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Wayne Brothers Takes on Cat Plant Foundation Job

Wed August 08, 2012 - Southeast Edition
Peter Hildebrandt

“The form work in some ways was nothing compared to the steel welding that we’ve done,” said Ashworth. “I have had ten to twelve welding machines operating at 100 percent for 10 hours per day — all day long.”
“The form work in some ways was nothing compared to the steel welding that we’ve done,” said Ashworth. “I have had ten to twelve welding machines operating at 100 percent for 10 hours per day — all day long.”
“The form work in some ways was nothing compared to the steel welding that we’ve done,” said Ashworth. “I have had ten to twelve welding machines operating at 100 percent for 10 hours per day — all day long.” Wayne Brothers Inc., Kannapolis, N. C., took on the challenge of pouring the concrete for Caterpillar’s new plant, located in Winston-Salem, N.C. Safety is a challenge on the project, which has 16-ft. (4.8 m) high walls and deep excavations ranging from one foot to up to 19 ft. (.3 to 5.8 m) deep. Constructing the walls and roof to the building first, then the foundations, help control the weather variable; which is exactly what happened on this project.

When constructing a plant which will be assembling, testing and painting massive mining truck axles for use worldwide, you better make sure the machine foundations are solid. Wayne Brothers Inc., Kannapolis, N. C., took on the challenge of pouring the concrete for such a project — although this is the type of work this company is quite used to and comfortable with.

Many factors are in play when such an enormous, intricate foundation is involved, weather being one of them. Constructing the walls and roof to the building first, then the foundations, help control that element; which is exactly what happened on this project.

Caterpillar’s new plant, located in Winston-Salem, N.C., is 850,000 sq. ft. (78,967 sq m) and also is an important new capital investment in the midst of these tough economic times. Unlike the way most of us imagine a building being constructed, this building was actually large enough, it enabled the excavation work for these titanic foundations to be completed after the shell of the building was erected.

Since July of 2011 Wayne Brothers Inc. has poured more than 6,434 cu. yds. (4,919 cu m) of concrete and also has completed more than 53,000 man hours; all this with no lost time accidents. The firm began with work on the Waldrich-Coburg, Axle, CMM and Planetary Foundations. They are currently completing the front spindle, rear spindle and differential machine foundations.

Bryan Belk and Terry Davis, foremen of Wayne Brothers, admit that dealing with all the different elevations and aspects of the formwork involved proved challenging.

“The job has had a tremendous amount of welding,” added Belk and Davis. “Tolerances on this project are more demanding than most since the equipment foundations must be within one-eighth of an inch for linear dimensions and elevations for the machines to sit perfectly within the foundations. Safety is also a challenge with 16-foot high walls and deep excavations ranging from one foot to up to 19 feet deep.”

David Martin is project manager of Gray Construction, Wayne Brothers’ main client on the project. Caterpillar provided the unique equipment designs for the project from its machine vendors, explained Martin.

Caterpillar purchased the machines, the equipment and the production machinery that rest on these foundations. It then provided the engineered drawings to Gray Construction to build the equipment foundations. Gray then did the design and engineering on the whole building — which is a new facility. These foundations are just another piece of the project’s overall scope, explained Martin.

“We also basically built the building on a pretty tight schedule starting in November or December of 2010. As we got Caterpillar occupancy in different areas of the plant they started their equipment installation with schedule milestones for different areas of the building,” he stated.

Wayne Brothers has been installing equipment foundations since sometime in 2011. In the last area they’re working in, the machining area of the facility, they bought some large pieces of equipment from different vendors overseas. Construction has proceeded in sequences with six or eight foundations at a time.

“This area that is currently under construction has three different machinery production areas that are made up of a whole bunch of diverse pieces of equipment,” added Martin. “This is about three foundations and there have been four or five that have been previously constructed basically under-roof, inside the building where we’ve gone back in and excavated out the ground surface beneath the structure.”

The design and the purchase of that equipment were not complete early enough in the project for Gray Construction to build the foundation outside, according to Martin. The building structure was done, with some degree of occupancy, yet the excavation had yet to be done — some parts of the foundation required a great deal of excavation.

“The first foundation was done just as we were starting to get the roof on,” explained Martin. “We’ve been working on different foundations since July 2011 on the first big foundation. Then, we’d just gotten that portion of the building in the shade — not completely closed in — but we built the building around these excavations. At this point the last set of foundations that we’re doing we’ve basically been completely closed in since the beginning of 2012.”

But they also are going back and building foundations so they’re going back and digging out the dirt, hauling it out and bringing in concrete. Ventilation was an issue early on when they didn’t have all the ventilation systems operational. They had to bring in a lot of ventilation and carbon monoxide monitoring, which they are still doing. But the building ventilation systems are now functioning so moving air is not as much of a problem as it was in August or September 2011, when the building was half up and half open, according to Martin.

“It was a big issue at that time; we just had to pay attention to it and bring in some extra ventilation equipment to keep the air moving in those pits,” Martin said. “Occasionally we’ll have some machine foundations and can have equipment foundations as part of a project, especially when it’s for heavy manufacturing. It’s not something involved with every project but we do have some experience in this."

“I had the best weather imaginable — I was under the roof the whole time,” added Todd Ashworth, project manager of Wayne Brothers. “We kept an eye on the carbon monoxide levels with monitoring throughout the work area. At one point during the work some of the lighting was pretty tough to work under. We were using skylights for lights for the longest time and then they finally ended up getting lights above us.”

Martin also said, “Of course all equipment used had to be Caterpillar; any equipment on site, if Caterpillar made that kind of equipment then it needed to be of Caterpillar brand.”

