Unique challenges come into play in manufacturing construction projects
From the outside, it might look like most industrial buildings are built from a similar mold – but the beauty of industrial buildings is often found on the inside. Building for manufacturing clients often involves a lot of communication, creative problem-solving and thinking ahead.
“It’s a great topic, because when you’re building for an industrial or manufacturing type of facility, the building is designed around the manufacturing process itself,” says Scott Smet, owner of Smet Construction in Green Bay. “It’s almost like the building itself is a machine.”
Smet Construction has been working on the Marinette Marine expansion, in which “you have to fit an entire ship in a building,” Smet says. In other words, it’s not your typical office floor plan. The floor in the building also had to be strong enough to support the weight of a ship, and the structure also needed a special system to exhaust gases produced by welding. But any manufacturing project has special needs, Smet adds. Some might need freezers and coolers, or special foundations for heavy machinery, or special material-handling requirements.
Another concern is work flow: how materials are delivered, where the assembly area should be and how finished products are loaded onto semis, which on occasion must drive right into a building.
“It’s fun stuff – the design of (the buildings) are so specific to what’s being done in them,” Smet says.
Smet has finished Marinette Marine’s Building 10, a ship-construction building, and now is working on a 150,000-square-foot panel-line facility that’s scheduled to be finished this month, a project that requires an enormous amount of yard infrastructure such as sewer, water, gas and electrical. Smet also is in the design and pricing process for a painting facility.
Smet is also the contractor on a fire testing facility in Howard for Solberg, a manufacturer of firefighting equipment. For that project, Smet needed to construct a six-story all-concrete structure with specific sorts of ventilation, durability against fire and considerations that allowed people to view the fires and also keep them protected.
One of the other challenges is that many of the projects involve adding on to an existing facility rather than building a new structure from scratch, Smet says. So that means the contractor must ensure the manufacturer can continue operating and stay in business while construction is going on. Other issues to consider include examining work flow, height requirements and whether a company plans on expanding.
“When you’re designing a building, that makes a difference,” Smet says. “It’s almost preplanning the future.”
Building for Oshkosh Defense
Len Borgen, a Miron Construction project manager who worked with Oshkosh Corp. on the E-Coat facility that was completed last July, says the project’s special consideration was a short time-frame – Miron had to turn around a 150,000-square-foot addition in
“By the time the decision is made to put on the expansion, the need for the product is already there,” Borgen says. “You can never get the building done soon enough.”
The primary goal of this particular project wasn’t to get the building done – it was to make production possible. So Miron worked with equipment buyers to determine what was going in where, then had multiple crews pouring the concrete floor. Once the floor was done and the roof was up, they got the equipment in and running before the walls were even on.
In any manufacturing project, it’s important to determine in the preconstruction meeting what everyone’s goals are, what the time constraints are and making sure the client gets a product they’re happy with, Borgen says.
Challenges in dairy, technology
Shawn Mueller, sales representative for Bayland Buildings in Green Bay, says contractors will meet with manufacturers who will explain their unique needs and how they’d like the construction company to handle it.
For instance, Shawano’s Genex contracted Bayland to design a new barn to accommodate four or five different age groups of calves and also control exterior barn temperature with a system called autovent. The barn also needed what’s basically a heated floor to prevent manure and urine from freezing on the floor, Mueller says. The project, expected to be completed this month, had radically different requirements than the expansion project for electronics manufacturer SMT in Appleton, for which Bayland also was the contractor.
In addition to concerns about dust and static, Bayland had to work with existing drawings and documents because SMT constructed its original building with a removable end wall, anticipating an expansion, says SMT CEO Christopher Sumnicht.
“Our industry is a pretty fast-growing industry,” he says. “We built our original building with the plan to have the ability to add sections to the building in the future.”
The 25,000-square-foot expansion to the company’s eight-year-old building was completed in January, and when the building was ready to be opened, Bayland unbolted the expandable end wall, which opens up into the new area to make a seamless addition.
Because SMT makes electronics, the floor had to be conductive – without that feature, if you touched an electrical product with static electricity in your body, you would damage the product, Sumnicht says. Typically, when an industrial building is constructed and a concrete floor is installed, there will be a layer of plastic; that isolates the ground from the floor, and that’s not what they want, Sumnicht says. They want the electricity to pass from the floor to the ground to protect the electronics. Most coatings also would block conductivity, so they needed to use special sealers.
“That’s really unique to our business,” Sumnicht says. “A retail store wouldn’t require construction companies to care about the floor.”
Temperature and humidity is also a factor – the building must be very well insulated, so the manufacturing area looks more like an office area, with suspended ceilings and painted walls.
Bayland also needed to ensure cleanliness during construction, putting up plastic and building enclosures to avoid dust and contaminates from entering. The workers themselves also had to wear special clothing, Sumnicht says, including anti-static coats and foot straps that help ground the person to the floor. Lastly, they also needed special clearance to enter the building because SMT builds munitions and airplane parts for the military and the facility is fully secure.
Another Bayland project – an expansion of Mid-Point Machine in Glenbeulah – needed a building high enough to accommodate a crane system to clear large machinery and reinforced flooring to prevent vibration, Mueller says. The project, which will add a 6,000-square-foot building to its existing site, is expected to be completed in November.
John Halbach, owner of Mid-Point Machine, says the building also will be temperature-controlled to help control the accuracy of larger machine construction. Halbach says Bayland understood the state’s requirements concerning building height and wind loads, and how to handle certain requirements for isolating the machines from the buildings to prevent vibrations that damage the accuracy of the machines.
“They need to ask all the necessary questions – that’s the thing,” Halbach says. “It would help if they had someone on site that knows manufacturing and has a machining background, and basically, they do. They know the questions to ask up front.”
Steve Tyink, vice president of business innovation for Miron Construction in Neenah, says spending time on those questions and building relationships with the clients helps to develop a strong understanding of what the company’s goals are – and that ultimately results in a better building.
“What is it about the building that you’re trying to accomplish?” Tyink says. “You’re trying to help their business along somehow – by increasing market share, enhancing their reputation in the industry or the community they serve, or providing more efficient operations – which is usually reducing costs or expenses, or creating a better place to attract or retain talent.”
For example, a health-care provider might examine what the industry will look like in 2020, Tyink says, and what kinds of technology and medical equipment might be integrated, or basically how it can better care for patients with the result of becoming the provider of choice.
The ultimate question is: “How can a building serve as a strategic weapon of differentiation?” Tyink says.