3D Modeling Smooths the Schedule

An image of conduit rack taken from an upward perspective towards the sky.

August 11, 2023

An Interstates client recently expanded its operations with a greenfield cattle feed facility in Texas. Interstates provided a complete design-build package on this project, including the facility’s core shell, temp power, power distribution, lighting, process equipment connections, and more. As the largest contractor on site, Interstates led the way with innovative engineering and 3D modeling solutions, helping the client meet project milestones in the face of frustrating supply chain delays.

3D Modeling Pivotal for Schedule

3D modeling added value on this project with intentional layout and design. Adam Wilson, Senior Project Manager at Interstates, says, “Using 3D modeling was extremely beneficial to the client. They had a basic model for interiors and exteriors, but our model took it further and demonstrated our industrial construction means and methods, including routing and how field installs would be executed. This allowed the client to really maximize the space and see what the interior of the building would look like from a process standpoint.”

Because 3D modeling uncovers and helps solve coordination issues among trades, it was a useful tool for fostering communication. “It was a good jumping-off point for us to form strong working relationships with the other contractors,” says Wilson. Solving potential clashes in the model also saved time for the overall schedule by eliminating costly, time-consuming rework.

Routing underground conduits and cable tray stations for efficient field installations saved hours at the job site. Prefabricating these items based on the 3D model also helped keep the schedule on track. “Instead of waiting for the building to go up and then planning cable trays and conduits, those items were prefabbed, preassembled, and ready to go,” says Mike Van Es, Senior Project Leader at Interstates.

Supply Chain Solutions

Constant supply chain issues drove innovation on this project. “Our main switchboard was going to have a 60-week lead time, about 30 weeks past what we were hoping for. We looked hard for ways to mitigate this challenge and ultimately came up with using a custom switchboard from another vendor that would arrive more quickly,” says Wilson. The custom switchboard wasn’t precisely what was needed for this project, but it was close enough that it could be modified to meet the site’s needs.

Stetson Bonds, Foreman at Interstates, says, “Long lead times for materials and gear forced us to be creative in considering different applications and methods. We tried to find as many solutions as possible for materials with shorter lead times. It made us think about what else we could use to complete a task when we couldn’t find a specific item.”

Delivering Beyond Initial Plans

Interstates’ various branches of expertise came together to meet the client’s needs and fill any gaps. Van Es says, “With design-build projects, you eliminate the middleman and can push the schedule. There’s no finger pointing: we design it, we build it, and we handle any issues internally. It never becomes the client’s problem, and that’s valuable because problems are resolved quickly.” Being a project leader also meant prioritizing what was most important to the client.

The client needed to get a steam room up and running before anything else to meet its production deadlines. According to Van Es, “The necessary electrical equipment wasn’t going to be there in time, so we did some temporary power installations and hookups to meet that goal for them.” The client also wanted to add local controls to some pumps, an automation feature not in the original plans. Interstates brought our controls group in to make this happen. “Even though we didn’t have automation scope on this project, we were able to use our internal resources and come up with a great solution,” says Van Es.

Despite the dreaded long lead times for equipment, the new facility is set to be fully operational in early 2023. Wilson says, “Having open communication with the client made this project successful. When they wanted something done but didn’t know how to accomplish it, we were able to step in and help them achieve their goals.”