Bellemare and SMS: working together to match the right equipment to the application
In the Mauricie region of Quebec, the Bellemare name immediately refers to the construction trade. Born into a family of builders, François Bellemare proudly honours his lineage. Since 2009, he has served as the leader of two companies, Excavation Bellemare and Jenik, which together specialize in excavation and bridge structural inspection and maintenance. They are located in Trois-Rivières, between Montreal and Quebec City.
François spent his childhood in oversized “sand boxes” since his father, Raymond, and grandfather Thomas developed sand pits, quarries, concrete plants, etc. Naturally, his entrepreneurial drive was developed at an early age, and François quickly acquired experience and expertise through the family business.
In 2009, he started Excavation Bellemare Inc. and purchased Jenik, a company established in 1984. In 2012, he expanded the group through the acquisition of four concrete plants in the region. With this addition, he was well-prepared to attain his professional objectives.
Complementary business activities
Excavation Bellemare offers short-term excavation services to general contractors in the Mauricie region. The company primarily rents equipment on an hourly basis and provides the services of its expert operators with each rental. Mario Bélisle, Excavation Operations Manager, assists François in leading this business.
Jenik specializes in the rental of under-bridge bucket trucks throughout North America. These systems are used to inspect, build, repair and maintain bridge decks, viaducts and hydroelectric dams. With custom equipment that meets all ANSI standards, Jenik responds to the growing needs in this sector. A look at Jenik’s website (www.jenikgroup.com) illustrates the full measure of François’ expertise and vision in this field. He is currently working on various national and international projects.
The majority of Bellemare’s customers are general contractors involved in hydroelectric projects. Bellemare enjoys a strong reputation for its competence and efficiency in high-voltage powerline work – from excavating for pylon footings through raising the wires. For example, the company installed 300 pylons to connect the hydroelectric complex for La Romaine. It built all of the pylons (as a sub-contractor) for the electrical transmission line between Bromont to Granby, including the access road. Currently, for Thirau Ltd., the Bellemare team is installing 56 pylons to connect a private wind farm to the municipality of Pointe-à-la-Croix in the Gaspé region. This project is expected to be completed in October 2016.
Bellemare is also known for the quality of its work restoring stone embankments. One of its notable contracts was completed on the nearly 50-year-old Laviolette Bridge across the St. Lawrence River. Bellemare repaired the bridge pillars that were damaged by erosion. The company also brought in 4,000 tonnes of material of various grades carried on a barge equipped with a PC360LC-10 excavator to do the work. Two other Komatsu PC200LC-8 excavators were on the shore filling barge containers while divers inspected the stone setting.
Another noteworthy project involved the installation of lampposts on Highways 40 and 55 in July 2015. The company used a Komatsu HB215LC-1 hybrid excavator for the foundations, slopes, and work-site access roads as well as to install the lampposts.
Excavation Bellemare is an all-inclusive contractor on houses that contain pyrrhotite, a major issue in the Mauricie region since the beginning of the last decade. The problem originated with the use of inappropriate concrete aggregates, which caused foundations on thousands of residences and public buildings to deteriorate. In such cases, the work involves lifting up the house, demolishing existing foundation walls and then casing and concreting new walls, plates and slab.
Bellemare also specializes in demolition and recently took down an overpass on Highway 40 in Berthierville. For this job, the company used its Komatsu HB215LC-1 hybrid excavator to load 3,500 tonnes of up to eight-inch-thick concrete in eight hours. This job also used 14, four-axle trucks. The advantages of using the hybrid excavator included an additional 60 hp compared to the standard model; increased rotating speed; and a 20-percent savings in fuel compared to the PC210. The HB215LC-1 handled similar volumes as a 36-tonne excavator in this application.
In addition to civil engineering work, Bellemare teams are involved in municipal roadwork for the provincial Department of Transportation. For instance, in Montreal and Lacolle, Bellemare replaced the piping system bordering the road and culverts. The company’s Komatsu PC138 excavator offers the perfect size and specs for this type of work. Bellemare also performs renovation, landscaping and drainage of the Hydro-Quebec distribution center as well as some commercial snow removal.
