In 2019, we received one of our toughest assignments yet.
Typically, we have a 12-week window to strategize a plan of attack, assemble skilled craftspeople, model the work in CAD, fabricate custom assemblies and acquire supplies.
Project Manager Gordon Dunn explains why we do all this work before making a single weld.
“When you’re in a 4 or 5-day window to do maybe 200 or 300 jobs,” he says, “it’s very difficult to accommodate changes or errors.” Planning and logistics must be impeccable to ensure all tools and materials are at the workstations, and everything fits.
But in 2019, down-to-the-wire strategizing at Alcon meant that 12-week preparation window closed to just six weeks.
With twice as tight a timetable, we sprung into action.
The project involved about 300 tie-ins, areas where duct systems, new piping containing solvents, gases and water would need to be connected to existing lines.
To get it all done in the few days around Christmas, we would need a massive team: 60 pipefitters, 20 plumbers, 15 sheet metal workers, 15 insulators, six millwrights and two cranes. All willing to work a lot of holiday overtime.
A team that size demands skilled coordination. Our B&K project squad set out to procure and organize the complex schedule of people, tasks and supplies.
We drew the designs in CAD and fabricated the custom pieces in our in-house fabrication shop.
But the biggest challenge, by far, was acquiring supplies.
Many of the valves and instruments would need to be specially manufactured. That typically means a lead time of 8 to 10 weeks for instruments and valves. Clearly not an option.
After 40+ years in the business, B&K has made a lot of friends; it was time to lean on those. For some components, we called dependable partners and expedited items from our suppliers in Germany. For others, we worked with our engineers to find smart substitutions that could be located quickly. Still others we pulled out of B&K’s own “spare parts bin.”
Somehow, we got every piece we needed, except for a single valve from Germany that came in three weeks late. (We used a temporary alternate until it arrived!)
Each annual shutdown brings its own challenges. One year, it was wet, icy winter weather. Other times it involved making simultaneous upgrades to electrical systems — which involves renting and setting up generators. And in other instances, the work involves finishing a project that was started by another contractor.
“Alcon knows we’re adaptable and we can flow with whatever design or scheduling changes they give us,” says Dunn. “Plus, we meet the deadlines.”