Shaw Brick overhauls hardscape unit production, builds on 150 years of masonry brand development
By Don Marsh
It’s no mistake Shaw Brick is the key source of concrete and clay brick and veneer units within a 500- to 750-mile radius of its Lantz, Nova Scotia, base. Forerunner Robert Shaw’s Brick Works began molding product within months of President Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration. Owners perpetuated Shaw-branded brick and tile from the Civil War through World War II, sustaining a platform for what is now the Shaw Group, one of Canada’s largest manufactured-concrete players.
Nearly 60 years after entering concrete block and almost two decades into a productive paver and segmental retaining wall unit program, Shaw Brick continues to evolve with an industry now driven by integrated production and distribution models for building and hardscape units. Its latest strategic move consolidates two production lines under one roof and capacity for new machine-molded veneer products along side an expanded paver and SRW unit offering.
Shaw Brick installed a Hess RH 1500 two years ago in an existing 31,500-sq.-ft. building at the Shaw Group flagship in Lantz, less than an hour outside Halifax. The machine runs about 30 percent more product than the combined output of the equipment it succeeds: a Zenith at Lantz and Hess 350 at a satellite plant—the former Gordon Shaw Concrete Products (no relation to Robert Shaw), Windsor, N.S., acquired in 2004.
“We had to ask ourselves how we were going to grow, and how and where to improve production. We had aging equipment running in two separate facilities, one location [Lantz] along the main province highway route, the other nearly an hour off it,” says Shaw Brick Sales & Operations Manager Brady Hawley. “It made sense to use an existing building and exterior aggregate storage and handling in Lantz, while investing in new machinery for better output and versatility.
“This production line is about quality and efficiency—state-of-the-art equipment capable of excellent SRW and paver product. Day in and day out, the new line produces high-strength, dense product for a market prone to freeze-thaw durability challenges.”
“We see an increase in landscape unit sales from this investment, and opportunities for new products because of more mold offerings, machine flexibility and color system capabilities,” says Plant Manager Phil Langille. Most immediately, he adds, Shaw Brick has been selling more decorative slabs and is now producing deck block on the RH 1500. Plant and sales staff are gearing up for the introduction of a full-bed masonry veneer product providing a stone look increasingly popular in home building.
Hess Machinery and Advanced Concrete Technologies had to ‘shoehorn’ the RH 1500 and new MobilMat batch plant into the existing building space. The enclosure is an amalgamation of two or three brick buildings, 30 to 60 years old, intersecting around the machine and also sheltering the batch plant. The RH 1500 is supplied by a new mixer whose three discharge gates, coupled with a Würschum pigment dispensing system, allow Shaw Brick to run three-color blends.
The RH 1500 rests on open floor, equipped with standard guards and secured perimeter sensors. Shaw Brick opted to enclose an 8- x 24-ft. office and control room with sand-filled, split face block from another Shaw line at the 55-acre Lantz operation. Spanning about 10 acres, the hardscape plant runs in tandem with concrete block and clay brick lines, plus a precast facility specializing in manholes, three-sided bridge structures, and box culverts.
Concrete and clay product from Lantz is supplied to five Shaw masonry centers in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, plus building supply retailers and landscape dealers across Atlantic Canada. Deliveries are split between the company’s fleet of 12 tractor-trailers plus contract haulers. One of the more challenging destinations for scheduling is Newfoundland, where North Atlantic energy resource development has supported a steady order log the past few years. Brick and block loads for Newfoundland are delivered by both container ship and truck-trailers via ferry.
The Shaw Group has grown brick by brick from its beginnings as Robert Shaw’s Brick Works, a Hantsport, Nova Scotia, clay and tile producer. The company built a solid foundation by taking brick, a building product as old as time, and developing new uses and target markets. For much of its history, Shaw Group was known as L.E. Shaw Ltd., based at a Lantz, N.S., flagship built in 1910 and expanded (as shown on page 24) in 1921.
The company entered concrete block (above) and aggregate production in the 1950s, and opened its first Masonry Centre (Dartmouth) in 1976. Real estate development and transportation businesses joined building material and products operations under the banner of L.E. Shaw, which in 1993 transitioned to The Shaw Group Ltd.
Shaw divisions share a common philosophy of providing quality and innovative solutions. As underscored by the evolution of a hardscape division, and concrete block and clay brick divisions before, the Shaw corporate plan is built on these objectives: increasing sales of existing products; development of new products; market area expansion; acquisition; and joint ventures.
Shaw Brick took the second and third objectives to extremes, molding a customized clay brick (right) for use with a seismic stabilization system in Hokkaido, Japan. Days after the first brick building opened, the city sustained an 8.2 magnitude earthquake—quickly validating the performance of walls bearing 50,000 bricks shipped from the Canadian Maritimes.