François counts on the dedicated teams of qualified personnel in both of his companies. In fact, his machinery operators demonstrate such exceptional expertise that customers seek advice from Bellemare to help plan jobs and determine what methods to use.
The chief executive recognizes that he has the ability to support his customers with their work methods while also suggesting improvements to save costs, speed up execution, increase durability, etc. In fact, each contract is a special project in itself, where François and his team develop an approach on how to proceed with the job at hand. The team relies on external services for engineering and design work.
François is in charge of business development and management. His door is always open, and he makes decisions with his operations team. He said that he appreciates his employees for their unique values; they are important at all levels. “I never ask anyone to do anything that I’ve not done myself,” he said. “That is why I am thankful to them, and I repay them with good employment.”
“The work atmosphere is exceptional, both at Jenik and at Bellemare,” added Bélisle. “People in the trade hear about it, and more and more people are asking to join us.”
The right tools
Efficient, safe and reliable equipment represent another critical component in the success of both Excavation Bellemare and Jenik. Bellemare’s equipment fleet includes 14 Komatsu excavators that can be equipped with an exceptionally diverse range of attachments, such as a brush cutter, hydraulic hammer, hydraulic thumb, comb, ripper or demolition ball.
The majority of the excavators are configured to the specifications of Hydro-Québec: a hydraulic shut-off valve (lock valve), load-sensing valve and a reach-limiting device. The excavators use biodegradable oil to meet the latest environmental standards.
Given all their features, Bellemare’s excavators offer outstanding versatility on work sites. They are able to lift and install pylons without a truck crane, which creates significant cost savings for the contractor.
The company also owns a Komatsu wheel loader and a track loader as well as a D65EX-15 dozer equipped with a winch. This is mainly used to lift cables into transmission towers.
SMS Equipment, an essential partner
When it comes to equipment maintenance, François noted, “It is more cost-effective to have repairs done by SMS.” This is why he entrusts all his maintenance work to SMS while taking advantage of the Komatsu CARE program. This program maximizes machine performance by targeting maintenance according to a schedule specific to each machine, thereby reducing the frequency of maintenance intervals.
François can attest to SMS’ courteous and quick service, whether it occurs in the shop or at a customer’s site. A telling example is the interprovincial service SMS provided when a block heater for a PC210LC-10 that was sold in Trois-Rivières was installed by technicians from the Baie-Comeau branch, who flew to the customer’s site in Belmont for the Romaine hydro project on Quebec’s North Shore.
François is convinced of Komatsu’s quality, especially the reliability and low maintenance costs. He said, “I appreciate the continuous technological advances of the brand.” He also explained that Dominic Bérubé, his SMS Sales Rep, acts as a consultant who plays a key role in maintaining efficient operations.
Bérubé provides sound advice on the selection of new machines, as well as on the applications and choice of attachments throughout the life of the equipment. Furthermore, Komatsu Finance programs offer preferential rates and flexible terms. “Komatsu Finance representatives visit customers and tour their companies to better understand their activities. They offer appropriate plans, which provide significant assistance,” explained François.
Bellemare and Jenik purchase all wear parts, such as GET, belts and filters, from SMS. In addition, SMS performs all regular equipment maintenance in the company’s shop.
Growth through diversification
In recent years, many Canadian entrepreneurs have felt the impact of limited public-sector investments. In spite of this trend, François is determined to grow his company, and he is very ambitious. Bélisle noted, “We are privileged that François is willing to take risks to develop his business. He believes in the projects we bring to the table, and I believe in this company. I am really proud to be a part of it.”
As for François, he said that even when the regional market is limited, “We are lucky to be able to work everywhere in Québec.” Because the majority of his customers are in the civil engineering field, he doesn’t plan to start doing sewage and water projects, which would place him in direct competition with those customers. He prefers to look at new projects that will result in increased diversification.
At this stage in the evolution of his two companies, François knows that he can count on teamwork from enthusiastic and professional employees. “We need projects to ensure a return on our equipment investment; we must also be proactive and build on a vision for the future,” François remarked.