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SPG Solves Calciner Tower Maintenance Challenge with Transformable Platform

MONTREAL (Sept. 26, 2018) – The maintenance process for the 260 ft (80 m) tapered calciner tower at the Lafarge Canada Inc., Exshaw, Alberta cement plant requires a costly shutdown every year. Layers of thick scale build up on the tower walls during the cement-making process. The scale can grow inches thick, and pieces as large as cars, weighing up to 150 lbs (68 kg), can loosen and fall from great heights. Proper maintenance and descaling of the tower walls must occur before safe entry from below is possible.

“The buildup on the calciner tower can become really dangerous so proper maintenance is crucial for safety. The large pieces can create a cascading effect when they fall, and that could be fatal for workers performing the maintenance,” said Andrew Fossheim, Production Coordinator, Lafarge.

“We always used a bosun chair to descale the tower every year, but it would take three people suspended from the chair on a cable typically working 168 hours to complete the job,” said Fossheim. “We had to shut the plant down for over two weeks in order for the work to take place. That method just wasn’t cost effective or time efficient.”

Having worked with AGF Access Group on previous projects, Lafarge was familiar with their skill at solving tough access challenges. The engineers at AGF Access Group’s project consulting division, the Special Projects Group (SPG), recognized that the project needed a high capacity suspended platform that provided workers access to descale the interior of the tapering tower.

SPG met with the Exshaw plant team in Calgary to understand the project and create a platform to fit their needs. In three months time, SPG in collaboration with the Company’s Winsafe division, designed and delivered a suspended platform that had a transformable shape during usage: one that was square at the narrower top of the tower and could be altered modularly in mid-air to form a circular platform to meet the walls of the widening tower on the way down.

The custom-designed Winsafe suspended platform was a 9 ft (2.74 m) square with a 4,000 lb capacity, and can be adjusted into a 14-16 ft (4.27 m – 4.88 m) circle with a 3,000 lb capacity that provides access to the different sections of the calciner tower. The platform’s motor moves it 35 ft per minute to travel the 260 ft length of the tower. The platform was designed to be eight inches from the tower wall at all times, while holding eight workers, their materials and their tools.

“Our transformable Winsafe platforms provide access to areas that are unusual shapes, such as square or circular silos, industrial vessels, power plants, etc., that often have significant height requirements. They can also be designed for a diameter of up to 50 ft (15 m),” said Stephan Loiselle, Business Development Manager, SPG.

“The Winsafe suspended platform has given us a new, faster way to descale. It cut the time for the job down by 66%,” said Fossheim. “We can get this same work done now in only four days; it’s a huge improvement. The SPG team has been incredibly helpful – even down to the last-minute design changes. They were always available for us.”

“ SPG specializes in working closely with our customers to innovate access solutions to meet their unique needs,” said Alex Di Domenico, General Manager, SPG. “We have a saying at SPG: ‘Everything can be solved.’”

“The design they came up with was exactly what we needed. Our options seemed endless,” said Fossheim. “They literally opened our eyes to how platforms can reach hard to access places.”


About SPG

SPG, a division of AGF Access Group Inc., is uniquely positioned to offer the most complete range of access solutions under one roof. While providing cutting-edge technology, proven product excellence & personalized customer care, SPG combines innovation and ingenuity to meet and exceed project requirements. Find out more on

About Winsafe
WINSAFE, a division of AGF Access Group Inc., is an innovative manufacturer and supplier of temporary and permanently installed aluminum suspended access platforms, travelling gantry systems and large-area engineered aluminum platforms. Find out more on

Lafarge is Canada’s largest provider of diversified construction materials and a member of the global group, LafargeHolcim. With 6,000 employees and 400 sites across Canada, our mission is to provide construction solutions that build better cities and communities. The cities where Canadians live, work, and raise their families along with the community’s infrastructure benefit from the solutions provided by Lafarge consisting of aggregates, asphalt and paving, cement, precast concrete, ready-mix concrete and road construction.

Through LafargeHolcim’s 2030 Plan, Lafarge is committed to providing solutions using sustainable manufacturing practices and improving the environment in and around its operations. The company has a sixty year history in Canada and works continually to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, restore wetlands for native plants and animals, and identify waste materials that can be recycled and used in our operations.