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GPS Makes the Grade for McAninch Corporation in NC

Fri June 10, 2005 - Southeast Edition
Brenda Ruggiero



A road relocation project in North Carolina includes several unique features, including custom-built equipment and a heavy reliance on Trimble GPS technology.

The $40.4-million project involves the relocation of existing Route 16 in Lincoln and Catawba counties to a new divided four-lane roadway.

The contract for the project was awarded to McAninch Corporation, of West Des Moines, IA.

The company’s management team for the project includes Doug McAninch, president and COO; Don Taylor, vice president, National Division; Scott Hintz, general superintendent; Adam Whittington, project manager; and Bill Howard, project superintendent.

Howard, who is in his 44th season of highway construction, more than 30 of which were with McAninch Corporation, has a supervisory staff of six additional foremen to oversee the estimated total of 60 employees during peak periods.

Taylor explained that the roadway grading required for the new alignment is 5.1 million cu. yds. (3.9 million cu m) of excavation in both soil and rock. The work to control storm water, relocate sanitary sewers and lower existing water mains will require the installation of approximately 46,000 linear ft. of new underground utilities by McAninch Corporation personnel.

There will be six new interchanges constructed where the new roadway crosses existing side roads. These interchanges along normal railroad and stream crossings create the need for 14 new bridges and four new box culverts.

One of the challenges to this particular job involves soil.

“McAninch Corporation has been learning to process the soil types found in this project. All grading contractors know that soil characteristics change from locale to locale, and operations and equipment must be adjusted accordingly,” Taylor said.

Another challenge is with erosion.

“Erosion and sediment control issues have been increasingly important as the Clean Water Act has initiated Phase Two of the regulations,” Taylor explained.

“This project is no exception, and has a number of environmentally-sensitive areas. To meet the needs of this requirement, McAninch Corporation has established two crews dedicated to the installation and maintenance of erosion control measures.

“One crew follows the clearing and grubbing operations, installing temporary controls to channel and slow down storm water into ditch checks and sediment basins. Following the rough grading operations, a second crew installs the permanent controls and finishes the roadway slopes and ditches for final seeding. Extra care is needed for the flowing and intermittent streams, existing ponds and other areas identified as wetlands.”

Long distance management concerns have been addressed by the company with the use of technology.

“A company intranet using a Virtual Private Network has long been used for the transfer of data from the project to the home office,” Taylor noted. “Cell phones and e-mail for each supervisor provide information sharing in real time.”

In addition, timekeeping has been simplified using a paperless system. Each supervisor sends daily payroll data to the company mainframe computer using a telephone modem built into a handheld computer.

One of the unique features of this project is the equipment it uses.

“McAninch Corporation has been considered an innovator in equipment usage for many years,” Taylor explained. “This project illustrates a significant difference between McAninch Corporation and other excavation firms. A significant portion of the earthwork on this job will be done by large Caterpillar tractors pulling custom-built scrapers.”

Taylor noted that the tractor-scraper combinations include the Cat D9R and 463 scraper, Cat D10R and 641 scraper, and the Cat D11R and 651 scraper.

“So many people have decided to use motorscrapers rather than tow-type scrapers because those were the standard set back in the 70s and 80s and 90s,” he said. “During the 80s, Duane McAninch experimented with and perfected the system for towed scrapers, which we use every day.”

In addition, compaction is being performed by different combinations of machines depending on the soil type.

“Caterpillar 825 compactors provide most of the muscle in combination with Challenger tractors pulling a variety of sheepsfoot and rubber-tired rollers,” Taylor said.

Long-haul requirements are being met using Cat articulated dump trucks (ADT). These ADTs are being loaded by Cat 385 excavators. Installation of underground utilities is being done by Cat 235, Cat 325 and Cat 320 excavators supported by Cat 973 and Cat 963 track loaders. Taylor explained that support for this fleet is handled by McAninch Corporation on-site mechanics, Carolina Tractor of Charlotte and Ziegler CAT, the company’s home office dealer.

“McAninch Corporation is completely dedicated to the use of Caterpillar equipment,” Taylor explained. “We are exclusively Caterpillar-driven. If Caterpillar makes it, we use it. We know from decades of relationship with Caterpillar what to expect out of sales, service and product support. We get unparalleled product support and we get unparalleled parts delivery with Caterpillar.”

Another important aspect of this project is the use of GPS.

“The use of Trimble GPS technology is a major factor in the construction of this project,” Taylor explained. “McAninch Corporation uses GPS to the fullest extent possible on highway projects such as the construction of Route 16. In some fashion or other, every job that we do now is GPS-supported. Some jobs are completely stakeless, with no stakes whatsoever, and in some jobs, the GPS is used to help us set the stakes. At any rate, the GPS has increased our ability to perform by giving us flexibility in the field and maintaining control of operations within our own business.”

Taylor noted that the company had been following GPS for several years before they began to use it.

“We knew this technology was emerging,” he explained, “and at a point in time when the United States Department of Defense removed what is known as dithering or spoofing from the signal … and accurate positioning became available, we knew the time was right to enter the GPS market. We started out mapping ground — getting ground elevations. From that we rapidly morphed into machine control systems, and we sort of jumped right in on that. We’ve been right on the cutting edge of that ever since.”

GPS usage on this particular project includes:

• Preparation of a Digital Terrain Model for the finished surface of the graded roadway.

• A comprehensive site calibration network to align the digital file to the localized project coordinates. Project coordinate data is supplied by NCDOT and the GPS calibration is aligned with this data.

• Construction layout staking and specific area grade checking.

• Machine control systems for various types of machines, including Trimble Site Vision systems for Cat bulldozer, Cat D9R and 463 scrapers, Cat motor scrapers, and Cat 385 excavators.

In addition to automatic blade control, the Cat motor scrapers have an automatic moldboard side-shift feature, which enables the machines to be guided to follow exact linear points on the project.

• Supervisor pick-up trucks are equipped with GPS Site Vision units to allow rapid staking and status checks.

The Trimble 5800 RTK GPS system is a completely portable, one-person operation for survey layout and mapping. Taylor explained that this highly-sophisticated survey grade unit is used for as many layout uses as can be imagined.

“The 5800 has become as important to the accurate construction of a project today as an automatic level and measuring tape was five years ago,” he said.

Taylor explained that McAninch Corporation has a heavy investment in new technologies.

“With the use of GPS in highway construction, we have achieved a saturation of this application,” he noted. “The Route 16 project will be a testing site this summer for a potential new GPS product dealing with asset management. The results of this field trial will be presented this fall at the Trimble user’s conference. This is an example of the commitment of McAninch Corporation to the development and implementation of new technologies in our work.”

The project is under the direction of NCDOT, including Dan Grissom, district construction engineer; Larry Carpenter, resident engineer; and John Sandifer, project inspector.

McAninch Corporation is being assisted by numerous subcontractors for the project. They include Blythe Construction Inc., bridge construction; APAC-Atlantic Inc., asphalt paving; Apple Tuck & Associates, reinforced box culverts; Peterson Contractors Inc., off-road trucking and excavation; Carolina Environmental Contracting, fencing and sensitive environmental reconstruction; Franklin Kinder, construction survey layout; GML Contractors, seeding and erosion control; Horizontal Tunneling and Boring, jacked pipe; Hazel Holmes Trucking, trucking services; Parkers Masonry, storm sewer structures; Traffic Markings Inc., pavement markings; Tri-State Traffic Safety, traffic control services; West Contracting Inc., clearing and grubbing; and Wilson-Finley, water-filled barriers. CEG