The Reinforcing Steel Specialists

AGF Group
Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Many businesses today talk about corporate social responsibility (CSR), but not all put it into practice as openly and effectively as AGF Rebar. Founded in 1948, the company is a global leader in the manufacture, supply, and installation of reinforcing steel, wire mesh, and post-tensioning products. With unrivalled construction expertise, AGF Rebar also provides a variety of integrated services, including estimation and placing.

Headquartered in the city of Longueuil, Quebec, the venerated business has grown to encompass over 27 business units across Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Internationally, AGF Rebar has a presence in Chile, Costa Rica, France, Martinique, India, Ecuador, Colombia, Peru and Guadeloupe.

Strong values
Corporate social responsibility is at the heart of AGF Rebar’s history and corporate values, going back decades.

As a matter of fact, helping others has played an important role at AGF Rebar, and an extension of this is the AGF Group Foundation, supporting charities across Canada. AGF Rebar fosters long-lasting relationships in the community, benefiting organizations such as The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and SickKids Foundation. As of June 2024, $4.3 million has been given back to about 300 charities in Canada through a total of 730 activities organized by AGF Rebar employees since 2012.

To ensure the future of the AGF Group Foundation, the team also decided to create an endowment fund placed in green funds.

“The exemplary impact of the AGF Group Foundation, headed by Catherine Gendron [Chief, Organizational Culture], has been recognized by many in the industry,” according to the book, Reinforcing The Future Since 1948, prepared for AGF Rebar’s 75th anniversary. “AGF Rebar’s employees are increasingly committed to promoting the value of community involvement through the Foundation’s marvelous leverage.”

Then in late 2022, the company launched its ESG Program. Standing for environmental, social, and governance, the program is “a way for AGF Rebar to ensure its social responsibility and sustainability as a major Canadian company,” according to the company. The result of considerable research, training, and consultation with staff, the ESG Program outlines 10 action areas and exacting goals for the future.

“Our first edition was published after two years of research to build our very own ESG program,” says Maxime Gendron, President and CEO of AGF Group. “Since then, we have continued to progress on our ESG objectives. We plan on publishing a second edition at the beginning of 2025,” he says.

Taking its role as an ESG leader seriously, AGF Rebar’s 10 action areas encompass mitigating climate change, sustainable development, employee wellness, the circular economy, and others (a complete list is available here).

To lessen its impact on the environment and boost the circular economy, AGF Rebar is reducing waste and increasing its recycling efforts. In addition, the company is working with more local suppliers, gradually electrifying its automobile fleet, and making improvements through means such as LED lighting to save electricity. Mindful of its 10 action areas’ impacts on staff, AGF Rebar is also addressing everything from employee wellness to professional development, breaking down taboos surrounding mental health and employing many other forward-thinking initiatives.

Reducing waste and emissions
“Rebar is 100 percent recyclable. Our raw materials are made from 20 to 60 percent recycled steel. Furthermore, we send all of our waste material to recycling for our materials to be reintroduced into the cycle,” says Maxime Gendron.

Recently, AGF Rebar has assessed the carbon footprint of its shops in Quebec. “As they represent different models of what we have across Canada, the goal is to extend the best practices that come from the assessment to all our divisions,” adds Maxime Gendron.

Recognizing the impact of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) on the planet, AGF Rebar has identified the main sources of these gases, and is actively working on optimizing them. The company is examining its fleet of vehicles, minimizing waste, recycling, reducing consumption, and much more. This includes studying the impact of changing gas-fueled pick-ups to hybrid models and assessing ways of decreasing GHG produced through transportation from shops to sites.

Other climate-forward initiatives encompass changing metal saws on job sites from gas to battery power to reduce fuel consumption and keep employees safer, adding a heat redistribution system to one of its shops, and even partnering with a local organization on an intelligent traffic light pilot project in the industrial park of Trois-Rivières.

Ongoing innovation
Although the rebar business is often viewed as being somewhat traditional, there are still many possibilities for innovation, explains Maxime Gendron. And in the words of Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors, Serge Gendron, P.Eng., FEC, “You can’t stop progress.”

