Construction Company Improves Productivity Levels Using XMT and Big Blue Welders

Construction Company Improves Productivity Levels Using XMT and Big Blue Welders

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Cianbro Corporation's unique organization, equipment management skills and Miller welding power sources beat the clock.

Cianbro Corporation plans to help set a record with the Westbrook Energy Center: from groundbreaking to producing commercial power in 22 months. Owned by Calpine Corporation and being constructed under a prime contract awarded to General Electric Power Systems, the purchase orders for engineering (performed by Burns & Roe) and on-site construction (a joint venture between Cianbro and Metric Constructors) were signed on the same day.

"This project defines 'fast-track.' We began cutting the road on the same day that engineers first worked on the site drawings," says Parker Hadlock, Construction Manager, Cianbro, Pittsfield, Maine. "To complete the job on time, many stages of erection must occur simultaneously. Things like foundation work are happening right next to structural steel work; and across the site, we're welding 1,200 ft. of 84 in. diameter pipe for the cooling water."

Located 10 miles west of Portland, Maine, the 540 megawatt Westbrook Energy Center will require 50,000 ft. of pipe, 3,000 tons of structural steel, 27 miles of cable and wire and 20,000 cu. yds. of concrete. Two heat recovery steam generators (HRSGs) account for approximately 80 percent of the on-site welding, with structural steel and gas and water pipe accounting for the remainder.

The tight production schedule can only be met because of Cianbro's multi-disciplinary workforce and equipment management skills. Howard Lynds, Equipment Administration & Sales, Cianbro, notes that "the reliability and multiple-process flexibility of welding equipment from Miller Electric play a big role in keeping the project on schedule. We also depend on support from our distributor, Portland Welding Supply."

Speed Counts, but Safety First

Cianbro can complete the Westbrook project so quickly because of its ability to self-perform all activities. The 400 Cianbro employees working at Westbrook include those with skills in pipe fitting, instrumentation, electrical, millwright, ironwork, concrete, finishing and carpentry.

"We have a multi-skilled work-force," adds Hadlock. "People start in one trade, and, as the project progresses, roll over into another."

More important than speed and cost, however, is safety. In fact, the first goal listed for the Westbrook project is 650,000 work hours (the estimated construction total) without a lost-time accident. This philosophy, preached by Cianbro President and safety fanatic Pete Vigue, also benefits clients. Cianbro's paid-claim losses and workers' compensation insurance are a fraction of the industry average, so it can bid projects more competitively.

Welding Trends

To give operators equipment for better productivity and quality control, Portland Welding Supply Sales Representative Paul Bernier and Miller District Manager Glenn Smith recently helped Lynds add two new pieces of equipment to the Westbrook project: the Big Blue ® 402 diesel-powered welding generator and an XMT ® 304 Rack.

"These Miller machines feature constant current and constant voltage outputs," says Bernier. "They give operators the flexibility to select the welding process best-suited for the task at hand."

"Wire welding is a lot quicker," states Bill Wright, a Cianbro operator using the Big Blue 402 paired with a Super S-32P feeder and running an E71T-1 flux cored wire. "I complete jobs faster. Speed especially helps when I have a lot of welding to do, like on the K-braces temporarily holding up the building until the HRSGs go in place."

Typical of larger jobs, the Westbrook project requires 10 to 12 Big Blue welding generators. These self-contained units also supply auxiliary power for running tools, lights and pumps. Once the site has electric power, Cianbro prefers to trade out welding generators for multiple-arc welding units because they cost less per arc. Initially, the Westbrook site used three of Miller's Mark VIII ® -2 units. Recently, Cianbro also added an XMT 304 Rack for welding process flexibility.

"The rack contains six individual and removable XMT 304 inverter-based welding machines," notes Bernier. "Like the Mark VIII-2, the XMT 304 Rack uses a single primary power cable and lets operators work independently. In addition to an unbeatable Stick or TIG arc, the XMT offers wire welding capabilities that make an operator's life easier."

Cianbro welder Bob McDonald explains that "I really have to play with the settings to tune a constant current machine for wire welding because my arc fluctuates. Once we got those constant current/constant voltage machines, wire welding worked a lot better. I had much more control over arc stability and heat input."

Lynds comments that "We're using the XMT Rack for the same types of jobs where we've historically used a Mark VIII-2, but switching from Stick welding to wire welding when possible. Speed equals money, so people are leaning towards wire welding."

Equipment Management

Cianbro's unique equipment management skills help it bid more competitively, and understanding and bringing new technology to the construction site is just a part of it.

"Many companies performing our volume of work - $175 to $200 million annually - don't own any-where near the $45 million of equipment we do." says Terry Gallant, Equipment Coordinator at Cianbro's Pittsfield location.

The Cianbro equipment division is its own cost center, leasing equipment to Cianbro jobs on an hourly basis, as well as to other companies. Its objectives are to maintain each piece of equipment, keep utilization rate at the maximum, select the right equipment and keep job costs low.

"That's why I look at things like cost per welding arc and swap out welding generators for multiple arc units as soon as possible," says Lynds. "For example, I can put a Mark VIII-2 unit on a site for 19 cents an hour less than a single Big Blue. An XMT 304 Rack costs the site one-third more than the Mark VIII-2, but the XMT easily makes up for that with better productivity and versatility."

Fast-track Trend

More and more jobs demand a fast-track schedule like the Westbrook Energy Center, and Cianbro Marketing Manager Doug Moore says the trend is growing.

"We just built a facility for National Semiconductor in Portland, Maine, very quickly. Like merchant power producers, the owners know that every day they do not sell product means money lost," he says.

With owners of facilities wanting safe, fast and cost-effective construction, Cianbro's equipment management techniques - and multiple process, multiple-arc welding equipment - will play an increasingly critical role in any success story.

Updated: May 12, 2020
Published: February 1, 2007