For decades, L.B. Foster Company has played an integral role in supporting many of the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) infrastructure projects ranging from North American inland waterways (ports, dams, and levees), to international military marine applications.
L.B. Foster was established at the turn of the 20th century to service a transportation need in the oil business near Titusville, Pennsylvania. Because no truck transportation existed at that time, permanent and temporary rail spurs were the only means for transporting heavy materials to and from jobsites. New rail was costly, and the Company’s founder Lee B. Foster saw an opportunity to resell used rail that had been retrieved from abandoned and replaced railroads, and urban transit systems to support mines, logging camps, and quarries in the area.
Since then, the Company has grown from its original roots to a global public company headquartered in Pittsburgh that operates businesses specializing in providing a unique combination of engineering and product development capabilities and solutions to the transportation and energy infrastructure markets. These businesses utilize manufacturing, distribution and sales facilities to serve worldwide customers located in North America, Europe, South America, Asia and Australia.
L.B. Foster has a rich history in steel products used to provide structural foundation support in new and rehabilitation construction projects. The Company entered the Steel Sheet Piling (SSP) market in 1926. By then, several domestic manufacturers such as U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel rolled SSP in flat sheet sections and U-pile type shapes. Lackawanna Steel, who was eventually acquired by Bethlehem Steel, produced the first PS27.5/31 interlock system to connect flat sheets which is still in use in various forms today. This type of steel construction system provided a significantly quicker way to install material than other types of earth-retaining structures and was instrumental at the time to keep pace with the need to strengthen the nation’s security through infrastructure.
Specifically, L.B. Foster’s products have been used in many USACE civil works projects including the Panama Canal’s Pacific Access Channel and construction of closed cell sheet pile cellular cofferdams for the Borinquen Dam, engineered cellular structures for the Iraqi Port of Umm Qasr, cofferdams for the dry construction of lock chambers in the Olmsted Locks and Dam project, and the construction of T-wall type flood walls used in the rebuild of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.
By the late 1960’s, L.B. Foster opened a bridge component fabrication facility in Bedford, Pennsylvania to service the bridge construction market. Over the last 50 years, L.B. Foster’s bridge business has participated in many landmark projects such as in the rehabilitation of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and the recent historic Peace Bridge that spans the Niagara River from Buffalo, New York to Fort Erie, Ontario.
In the mid-1970’s, L.B. Foster entered into an agreement with Nippon Steel to thread and finish oilfield pipe for use in oil rigs. This was its first involvement in the tubular and energy services sector, which now makes up nearly 25% of the Company’s total revenue. Over the next few decades, L.B. Foster expanded through acquisitions offering a larger line of products and technologies for its rail, construction and tubular and energy businesses. These acquisitions introduced new construction materials such as concrete used in manufacturing restroom and concession buildings. The USACE has been a longstanding customer of these buildings for national parks and recreation sites. They also provided the Company with a larger international presence, expanded customer support, additional R&D capabilities, and advanced engineering services. For instance, the Company’s UK Rail Technologies business is developing advanced engineering technologies to support Europe’s largest infrastructure project, London Crossrail.
L.B. Foster’s emphasis on innovation and technology development is changing the Company in many ways, resulting in continued investments directed at markets and businesses where significant growth opportunities exist. Continuous Sustainable Improvement (CSI) is engrained in its culture to improve safe work environments, and efficiency, reliability, and throughput in all manufacturing and business systems. From 2011 through 2016, L.B. Foster received the prestigious IndustryWeek’s Best Plant Award at three different manufacturing facilities. This recognizes the dedication management has developed toward operating very efficient, high-performing facilities with excellent quality systems.
L.B. Foster is always mindful of the impact it’s having on its people, the community it operates in, and the environment. Green initiatives are integrated into the Company’s short and long-term business strategies with energy and recycling reporting requirements in place across the entire enterprise. For instance, the steel the Company distributes originates from mills that use approximately 90% recycled scrap as a critical raw material. Concrete used to manufacture precast restrooms and other custom products recycle fly ash from power plants, eliminating this material from the waste stream. The Company uses fusion bond epoxy powder coatings at its pipe coating plants to coat natural gas transmission pipe, which are environmentally benign, and produce zero volatile organic compounds. Finally, its rail business has developed patented friction modifiers that provide railroads with cost savings of up to 5% on diesel fuel.
As a global team, L.B. Foster is thinking big to tackle big complex issues every day that matter most to its customers. It is strategically investing to strengthen its competitive position, and the Company is developing advanced technologies to accelerate growth opportunities in underserved global markets. These growth opportunities can only be realized by applying the talent the Company has to execute on challenging projects. This talent is what makes L.B. Foster uniquely qualified to apply its inspired message around Big Thinking, Big Projects. We Keep our World Moving.