After 76 successful years in business, innovation remains an important part of the company’s culture. This includes continuing to implement best practices throughout the organization using AI productivity tools, and pursuing the implementation of the company’s new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system in all divisions to improve processes and better serve clients. To ensure productivity is increased even in the face of labor shortages, AGF Rebar is also expanding the use of robotics for rebar fabrication, with research being conducted by the company’s Indian team at AGF Tecnik.

By embracing innovation, AGF Rebar is ensuring a bright, productive future while bringing in more tools to advance worker health and safety, like exoskeletons—in partnership with Biolift—that help reduce the muscle effort required to perform heavy physical tasks.

Engaged in sustainable construction
Recognizing the need for sustainable operations, AGF Rebar is active in many environmentally sensitive construction projects.

In Calgary, Alberta, the AGF Rebar Inc. team was selected for the ambitious project of the 14-kilometre Valley Line West Light Rail Transit (LRT), running from Downtown Edmonton to Lewis Farms. Requiring about 5,000 metric tons of steel, the job encompasses the Anthony Henday LRT Bridge, barrier end treatments, caissons, shafts, and track slab extending the whole project length.

In Toronto, AGF Rebar is working on several large-scale projects. At present, the company is fabricating rebar for the Sky Concord residential building, a high-rise which will require about 9,500 metric tons of rebar. The company is also working on the Ashbridges Bay Project. “It involves adding a new discharge pipe to transport the effluent further into Lake Ontario, after treatment by a new ultraviolet sanitation system,” explains Maxime Gendron. “The scope includes adding two containment tanks to the existing structure. One is intended for wastewater treatment, and the other is a sanitary screening well. One is approximately 220 feet (67 metres) deep, and the other just over 100 feet (30.5 metres). With both wells combined, the weight of the steel slightly exceeds 6,400 metric tons.”

Future goals
At present, AGF Rebar employs 2,814 people worldwide, 2,257 in Canada alone. While the company has seen a little slowdown in residential construction in the last year, this is balanced by a shift in demand toward larger infrastructure projects. “It’s really just about being in the right place at the right time to position ourselves for other types of projects,” says Maxime Gendron. “We remain close to our clients and follow the global construction market direction.”

Positioning itself to meet customer demand in the years to come, AGF Rebar continues making significant acquisitions to strengthen its market position and capacities. Most recently, these include Rendan Fabricators—a leading rebar company in Nova Scotia—and NACK, known for its rebar prefabrication and installation expertise in Ontario. NACK’s expertise in prefabrication is a great asset for clients, who benefit from space and time savings on construction sites as well as expert, quality service. These two acquisitions bring the company to 27 business units in nine countries.

Along with growth, numerous projects on which AGF Rebar has worked were recognized at the Excellence Awards in Concrete Construction Excellence organized by the ACI – Québec and Eastern Ontario Chapter last May. These projects include the National Bank of Canada head office, Montreal; Collège Notre-Dame Sports Centre, Montreal; the major refurbishment and transformation of Montreal’s Mont-Royal metro station; 628 Rue St-Jacques, Montreal; and the REM (Light Rail Train) – Réseau express métropolitain.

“Our commitment to quality, innovation, and sustainability is well-recognized within the industry,” comments Maxime Gendron. “We continue to build a strong reputation for technical excellence as our customer-focused approach enables us to provide customized solutions for complex construction challenges.”

Taking over the presidency of AGF Rebar in June 2023, Maxime Gendron is building on the foundation laid by his father, Serge, who championed the vision of expansion. Like his father, Maxime is committed to continuing along the path of growth and development. “AGF Rebar’s future plans are ambitious and focused on continuing our expansion into new markets, with the final goal of providing our clients with best-in-class rebar services,” he says.

“We are interested in strengthening our presence in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia. These regions present significant growth opportunities and we are committed to bringing our technical expertise to these markets. Our goal is to establish AGF Rebar as a trusted partner in these regions, known for delivering high-quality and cost-effective solutions that meet the evolving needs of the construction industry. Additionally, we are exploring potential opportunities in international markets. We are already well established in Latin America, France (through our division EMCA), and India. Everything is still possible.”

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