As Canada’s leading provider of screw piles, Almita Piling has designed, manufactured, and installed them for a variety of companies and industries since 1991. The unique helix design of the screw pile developed by Almita Piling enables them to be screwed directly into the ground, offering better value than traditional piling methods for customers who are looking to build foundations deep into the ground.
President Jeff Lloyd believes that Almita has been so successful for nearly a quarter-century largely due to the company’s specialization with screw piles. “We are specialists because we only work with screw piles,” Mr. Lloyd explains. “Most competitors try to be all things to all people; by being really good at the one thing that we do, we can serve our clients better and build our company.”
Headquartered in Calgary, Alberta, Almita Piling was started by a retired high school Welding teacher, Adrien Trudeau. Originally started as Mr. Steel in 1986, the company was renamed Almita Manufacturing, Ltd. in 1991 and renamed again as Almita Piling, Inc. to better reflect the extensive expertise in screw pile fabrication, installation, and engineering that the team had built and cultivated over the years. The company also maintains a partnership with the University of Alberta for R&D purposes.
Almita offers a broad range of high quality screw piles and anchors, all fabricated in its own manufacturing shop. Screw piles are built to exact client specifications and design. Almita offers both bare and galvanized finished products in a wide variety of sizes to suit any foundation application, and the company uses highly efficient production methods based on Lean manufacturing principles and automation of the screw pile process.
As Almita Piling has become increasingly efficient in its production methods, customers have been able to benefit greatly from the company’s services. Almita stays abreast of developments in the industry, using only high quality materials with up-to-date technology to process more than 3.2 million kilograms (7 million pounds) of plate and about 305 metres (1 million feet) of pipe each year.
The team offers fast and efficient installation services for its customers under all conditions, and each screw pile installed by Almita is carefully monitored for quality throughout the manufacturing and installation processes. Almita provides small equipment for tight spaces and multiple large units for larger geographically challenging locations. The company boasts a diverse fleet of installation equipment that allows them to access areas that are usually off-limits, including those with soft soils and steep grades where conventional driving equipment or concrete pile rigs cannot be used.
“Our screw piles provide better resistance to uplift than any other piling foundation,” Mr. Lloyd explains. “Any application with uplift forces are good for our screw piles.”
The company has built a stellar reputation for ensuring its equipment and crews can deliver in any location or circumstance. In addition to its screw piles, Almita is equipped to assist its clients with virtually any foundation need. The company’s fleet also includes a specialized air drill / hammer for work in rocky terrain and a cast-in-place unit for concrete pilings. The company continually monitors, upgrades and adds to its equipment base in order to deliver the most efficient and technologically advanced means of installing screw pile foundations.
Almita Piling has grown quite substantially due to its work in Alberta’s oil sands and gas industries, as well as in the power transmission field. The province is now a world leader in using screw piles, as the technology is ideal for many applications due to its ruggedness and easy installation. Screw piles also boast strong resistance to vibration and cyclic loading, so they can be placed under pump jacks and compressor stations or installed for pipeline buoyancy control. This flexible foundation option is also surprisingly easy to remove, making screw piles a particularly attractive option for projects facing strict reclamation requirements. Common energy sector applications include pump jacks and compressor stations, pipe-racking and pipe supports, pipeline buoyancy control, flare stacks and guy anchors, tanks, dehydrators, separators, well pads, and facility utility requirements such as lighting, cable trays and skid buildings.
For power transmission, telecommunication, and other electrical applications, Almita provides customized turnkey solutions. Amidst the challenges associated with power transmission and communication structures – such as long distances and diverse geotechnical conditions as well as large uplift and lateral loads – Almita has proven to be an industry leader. The company has installed screw piles under a variety of applications in the power and communications industry by assessing and interpreting geotechnical conditions and producing an appropriate foundation design for each structure. Common applications in the industry include substations, transformers, transmission towers, and distribution pole bases.
Almita’s in-house engineering capabilities also set the company apart from its competitors. From the initial assessment, to custom designs and stamped drawings, through to final product testing and installation, Almita’s engineering team is an integral part of every project.
These practices and services have been applied to substantial projects such as the work Almita Piling is doing with the Dawson Creek Power Transmission line in British Columbia as well as the Christina Lake Project in Alberta, partnering with engineering company Burns & McDonnell to execute the project. Indeed, “We pride ourselves on relationships with our clients,” Mr. Lloyd says. “To find our way into a strong relationship with a large client is significant and provides a solid foundation for future growth.”
The company emphasizes safety and quality assurance and these principles are instilled in all aspects of the team’s service, from initial assessment to installation and follow-up. Workers are continuously trained in installation methods and new safety measures. Almita was the first screw pile fabricator in Western Canada to require CWB Certification of its production team members and it maintains an ISO 9001:2000 quality management program.
At present, the company is addressing the challenges and changes in the market. “The industry is really competitive right now,” Mr. Lloyd shares. “Lots of screw pile companies have grown and developed over the years to install foundations for decks or mobile homes. A lot of them are really sort of generic screw piles, one as good as the next, so we’ve had to take innovation up to larger products and elevate ourselves from the commodity level to specialist.”
Additionally, falling oil prices have been a concern due to Almita Piling’s extensive work in the industry. “The industry is nervous,” Mr. Lloyd acknowledges. “Everyone is looking around wondering what will happen in the market. The last time there were falling prices was back in 2008, but that was our best year ever in spite of the low prices because we focused on innovation; we and our customers were looking to save as much money as possible.”
At that time, screw piles proved to be a hit in the market due to their ease and speed of installation. “The fall in prices meant that companies took a closer look at our project lifecycle and cost of installation and our method proved to be faster, better, and cheaper than the alternatives.”
In spite of these challenges and competition, the company is still expanding and growing outside of Alberta and Canada. Recently, Almita Piling opened an office in Saskatoon to work on oil sands projects and sites in Saskatchewan. The company is also looking to expand into the United States and even looking to partner with global companies on projects involving screw piles. “Our clients in Alberta are world-class players and can compete globally,” Mr. Lloyd asserts. “We are helping them with their US projects and plan to expand into the country one day.”
As for worldwide partnerships, manufacturing screw piles based on specs and the needs of the market can also vary. “While Alberta’s projects are mostly based in the oil and gas and power transmission industries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand use them for seismic projects because engineers have learned buildings that have been built on screw piles tend to withstand earthquakes better.”
Almita Piling is carefully considering its options as it grows, and Mr. Lloyd says that being mindful in the company’s growth will be the key to its future success. “We want to have good, consistent, planned growth,” he says, “an ability to have a solid plan and execute it. Other competitors like to highlight their equipment and are looking for silver bullet for the next revolution. Our view is stable and we see long-term growth and expanding the business in a progressive manner. Our corporate strategy is simple – we excel in executing strategy, we plan, and we execute better than any other company, which has helped our corporate and installation operations.”
Since its humble beginnings as a welding operation, Almita Piling has grown to become a force to be reckoned with in the manufacturing and installation of screw piles. Mr. Lloyd says that the team’s dedication to research and its ability to adjust to market demands is what keeps the company going.
“We are an agile, growing company. We complete many small projects every year, but our strength and ability to work on large infrastructure projects shows that we’re an innovative company and we excel at challenges.”