This article was originally published in Current Connections Winter 2020 issue.
Interstates recently completed construction of a greenfield grain handling facility for York, NE-based Central Valley Ag (CVA). Located just north of Linn, KS, the new grain terminal is situated next to three additional CVA sites. The project meets CVA’s capacity needs and allows for full-time staff on site. In order to hit CVA’s hard deadline – the 2018 soybean harvest – Interstates emphasized teamwork and relied on prefabrication to save time in the field.
Interstates handled power engineering, automation controls, and electrical design and construction. Dalen Meier, Project Manager at Interstates, says, “Our main scope was installing electrical motors for all the conveyors and grain handling equipment, along with sensors and alarms for automation.” Interstates automated the entire grain terminal. “Part of our HMI programming included automating how trucks are used on site,” says Jeff DeBoer, Lead CS Analyst at Interstates. In the unload/load pit, trucks can be loaded and unloaded automatically, controlled in the scale house 500 yards away. The chief controller can also move trucks forward and backward to load trucks via camera and through the use of automated gates.
With the harvest deadline looming, inclement weather provided unwanted setbacks. “It happened to be the wettest year in 10 years. It was a brand-new site, so we were in the mud constantly. Even hauling materials around was a challenge,” says Meier, adding that, at times, the jobsite resembled a lake.
The greenfield site led to complexities beyond mud, as well. Before the project even began, the utility company needed to know the electrical capacity of the entire site in order to properly size the transformer. Chris Albers, Senior Project Engineer at Interstates, says, “We had to do a lot of upfront work to figure out the electrical needs of each piece of equipment in order to give the utility company a ballpark figure on what the site’s total usage would be.”
The swampy setting and extra planning could have set the schedule way behind, but open lines of communication from the general contractor down to the vendors resulted in maximum coordination and efficiency. “The communication on this project was exceptional. It was really nice that, if we had a question, our team could reach out to any other contractor and get answers right away. It made the whole project run smoothly,” says Albers. He also notes that being involved early in the design process enabled Interstates to understand CVA’s goals and make the necessary changes along the way. “Being flexible with the design and having a few different iterations helped us to meet the client’s needs. It’s about constantly working with the general contractor and the vendors to make sure the final design is good. We had a good synergy,” says Albers.
Relying on prefabrication was another way Interstates stayed on top of the schedule while maintaining a solid design. Panel boards for the MCC room and conduit for the main vertical rack were made at the Interstates prefab shop in Sioux Center, IA, and shipped down. “We were able to install the conduit rack on the main leg tower in one afternoon. About 80% of the project’s conduit was put together on the ground before installation,” says Meier. Prefabrication saved many manhours in the field. Additionally, leveraging onsite personnel to work more efficiently helped make up for any time lost. Teamwork was integral.
In particular, the Interstates programmers worked diligently to meet the hard harvest deadline. “Our programmers worked hard to make it possible to have a partial startup in order to get grain in the first bin on time. In fact, the entire Interstates team worked together to get the site operational for the first load of soybeans,” says Meier. The harvest deadline was met, and the grain handling terminal is now completed. The CVA junction site is equipped to handle 3.5 million bushels of grain.