Cutting Edge Manufacturing Facility

Cutting Edge Manufacturing Facility Emerges from Existing Warehouse

By: Heather Seftel-Kirk, October/November 2013 Issue

South Carolina Construction News

Greenville-based O’Neal, Inc., converted a 10-year-old, pharmaceutical warehouse in Fountain Inn into a state of the art manufacturing plant for its client Bosch Rexroth. Completed in just six months, and within the project’s budget of $15 million, the 265, 000 sq. ft. plant required close collaboration, with subcontractors working side by side and typical construction schedules adjusted to meet the tight demands.

Using engineer-procure-construction (EPC) project delivery method, O’Neal’s facility upgrades included new steel reinforcement for a utility mezzanine, electrical upgrades, chilled water lines, heat treating, compressed air systems, and a new concrete reinforced slab for machining equipment. The project also included 12,000 square feet of new office space and upgrades to all utility services.

A technical support mezzanine located over the production area, designed to support a utility distribution system, as well as overhead hoists required for plant operations and equipment installation, were installed. A state of the art fire protection system, compliant with Bosch and its insurer’s standards, was also required.

Shane Bolding, business unit leader at O’Neal Inc., says the project had been part of Bosch’s expansion plans for several years but when the time came for construction, it had to be implemented very quickly to expand the company’s manufacturing capacity and customer requirements.

The project used an existing structure and nearby available land . “They could have just torn down the old shell but instead used it to create a state of the art manufacturing facility within an existing distribution building,”

Bolding said. “While this created some challenges it also protected the work from weather related issues because the structure was already enclosed.”

Bosch North American director Jerry Greene says among the challenges facing the team, an already short, eight month schedule was compressed to six months and normal construction schedules had to be adjusted. “Construction began in January but we needed to be in as early as possible to start installing our own equipment.

We got a partial certificate of occupancy so we started moving that equipment in by February. O’Neal’s project manager and team were terrific at helping things along and knowing how best to handle this.”

The shell building required a new reinforced steel floor, new mechanical systems and a technical mezzanine above the production floor. “We also installed new drive-in doors for access, modified the shipping and receiving areas, added office space and employee welfare areas, new parking space, a new truck court for shipping and new concrete pads outside for equipment,” Green said.

Bolding says part of the project’s success resulted from identifying long lead time items and critical cost elements ahead of time. “We spent a few months sorting out what the client wanted to do against the cost and schedule impact of these items and then worked closely with production, management, engineers and estimators.

This allowed us to make decisions early in the process, in some cases making assumptions when not all of the answers were available.”

Bolding says this process of ‘putting the cart before the horse’ could have created complications but worked well because everyone from the owner to the vendors took part.

Other members of the team also contributed to the compressed schedule. SteelFab furnished and installed the new mezzanine. Project manager Jeff Tucker says his team had to work closely with the engineer of record to get drawings approved quickly to facilitate the tight schedule.

Green says the entire project team should be credited with getting the project done on time and within the capital budget, despite outside challenges including rising steel prices. “By monitoring prices and project costs, we were able to offset climbing costs we couldn’t control – like the cost of steel – with decisions about changes we could.”

Hill Electric Company managed the electrical component of the project. Project manager David Wolke says the challenge of installing so much in such a short time was simplified because O’Neal had the foresight to order much of the needed equipment ahead of time.

Working up to ten hour days during the week and pulling additional staff in from other projects on weekends, Wolke says over the duration of the project most of his company’s 100 employees worked on the Bosch project at one time or another to get the job done. “It’s important when you’re working on a project with this kind of pace that you step back and take a birds’ eye view every so often, both to ensure people are working safely and to ensure everything is being installed correctly.”

Wolke says the building’s design as a building within a building, and the tight timeline, required creative thinking and close collaboration between the trades. “With the new steel structure installed under the roof of the original building my team was building on top of structural steel while ductwork was being installed alongside us.”

He says that coordination extended to the limited lay down space and ensuring it was available to those who needed it on any given day, and to the safety aspects of the entire project. “We were planning three weeks ahead to understand who would be on site when and doing what, what they were handling and how that changed the safety concerns in different areas of the project. Everyone had to understand their roles but also how their work impacted those around them.”

Waldrop Mechanical Services installed the HVAC upgrades for the facility. President Bill Caldwell says O’Neal also preordered some of the equipment his team needed to install while Waldrop provided the rest, including seven water source heat pumps, 19 exhaust fans and 23 gravity intake and relief hoods, along with 48 tons of duct and the associated pipe work required. “Much of what we installed had to be in fast to establish the humidity controls and cooling the building needed. Some of the equipment was installed on the mezzanine, which was being built as the ductwork was going in,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell says the close collaboration required between the trades and the height at which much of this took place (40 ft) created challenges, as did the delivery of equipment,” Caldwell said. “Some of the equipment came in during week eight of the schedule which was tight,” he added.

“We had all the ductwork in place by then and had to connect it to the equipment. One air handler arrived with a structural deficiency so we had to refurbish that.”

Waldrop found ways to save time and money on the project, by eliminating parts of the 60-inch medium pressure ductwork and specialized belt-driven fans. Caldwell says the tight site meant ductwork had to be co-ordinated so it was fabricated and delivered just in time to avoid the requirement for storage and moving things around the site. “We had more than 65 years of experience represented by our on-site team. We knew we had to have the best there to get the job done and they did.”

Though ‘green’ building is not a common driver in manufacturing facilities, Greene says Bosch works to use materials and energy in the most efficient ways it can. “We recirculate water to the cooling towers and precooled water going into the chiller. We ended up removing heat created by our processes allowing us to indefinitely postpone the planned boiler system to reduce costs.”

To facilitate the installation of the large heavy equipment needed for the manufacturing process, Greene says half of the original concrete floor had to be removed and replaced with 12 in. reinforced concrete. “The concrete was poured in three continuous slabs to avoid seams that could impact the placement of equipment,” he says.

Greene says Bosch hired O’Neal after the original project was completed to take on several subprojects including the installation of new coolant and filtration systems which half of the equipment required, construction of a tank farm to store the nitrogen, ammonia and other gases needed for processes, and the partial finishing of the second story office space.

“O’Neal has handled two past expansions for us as well. Every project we tender is based on competitive bids. O’Neal backs that with a local presence in South Carolina, which we prefer and the experience and skill we need.”

Greene says that experience also came into play in creating the campus master plan. He says O’Neal’s knowledge and input helped create the plan which doubled Bosch’s floor space, quadrupled its acreage and created a centralized company location.

This project is part of an $80 million investment over five years to expand production. The expansion has turned the Fountain Inn campus into its largest hydraulics manufacturing site in the Americas and will create 160 new jobs.

The project was awarded an Excellence in Construction Award by the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). The judges recognized the challenge in creating a crossdock facility into a heavy manufacturing plant, the compressed schedule, staying within the capital budget and no lost time accidents.