BY WILLIAM ATKINSON
SPECIAL TO CONTRACTOR
ELK GROVE VILLAGE, ILL. — It's not often that a contractor gets to use products made by its customer during a job, but that's exactly what happened when local contractor Midwest Maintenance & Industrial did a project for LA-CO Industries located here. LA-CO manufactures more than 2,000 products for the plumbing, HVAC, industrial, agricultural, lumber and welding industries. The recent project Midwest did for LACO, which involved remodeling LA-CO's manufacturing facilities, provided the company with the opportunity to "field test" its own products in its own building.
"LA-CO contacted us about two years ago in the infancy of this project," Midwest CEO Jeffrey Bradfield told CONTRACTOR. At the time, LA-CO wanted Midwest to provide a tank and a loading system for its linseed oil. "However, because of the cost of permits, design costs and construction costs, it turned into a somewhat expensive undertaking for just a tank and delivery system."
As a result, LA-CO elected to wait and incorporate the tank and loading system project into an overall upgrade of its plant. Since Midwest had already helped LA-CO with some of the preliminary design and layout work for the tank and delivery system two years earlier, LA-CO contacted Midwest in 2004, when it was ready to get started on its complete production upgrade.
"They included us on the bidder's list," Bradfield said.
Midwest won the project bid, which involved remodeling LA-CO's entire 2,500-sq.-ft. mold processing facility, where its B Paintstik and All-Weather marking products are manufactured. LA-CO undertook the project for three reasons: to improve working conditions for employees, to ensure continued product quality and to increase capacity, LA-CO President John Hardin said. The total cost of the project was more than $1 million, said Benjamin Kleiman, marketing/sales for LA-CO. From the beginning, the project presented challenges. First and foremost, Bradfield said, was the timeframe. Work began Nov. 29, 2004, and needed to be completed by mid-January.
"We had to work under a very compressed schedule," he said.
Second, since LA-CO could not shut down its operations during this timeframe, the contracting work had to take place between 6 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. This allowed LA-CO to run its afternoon and night shifts to meet production schedules. The new equipment had to be installed-while the existing equipment was still being operated.
"Third, we had to work in very tight working conditions," Bradfield said. "As a general contractor, we had to coordinate all of the other trades."
Midwest performed the piping work itself. Among the subcontractors, Guertler-Fulford did the HVAC portion of the job.
Midwest and LA-CO worked so closely together that they were able to overcome these challenges, Bradfield said. The key to success, he noted, was communication with LA-CO management and with the subcontractors. To deal with the time constraints and stay on schedule, Midwest and the subcontractors occasionally worked overtime on Saturdays as well as some Sundays.
"We also ended up doing things efficiently and effectively enough to meet the deadlines," Bradfield added. " LACO bent over backwards to make sure all of our needs were taken care of. Their project manager, Bill Schultz, did an outstanding job."
For example, LA-CO made sure Midwest was able to arrange its main tie-ins for gas, electric and air when they were needed. LA-CO also did a good job working with Midwest to coordinate equipment deliveries, Bradfield said. One key to the successful coordination was formal communication, such as project meetings.
"These activities were so important to the success of the project that we will continue to use the same procedures in our future projects," Bradfield said.
Another key to success was the fact that Midwest was able to use LA-CO and Markal products that were manufactured by LA-CO.
"In fact, I think this was the most interesting aspect of the project," Bradfield said. "Most of the products we used for the project were actually manufactured at that facility."
- Midwest used Valve Action paint markers and Dura-Ink markers to mark pipe and conduit.
- To counter the impact of the ultrahigh temperatures that occurred during soldering, Midwest used Cool Gel heat barrier spray. This helped prevent heat damage to components and surrounding material during soldering, brazing and welding. It also reduced the danger of fire to surrounding surfaces, such as rubber and plastic seals and gaskets. The Cool Gel was particularly useful in allowing at least one aspect of the project to be done on-site — elevating a base pump. Without the Cool Gel, Midwest would have had to disassemble the entire pump and send the base out to be trimmed, which would have added two days to the project, Bradfield said.
- Midwest also used Slic-Tite paste for the joints on metal, PVC, CPVC and ABS plastic pipe threads. Each line was tested with Sure-Chek all-temperature leak detector to verify a leak-free joint.