction jobs.
Noremac has mirrored Currah’s CPAC leadership by providing a pumping service that has produced the tallest high-rise in Edmonton to date and covers the largest geographic region of any Canadian concrete pumping contractor, completing projects from Ontario to BC. In addition, Noremac has the largest fleet of Schwing concrete pumps in this geographic area. “Schwing covers the customer with the best equipment, solid parts and service. Residual value of the equipment is high and Schwing helps me by accepting trade-ins or finding buyers for my used equipment,” Currah says. The company is due to start pumping in January on the largest infrastructure project in Edmonton, TransEd Valleyline LRT. “When we interviewed for the pumping contract on the LRT, the director of concrete operations specifically asked ‘What manufacturer do you purchase your equipment from?’,” Currah recalls, “We said ‘Schwing’, and that was the answer they wanted to hear.”