Expansion project garners Allstate valuable experience
by Erin Schmitt, Media Director, Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group, USA
Allstate Tower has undertaken thousands of projects since it was formed in 2003, and in 2016, was eager to accept the challenge of a project for Grain Processing Corporation that is set to be completed this fall.
Founded in 1943, Grain Processing Corporation is a privately held corn wet milling company based in Muscatine, Iowa. GPC's products include maltodextrins, corn syrup solids and starches for the food, nutraceutical and personal care markets; ethyl alcohol for beverage and industrial use; starches for the paper, corrugated box, textile and wallboard industries; crude corn oil and corn germ; and animal and pet nutrition ingredients.
In 2015, GPC approved a project at its Muscatine plant. Not long afterward, an Allstate salesperson reached out to the project's millwright, Carl A Nelson & Company of Burlington, Iowa.
The project was eventually awarded to Allstate Tower in two phases; with the first phase totaling about 1.53 million pounds and the second one coming in around 800,000 pounds. Allstate Tower provided all of the steel support structures associated with this project. Throughout the two-phase project, Allstate has provided a total of 30 towers or vertical supports and more than 2,000 feet of catwalk to support the conveyor systems.
'When all is said and done, Allstate provided over 2.3 million pounds of structural steel,' said Ray Fulkerson, Vice President of Manufacturing for Allstate Tower.
For reference, a tower and a 60-foot catwalk are in the 20,000 to 40,000-pound range, said Fulkerson.
Allstate played a role in designing part of the structures for phase one, Fulkerson said. The in-house team of professional engineers employed by Allstate Tower is well equipped to tackle a project of this magnitude and has decades of combined experience designing all types of steel structures. All of the support equipment was fabricated and manufactured at Allstate.
'The catwalks were very large on this, so we used a different material, a custom style of catwalk specifically designed for that project,' said Fulkerson.
The large catwalks supporting most of the conveyors were a custom design that utilised WT-shapes for the top and bottom chords. WT-shapes are made by splitting W-shapes, or I beams, down the middle to create a 'T' shaped structural member. This shape proved to be the most effective choice for the heavy top and bottom chords required for these catwalks.
Most of the steel has a hot-dipped galvanised finish. The OSHA-compliant handrails were painted safety yellow.
'There was a lot of pre-assembly of the catwalk sections that occurred at Allstate Tower to save time in the field,' said Fulkerson.
Most of the catwalk side trusses were pre-assembled at Allstate's shop to ensure proper fit-up and then shipped out to expedite assembly at the job site.
'It's up in the air, so the more that you have done and completed where they can just lift it with a crane, the better because it's less time with labor,' said Alisha Saalwaechter, who is in charge of steel support sales for Allstate Tower.
The project schedule required Allstate shop to work on the project for two years. The first phase of the project was finished and shipped out by summer 2019. The second phase is expected to be completed in the fall.
Dealing with the size of the project was challenging, said Fulkerson. The materials they worked with were larger and often different than on projects they had worked on before.
Allstate worked closely with GPC to ensure shipping was done to the corn wet milling company's needs.
'That's one thing they relayed to us; they wanted shipments a certain way,' Saalwaechter said. This involved staggering shipments so GPC could better store the steel. 'Obviously they don't need this item over here if they are trying to finish up this. They don't want a bunch of steel in the yard.'
Part of the shipment was loaded onto flatbeds, while the pre-assembled parts were placed on over width load trucks. Hundreds of shipments were made throughout the entirety of the project. The GPC project was given top priority at the shop, with several shipments simultaneously in transport.
Shipments were scheduled in a manner to give the GPC project top priority at the shop, that way other customers weren't coming in to pick up shipments at the same time. It also gave the shop plenty of room to work with multiple skids and trailers.
'With any project, it doesn't matter the size, it's very important to accommodate the customer's needs and make sure that everybody is on the same page and that they are not only getting a quality product, but they feel good about the relationship,' Saalwaechter said.
'That way they feel good about the project from start to finish. They feel good and feel like, 'oh yeah, Allstate took care of me, I'm going to reach back out to them.''
Saalwaechter added that quality customer service is always important no matter the size of the project. 'But obviously, with a project of this size, you definitely put your game face on with everybody.'
Allstate also worked closely with the customer to help eliminate downtime so the project could move along as quickly and efficiently as possible. This was made possible, in part, because of the team of Allstate Tower employees who were critical to completing the project.
Senior draftsman Will Ladd was responsible for producing the structural steel detailing. These drawings were then used to fabricate products in the shop. Project manager Matt Dalbec was in constant communication with the customer and the contractors. Dalbec also oversaw scheduling shipments, resolving issues in the field, and invoicing.
As plant manager, Chris Hunt worked closely with drafting and project management on the project. Hunt also oversees all shop employees and coordinates the galvanising process, which is performed off-site at a facility in Nashville, Tennessee. He's also responsible for the quality of the shipments and scheduling when to ship products.
'Chris and Matt keep a pulse on the project,' said Saalwaechter.
This was the largest manufacturing project that Allstate has ever undertaken. The GPC project has given Allstate valuable experience that it looks forward to putting to good use with future endeavours, and possibly even bigger projects.
'The project has positioned Allstate for future larger opportunities,' said Fulkerson. 'Now, with this behind us, we are capable of producing larger projects like this.'
Allstate Tower is part of Pittsburg Tank & Tower Group, which is headquartered in Henderson, Kentucky.