Manufacturing Case Study: At A Swift Pace

Requiring more factory space to accommodate production expansion, Welded Tube of Canada purchased a lot in Welland, Ontario. The company’s new plant is comprised of a renovated 80,000 square foot building, connected to a newly constructed 35,000 square foot facility. (Photo: Finn O’Hara.)
Requiring more factory space to accommodate production expansion, Welded Tube of Canada purchased a lot in Welland, Ontario. (Photo: Finn O’Hara/Getty Images.)

By Anne Cosgrove
From the August 2013 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

When a company has decided to introduce a new product to market, time is of the essence. So when Welded Tube of Canada moved forward on its plan to expand its output of oil country tubular goods (OCTGs), products used in oil and gas drilling, the company’s leadership moved quickly on choosing a site for the new manufacturing plant this endeavor required.

Based in Concord, Ontario and founded in 1970, Welded Tube makes mechanical and structural pipe and tubing for the oil and gas industries. With total manufacturing and ancillary space approximating one million square feet throughout North America, Welded Tube of Canada was the first steel tubular producer in North America to be ISO registered.

In 2010, the decision to expand its OCTG products meant the company needed a new facility—one with the capability to handle the high temperatures used to make such a product. The high strength, heat treated characteristics of these tubular products requires large furnace equipment, set in two 10′ deep pits.

With the goal of expanding its production capabilities, Welded Tube looked for a location that would fits its criteria. The city of Welland offered available industrial land and rail line spur access, both of which were attractive to Welded Tube. The company purchased a 105 acre lot that was once used as a locomotive engine remanufacturing facility.

Speed To Market

Comprised of a 115,000 square foot main facility (along with several small outbuildings), the new plant began operations in May 2011. The construction project started in mid-2010 shortly after the company purchased its site, and the goal to start production by mid-2011 called for a fast tracked schedule.

Jim Clark, specialty products manager at Welded Tube, oversaw the project, and he explains the scope. “Several existing buildings were retrofitted and modernized. The primary goal was the large-scale retrofit of an abandoned manufacturing facility spanning 80,000 square feet. Additions were made to the existing building, including a 35,000 square foot addition that accommodates a 10 ton, 100′ span crane and the two 10′ deep equipment pits that house [the] furnace equipment”

Making Connections

Faced with the challenge to open the new plant in less than a year, Welded Tube looked for a general contractor that would provide proactive supervision as well as be able to handle nimbly the permit processes with the city of Welland. Timbro Design/Build Contractors, also of Welland, was chosen based on its capabilities in both of those areas.

Says Clark, “Timbro made the entire process a smooth one, thanks to its experience in navigating the local permit and approval processes. And the company’s managerial position in the build process enabled it to set its own work schedule, which included 10 hour workdays, six days each week—which was necessary for the project to be completed on time.”

Installing the furnace that would be used to make the tubular products was a central part of the construction timeline, and Clark and Timbro worked together to make sure this went smoothly. Explains Clark, “The vendor for furnace installation was selected with the stipulation that it needed to be fabricated on-site and be operational within three months. We were tasked with pouring the foundation and erecting the building so that it was operational on the same timeline as the furnace installation.”

Roy Timms, president of Timbro, says, “Quick approvals were important because the furnace equipment needed to be installed within three months after the building contract was awarded.

The biggest challenge of the planning and construction process was obtaining the permits and paperwork needed to finish an 18 month project in eight to 10 months.”

He adds, “As a fourth generation general contractor based in Welland, our strong relationship with the city provided a smooth experience in obtaining site and work permits. Constant access to the project allowed quality control at each step in the process, and we worked closely with mechanical and electrical contractors to manage timelines.”

Timbro’s design capabilities enabled the firm to draft and engineer the structural and architectural aspects of the Welded Tube facility in-house. And Timms notes that having that ability “is a tremendous differentiator when it comes to meeting project deadlines.”

While the furnace installation was a major focus of the project schedule, significant construction work took place throughout the rest of the site—on the existing and new structures. The existing, 80,000 square foot facility was reroofed, with approximately 65,000 square feet of roofing replaced, including panels, gutters, and custom insulation for the facility’s specific operation. Meanwhile, exterior improvements were completed on several of the existing buildings on the site. A wall system retrofit was part of this. New construction involved the 35,000 square foot, one story addition to the existing main building.

Photo: Finn O'Hara/Getty Images.
Photo: Finn O’Hara/Getty Images.

The existing structure was renovated to have the same roof and wall systems as the new facilities. In renovating the existing structure and adding a new structure to it, the project team chose materials for consistency. This served to provide a unified facility, in both appearance as well as operations and maintenance requirements.

Beyond the main building, work on other buildings on the site ran the gamut, with the goal being a unified, modernized site. Tasks in this realm included reroofing, ventilation, electrical, and foundation work.

Timbro is part of a network (Butler Builders) of construction contractors that offer capabilities from construction to complete turnkey design-build services. And a key factor in this project being completed according to plan was the flexibility and tight turnarounds that Butler achieved for Timbro. For instance, Butler Canada provided quick feedback to building designs and subsequently worked closely with Timbro to manage the shipping and on-site delivery of building parts in stages. This process aided Timbro’s ability to manage multiple moving parts efficiently, including mechanical and electrical contractor timelines.

The efforts of the project team transformed a vacant, outdated facility into a retrofitted and revitalized modern manufacturing facility for pipe fabrication and heat treating.

Photo: Finn O'Hara/Getty Images
The company’s new plant is comprised of a renovated 80,000 square foot building, connected to a newly constructed 35,000 square foot facility. (Photo: Finn O’Hara/Getty Images.)

For the Welded Tube project, Timbro has since been recognized with the Niagara Construction Association’s Renovation of the Year award. In addition, the Ontario General Contractors Association awarded the firm its Industrial Project of the Year for Class 2 Membership award.

Says Clark, “Timbro and Butler made the entire process a smooth one, thanks to their experience navigating the local permit and approval processes in the city of Welland. They were able to meet our demanding construction timeline and relieved us of bureaucracy delays. The building completely meets our expectations.”

Maintaining Momentum

Commenting on the Welland project and other manufacturing projects his firm handles, Timms expresses what works for his team, “Be in constant contact with your team members to ensure a manufacturing facility project stays on time and on budget. Communicate daily with the building owner during all stages of the project, including design, tender, and construction.”

He adds, “Establish a design and construction project schedule that is regularly reviewed by the building owner, consultants, and subcontractors. Consider holding weekly meetings with all members of the project team to review the manufacturing facility project status.”

Reflecting on the Welland facility now that it has been in operation for two years, Clark says, “The buildings are performing as expected. Since construction was completed in the summer of 2011, there have been no structural or cosmetic issues to report. Some minor additions have been made to provide for the protection of work in process and employees from the elements.”

Referencing the 140 employees who work during the plant’s three shift schedule, Clark adds, “We are proud of our employees in making this business a success. They have demonstrated the ability to learn quickly and apply their learning to the job. This has had an extremely positive effect on our performance.”

This article is based on interviews with Clark and Timms, along with project literature.