Circumventing Obstacles Through Preplanning

In 2010, Interstates helped build a pepperoni plant in Council Bluffs, IA, for Springdale, AR-based Tyson Foods. Recently, Interstates was back on site executing the process electrical installation on a major plant expansion. With the plant still in production mode and extreme scheduling demands, Interstates’ electrical construction team had to be two steps ahead at all times, relying on prefabrication and creative measures to meet their goals.

The expansion included adding dry rooms, coolers, freezer and shipping docks, and additional production equipment. “We worked on the process electrical installation of all the grinding, stuffing, slicing, and packaging equipment,” says Jeff Trinkle, Project Manager at Interstates. Because of compressed deadlines and having to work around ongoing plant operations, Interstates needed to get creative. Prefabrication was key. The prefab shop at Interstates built 2,000 feet of tray inside an interstitial space; 80,000 feet of tray cable for process only; stainless steel stands to support conduit from ceilings, stainless box supports, conduit segments for ceiling penetrations, disconnect mounts for conveyors, and more.

Another solution for staying on schedule was found locally. “This was kind of a unique project,” says Ryan Callahan, Project Superintendent at Interstates, “because of the extremely tight schedule, and the fact that the work wasn’t really in front of us, with equipment that wouldn’t be on site until it was almost too late.” To work around this setback, the team from Interstates talked to the local equipment vendor and worked out an uncommon solution: they would install their work on the conveyors at the vendor’s manufacturing facility before bringing them to the Tyson plant. “That way, when the conveyors showed up on site, they were ready to go,” says Callahan.

Trinkle estimates that all the prefabrication, as well as installing equipment at the vendor’s facility, saved approximately 400-500 on-site hours. Emphasizing preplanning and prework was crucial on this job. “A lot of up-front preparation helped us out,” says Trinkle, who adds that the team pulled about 30,000 feet of wire well ahead of construction so that everything would be in place when it was time for the shutdown.

Even with all these plans in place, Trinkle was reminded often about the importance of staying flexible. “It wasn’t sustainable to maintain a rigid game plan. Being flexible and able to accommodate the customer’s changes and needs was paramount,” he says, noting that if you go in expecting changes on the fly, you won’t be angry about the rework when it inevitably happens.

Trinkle highlights communications between the plant staff and the Interstates crew as exemplary and the reason changes could be swept into the game plan. “The way Ryan Callahan, Doug Leinart, and Keith Schwager stayed in daily contact with the plant staff was really important on this project,” he says. He commends his team for their work, especially as some of them were taking on new roles for the first time. “Those guys did an amazing job,” says Trinkle.

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