The name Lovat was recognized as a leader in soft and mixed ground tunneling throughout the world. The family-run business produced in its Toronto-area factory tried-and-true EPB TBMs for customers across six continents for sewer, water, metro, railway, highway and hydropower projects in sizes ranging from 2 to 12 m in diameter.
Although the company name and ownership have changed recently, the Lovat commitment to innovation and customer service lives on through Lovsuns Tunneling Canada Ltd. Lovsuns is the company that was created when Liaoning Censcience Industry Co. Ltd. (LNSS) of China purchased the assets of Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp. (CTCC), which had purchased Lovat in 2008. In 2013, CTCC announced that it was shuttering the manufacturing plant and closing the business line, with the exception of support for existing contracts through the end of 2016.
That’s where LNSS stepped in. Seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the assets, including intellectual property, LNSS bought out CTCC and established Lovsuns as a 100 percent owned subsidiary based in Toronto, Ontario. Lovsuns operates out of the same facility that Lovat, and Caterpillar, operated, and includes many key employees with a long history with the company, including Hongyu Xue, general manager, who began his association with the company with the Caterpillar acquisition, and Tony DiGiovanni – a 30-plus year chief TBM designer with Lovat/CTCC.
Lovsuns will serve as the international engineering, manufacturing, procurement, sales and service center for LNSS, which is a leading TBM manufacturer in China. Recently, Lovsuns sold its first two TBMs – both to clients in Turkey. The first TBM was built at the LNSS plant in northern China, while the second is now underway at the Lovsuns plant in Toronto – the first TBM to be assembled at the newly operational facility.
“People here are excited to continue the legacy,” Xue said. “It is more than just a continuation of the past company, but a combined force between Canada and China. It is a chance to improve our engineering, manufacturing and service capabilities through sharing our resources and experiences.”
Continuing a Legacy
After being hired at Consentino Construction Co., Lovat soon exhibited his mechanical talents and began experimenting with new equipment systems that could drive tunnels faster and safer. By 1960, he formed a partnership with Consentino to build innovative mining equipment, which Lovat soon took control of and later formed Richard’s Machinery and Repair Ltd. in Toronto.
The city’s rapid growth made tunneling projects plentiful and allowed Lovat to continue his research until he developed his first TBM. During his tenure at Lovat Inc., the company built over 280 TBMs.
The legacy continued after the company was sold to Caterpillar Tunneling Canada Corp., which built eight TBMs for metro projects in the Toronto area, including the Eglinton Crosstown for Metrolinx and the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension for the Toronto Transit Commission, as well as other projects internationally.
Interestingly, LNSS’ background shares some similarities with Lovat. LNSS, based in industrial northern China, is also a family-run, private enterprise in an environment in which some form of state involvement or ownership is common. LNSS started out in 2003 as a manufacturer of components for hydro and nuclear power plants.
In 2010, LNSS entered the TBM business, based on the rapid growth of tunneling in China. “China is going through an urbanization process now, which has led to many projects for metros, sewer trunk tunnels and water transfer tunnels,” Xue said. “This has provided a golden strategic development opportunity for ambitious companies like LNSS. Now TBMs are everywhere. In fact, there are approximately 100 TBMs entering the market each year, and LNSS TBMs are currently mining in almost all major city metro projects.”
One of LNSS’s success stories is a 6.25 m EPB it built for the Shenzhen metro project. The tunnel was constructed through very complex geology that included a mix of soft soils and hard rock – sometimes full face – and high groundwater table. The contractor was able to complete the tunnel successfully, achieving a best day of 22 rings and a best month of 450 m. In addition to EPB, LNSS also supplies main beam and slurry TBMs and has emerged as a leading TBM supplier in China.
To expand its reach even further, LNSS made the bold move to acquire the assets of CTCC in 2014. Under the ownership of LNSS, Lovsuns hope to continue – and build upon – the tradition of its predecessor companies, according to Xue. “We will continue the legacy of TBM manufacturing here,” he said. “The people are very proud that they can work for Lovsuns, the new company, and they can do something that they have been doing so well for so many years. They are very excited for this new opportunity.
“But, this is not just a simple continuation of the old business. For me, it is something more. With the integrated force of Lovsuns and LNSS, we are improving our engineering and manufacturing capabilities, and will be in a position to provide world class TBM solutions in most cost-effective way.”
Lovsuns achieved a milestone in 2014 with the sale of its first TBM to the Turkish client Eferay Yapi Ticaret for a sewer project in Istanbul. The project involves the construction of 9,320 m of trunk sewer with a 3.91 m EPB, which was built in China and delivered to Turkey in October 2015.
In August, Lovsuns reached another milestone with the sale of a second TBM to Turkey for the Istanbul metro project. This one, however, will be built at the facility in Toronto. “Now the whole company is very busy with this contract and we are very excited,” Xue said. “This is the first Lovsuns TBM going out from Toronto.”
Located in Toronto, Lovsuns certainly enjoys all advantages required to service the North American clients who owned Lovat/Cat TBMs. “Providing responsive and efficient service to our North American customers is also one of our key priorities at Lovsuns,” Xue added.
Going forward, Lovsuns can leverage its Canadian and Chinese facilities to help find an optimum solution for the client. Xue stresses that no matter where the machines are manufactured, they will be built to the same standard. Additionally, the combined forces help the company’s buying power, resulting in efficiencies for the client.
The Chinese market has been booming – accounting for 70 percent of the worldwide market, according to Xue – other emerging markets offer promise. Turkey, Southeast Asia and the Middle East are expanding their infrastructure, as are countries in South America. Lovsuns is quoting work across the globe and looking to strengthen its international base.
Lovsuns looks forward to maintaining its existing relationship with key suppliers for parts such as bearings, hydraulics, etc. “It is important for the confidence of our customers to see that we are using the same world-class equipment on all of TBMs,” Xue said.
While Lovsuns is still in startup mode, Xue is optimistic about the future. “Backed up by the huge Chinese and international market demand, by working closely with LNSS, and based on profound experience and expertise that was accumulated over decades, we believe that as a whole we can develop very fast and provide high-quality equipment for our clients.”