A pillar in the transformation and installation of reinforcing steel and wire mesh. Armatures Bois-Francs (ABF) also assumes the delivery and management of projects for more than 400 residential, commercial, institutional, industrial and civil engineering constructions annually. Founded in 1976 in Victoriaville, the company now has two offices in Quebec and one in Ontario, giving it a presence in Western Canada.

Armatures Bois-Francs changed how it manages its rebar fabrication and installation projects to improve its performance and remain a leader in its field.

Using Nmédia, Excalibur was designed to cover the inventory and estimating aspects of steel quantities and costs associated with projects, allowing the company to achieve efficiencies it had never had before. As a result of these changes, the company can efficiently respond to more tenders and better manage the amount of steel it has.


Estimating the steel needed for projects and following up on it take time and organization. Also, it's essential to quickly and accurately know the quantity of steel in inventory to avoid shortages when the time comes to produce all this steel.

ABF had to have a solution to be a leader in this field. Its growth and long-term vision led it to the realization that this solution was no longer adequate. The rigidity of the software was a barrier to many advances. Hence, employees had to regularly revert to paper and Excel files, making creating various reports a long and tedious task, often forcing them to duplicate work. This considerably increased the risk of human error without the possibility of validation. Efficiency was no longer there. Making the necessary changes meant rewriting almost the entire system. Some of the technologies used were outdated, and the bill would be high without being able to solve all the problems efficiently.

ABF needed a new solution to make each employee involved in the steel estimating process more efficient, eliminate duplication of work and centralize all information in one place so that the various stakeholders could follow up quickly, easily and knowledgeably. The solution also had to evolve swiftly to adapt to the company's and the sector's changing realities, using the appropriate technologies.


Excalibur is a single application divided into modules based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA). Each module is a business concept, such as estimating and inventory.

  • They all use the same technologies including Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), Microsoft .NET 4.0, Entity Framework 4.0, SQL Server and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS);
  • There is communication with Outlook to simplify follow-up operations for users;
  • Finally, Nms.Core, a proprietary technology of Nmédia, is used extensively throughout the application.

An additional application was developed for the inventory module to run by the mobile barcode scanner.

  • Sitting on the Windows CE platform, it uses .NET Compact Framework 3.5 and Windows Forms;
  • The wireless communication is done by Wi-Fi network via a Web service located on a Windows server installed directly at ABF;
  • A robustness mechanism had to be implemented to avoid the loss of information when the network is disconnected due to the distance between the antennas and the interference with the numerous piles of steel bars present.

Although installed locally on the workstation, the application is used remotely by estimators living in Quebec City. The connection to the database and the report server is made through a VPN.
All updates are installed on the user's PC immediately when the application is activated owing to Microsoft's ClickOnce technology, preventing additional labour for the ABF specialist.

Impressive results:

Number of estimates per estimator

Before: 166
After: 278
Productivity by almost 170%

Number of estimates managed per person

Before: 1,100
After : 3 000

Now it takes 3 times less time to complete a task.

As a bonus, adding and deducting material from the inventory with the wireless barcode scanner is now straightforward and fast without the constraint of physical location.

Number of estimates per estimator
3 000
Number of estimates managed per person
3 X
To manage a task

Objectives accomplished: simplification of participation in tenders and quick access to information

Participation in tenders has become simpler while speeding up the work required. The application achieves this through the estimation module molded to their optimized work methods, with more information than before. Tracking these numerous projects and associated contractors is greatly alleviated by an interface that allows quick access to all the required information at the right time by all those with the necessary authorizations. It is now a simple solution for newcomers to assimilate.

Armature Bois-Francs' Excalibur was nominated in the "Business Solutions — In-house or Custom Development" category at the 2014 OCTAS.

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