Instrumental Workhorse

The past decade’s top two mergers in North American cement, aggregate and concrete—Lafarge Group + Holcim Ltd. and HeidelbergCement AG + Italcementi S.p.A.—have spurred realignment of markets up the Atlantic Seaboard, across the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi. Of all the markets those deals and their asset divestitures impacted, none stands out quite like Toronto, where a case study in healthy construction materials competition continues to unfold. 

The Greater Toronto Area’s cement supply dynamics, coupled with strong housing market and room for expansion in points east, north or west, underpin a decision by Viola Ready Mix Inc. to build Canada’s largest permanent or fixed concrete plant. The producer dedicated the Markham, Ontario operation last month, escorting customers and agency or local officials around a twin lane plant that MCT Group Inc. has equipped for more than 500 m3/hour output. Anchoring each is a holding hopper and 5-m3 Sicoma 7500 twin shaft mixer, which in two rapid cycles can charge trucks with typical loads in three to four minutes. Under normal production intervals, Viola RM has the option of running one central mixed lane, the other transit mixed with the Sicoma 7500 in pass through mode. 

The new Viola RM flagship is located on a 14-acre site north and east of Toronto. It joins the producer’s plants in North York, due north of downtown Toronto, and Brampton, north and west of the city. Along with sister plant fleets, Markham’s 40 mixer trucks run on the MPAQ Automation Insight Dispatch platform, integrated with an MCT-CompuNet plant control package. Concurrent with the concrete plant construction, Viola RM launched a companion asphalt operation at Markham. Abundant, bunker block-contained aggregate stockpiles separate the concrete and asphalt plants, while mixer and dump trucks have independent routing and traffic flow.

Viola Ready Mix President Eric Barbosa addresses an early-November dedication of the Markham powerhouse plant.

The stockpile configuration reflects a space-saving material handling system that MCT engineers incorporated as part of the twin lane plant design. In lieu of a more conventional charging conveyor, it features two 107-ft. bucket elevators served by twin 40-ton bunkers and underground belts. The elevators feed dispensing conveyors spanning eight 75-ton aggregate bins, each with extracting gates and belts feeding both mixers. Eight 110-ton cement silos—all equipped with screw conveyors serving both alleys—encompass three sides of an enclosure harboring the 600 tons of overhead aggregate storage. 

“We are strategically located across every major highway, each plant supporting one another and spaced on average travel times under 30 minutes,” says Viola RM President Eric Barbosa. “The Markham plant is located on the Highway 407/404 corridor, North York on the 400/407, and Brampton right off the 427/407. This gives us a competitive advantage to quickly route to the Toronto core and other parts across the city from Milton to Ajax and downtown Toronto to Newmarket. We serve municipal and condominium projects, utilities, flatwork customers and other various accounts.

“The Markham plant is built for volume work and specialty concretes, including our V-ECO series mixes for LEED projects and those where customers seek lower carbon footprint than conventional orders. We have also invested in a premium concrete reclaimer and storage tanks to reduce material waste and enable full water recycling.” Viola RM has worked with Euclid Chemical Canada on the V-ECO offerings, he adds, along with a full schedule of decorative, self-consolidating, structural shotcrete, high early strength, ultra-high performance and low shrinkage concrete mixes.

MCT Group configured cement and aggregate storage and transfer on a tight footprint, affording Viola Ready Mix greater latitude for safe, separate routing of concrete mixer and asphalt dump trucks. The producer sources cement and cementitious materials from Heidelberg Materials Pincton and St Marys Cement Bowmanville plants.

The Enviro-Port concrete reclaimer features two-truck dump hopper plus slurry or process water settling and recycling tanks.

The National Ready Mixed Concrete Association 2023 Environmental Excellence Awards program honors nine plants. Now in its 28th year, the program offers producer members national recognition for outstanding contributions to protecting the environment and maintaining sound environmental management practices. It salutes operators that have not only met, but surpassed governmental compliance requirements and demonstrated a commitment to environmental excellence through plant and staff investment. 

A panel of judges reviewed each entry’s plant image submissions and written narrative covering site aesthetics, environmental documentation, training, water and air quality management, returned concrete plan, community relations, concrete delivery, and plant sustainability practices. Judges recognize three operations each in Eastern, Central and Western regions.

“Rule changes have made it easier for producer members to participate, making the Environmental Excellence Awards program even tougher, especially in 2023 when we saw a higher-than-average number of entries. These plants have demonstrated that they are the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to being good stewards of the environment,” says NRMCA Executive Vice President of Operations and Compliance Gary Mullings.

“This is an excellent example of the ready mixed concrete industry’s attention to environmental excellence,” adds President Michael Philipps. “These entries clearly demonstrate the incorporation of environmental management systems into plant operations.”

Concrete Products joins the NRMCA team and Safety, Environmental and Operations Committee in congratulating this year’s honored producers and their exemplary sites.