Each year, hundreds of merit-shop companies submit projects to Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) Excellence in Construction awards program. ABC already announced project awards at the national level, but currently, select chapters are honoring projects at the state level. For one poultry production plant that experienced cold winters, tornadoes, and historic flooding, the ABC Cornhusker chapter is now awarding their work.
Receiving the Awards
ABC designed the awards program to honor innovative and high-quality construction projects. The winning projects from across the state were judged on complexity, attractiveness, unique challenges overcome, completion time, workmanship, innovation, safety and cost. This year, the Costco greenfield feed mill in Fremont, NE received the Eagle Award in the Electrical – Industrial: $2 – 10 Million category.
Additionally, the ABC Cornhusker Chapter surprised our team by recognizing this project as the overall Project of the Year winner for the chapter. As part of this award, ABC also recognized Joel Cook as Project Superintendent of the Year and Britton Hulme as Project Manager of the Year. “I’ve been part of many award-winning projects, but not as a superintendent. This award is truly a milestone for my career and my team,” comments Joel Cook, Superintendent at Interstates.
We began building Costco’s feed mill in 2018 as part of a larger greenfield facility that also included a hatchery and poultry processing. We provided electrical construction work on the feed mill portion of the plant and took on more tasks as the project progressed. “Our crew worked hard. They put in six-day weeks with long hours, supplying the project with seven-day coverage through multiple weeks of start-up and commissioning,” says Cook.
It Takes a Little Initiative and Innovation
To keep things on schedule, our employees took the initiative to develop plans for integrating systems when drawings for some areas of the project were unavailable. To avoid conflict, we went directly to other trades or vendors to get questions answered. For instance, we coordinated MCC loading and unloading with the vendor to prevent conflicts and keep a close hold on the schedule.
We had the chance to test a new track porter – basically a robot for setting gear – on this project. “The track porter worked well for us. It saved on labor with lifting and rigging things. Instead of using someone’s back to do the work, this tool can pick things up, put them in place, and set them down,” says Cook. The track porter helped save time when delays threatened the already tight schedule. “It took a five-person job and made it a one-person job,” says Britton Hulme, Project Manager at Interstates.
Harsh Weather Causes Challenges
Mother Nature threw a wrench in the project schedule with both a harsh winter and a spring and summer full of historic flooding. “The cold weather was terrible. At that point, our work was up top and outside where there was nothing to block the wind,” says Hulme. Heavy rains, tornadoes, and flooding began in March and continued through July. Although the surrounding land was flooded, luckily, Costco facilities remained above water.
To regain time lost to inclement weather and other delays, we focused on handling critical items to meet deadlines and double-planned our manpower. Whiteboard scheduling helped keep track of who needed to be where. The team extensively planned big wire pulls so that we could do them in one shot. The long hours and long weeks were challenging, but the hard work and dedication of the crew made up for the lost time. “Because of schedule lags, we ended up having to do 65-70% of our work between May 1st and July 1st,” says Cook. He adds, “We had an excellent team. They worked their tails off, and I can’t say enough good things about them.” Hulme adds, “They really embodied our motto of ‘Understanding Needs and Delivering Results.’”
The feed mill portion of the facility was completed in September 2019. Hulme shared, “Someone once told me, the only reason a project manager has a job is because of the crew in the field, without them you are nothing. My goal was to keep the path clear so they can use their skills and knowledge to make a project like this happen”. Our team is excited to see the hard work and perseverance through the challenges of the project be awarded by the ABC Cornhusker Chapter.