Gray Construction worked closely with the local Caterpillar dealer, making sure the correct Caterpillar equipment was available for all the different trades. Caterpillar equipment was a requirement, but it also had to be available. There was quite a bit of equipment on site, especially material handlers; however, excavators weren’t a problem. Most of their subcontractors owned their own equipment.

The job didn’t take as many pieces of excavation equipment as it would have material handlers because every trade on the job needed two or three pieces of material handling equipment. They had a lot on site at one time, according to Martin.

“The challenge wasn’t finding pieces of Caterpillar equipment; our problem was that we needed so many pieces of machinery. We depleted the local availability,” stated Martin.

Gray Construction has safety as its main priority. It is interested in everyone working safely and getting sent home safely each night.

Wayne Brothers’ found that additional challenges with elevation variations that changed the many corners involved, proved to be a daunting task as well, according to Ashworth.

“You go five or six feet and then an elevation changes so dramatically and so quickly,” said Ashworth. “Though all the corners are square, there is no linking between the sections. Since various lengths are short, changes were tough. When people come out, a lot of them ask: ’How do you handle this? This is unbelievable.’”

How they handle it, Ashworth explained, is that “We have to build it like a puzzle, one piece at a time and there were multiple levels of reinforcing. There had to be supports for imbeds out in the middle of the job as well as for hanging everything just right; it was tough. Everything was supported by steel imbeds.”

A 4000 psi mix concrete was used and pour rates were watched carefully so that the formworks didn’t experience any problems. Larson and Darby Group of Rockford, Ill., did the specs and engineering on the job. Wayne Brothers started the project with about 30 workers and ended up with some 80 people on the job.

Ashworth has been involved on some big projects, including the largest press pit in North America. A press pit is where steel is compacted to make steel alloy. That site — 60 ft. in circumference — is located in Monroe, N.C.

The job however also involved much more than only working with the forms making the pour possible.

“The form work in some ways was nothing compared to the steel welding that we’ve done,” said Ashworth. “I have had ten to twelve welding machines operating at 100 percent for 10 hours per day — all day long. The steel welding is much more involved for the concrete structure. Everything I’ve touched with this concrete pour has been that way; there’s been a lot of steel welding work too.”

The job involved a lot of steel flumes for collecting the chips and shavings produced by manufacturing machines Caterpillar will use. The chips and shavings will be pushed off via a screw conveyor into a pit with a conveyor that loads them into a bin. Ashworth and his crews put a lot of work and a lot of hours into ensuring this flume work was correct, because once complete, most was being covered with concrete.

There also were a multitude of end beds with this job and countless angles around trenches, according to Ashworth.

“To support the matrix of materials in the middle of the port is a daunting task,”?Ashworth stated. “The steel design is worked out on drawings with all the required components and then we’ve got to figure out how to hold all this together, support it and install it; that’s what we are good at. It’s a lot of work preparing everything for a concrete pour with this many imbeds and the steel to support them.

“After hours, my talk is with my foremen,” he continued. “I’ll drive an hour or so down the road and as I’m driving I’m talking to each foreman directing them for the next day so they know what they’re after. There is communication there just in case I can’t catch them to talk to them during a meeting or something else pops up. There is actually a lot of coordination involved with such a pour as this. It’s not so much about schedule but more about what layers have got to come in each lineup to get where we need to be and to get it built.”

Form oil is used on the forms prior to the pour. The forms are cleaned before each pour, sprayed with the form oil prior to their being set in place. There are currently three tractor trailer truckloads of form work on site to do the work.

Work continues on the project and Wayne Brothers tried to get things wrapped up by sometime in July 2012.

“This is what we do; I’m used to this work so it’s no longer a challenge to me,” said Ashworth. “It pretty much comes down to scheduling, which in itself is rather challenging. Communication and pre-planning skills are critical so people understand all the different levels and the multitude of tolerances present.”

Caterpillar has invested several hundred million dollars into this property, project and facility and wants it to be a success, according to Martin. The reasons for the intricate foundation work on the project were varied. Some of it is due to the weight of the equipment which it will be supporting, as well as the vibrations the equipment will cause. There also are a lot of pits and trenches in the foundation.

“Much of the equipment is very high tolerance so vibration can disrupt the measurement. They wanted the foundation heavy so there is no vibration transferred between pieces of equipment. I don’t know that this is the biggest pour Wayne Brothers has ever done. They’ve done some pretty big stuff, including projects for us; I’m not sure where this one ranks,” Martin said.

Weather was controllable for the most part but it was still a concern as materials were hauled off site.

“This has been a great project for us,” added Martin. “Caterpillar has been a good customer and team member as part of the whole thing, as has Wayne Brothers. It appears to have been a successful project for everybody. This is one of Caterpillar’s largest capital investments in quite awhile; they haven’t built of facility of this scale in very recent times.

“Wayne Brothers has a great expertise at such developments as this and we’ve done other projects with Wayne Brothers similar in scope with heavy equipment foundations and we value our relationship with them.”

Gray Construction has had workers this job site since 2010. They had a typical field construction office and quite a substantial trailer city because a lot of the subcontractors had offices and Gray Construction’s customer had a field office there for awhile too. Now that the building itself is occupied that area has been reduced to just one or two trailers.

Production is taking place in part of the building already. The building is separated into areas and Gray Construction is working in the last area. These foundations they are currently working on will be done in the next month to six weeks. There is a little bit more area in the building that is scheduled for equipment foundations, but Martin doesn’t think there is too much left.

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