Field Service For Extreme Conditions

Jennifer Oredson, Technical Writer | September 28, 2010

Provided by: Iowa Mold Tooling, Co. Inc., Garner, Iowa

No matter what the job, Dwayne McAninch knows speed is crucial, and never more so than on one of McAninch Corporation's current jobs. The Des Moines, Iowa-based contractor is doing all the site prep for the new airport in Branson, Mo., and it's the biggest job in the company's history. It also has an extremely aggressive deadline.

"We're working 24 hours a day, five days a week down here," says McAninch, chairman and CEO of McAninch Corp. "It's the biggest job we've ever done, so we have more equipment assigned to this job site than any other job site we've worked on before. We simply cannot afford any downtime."

McAninch is in charge of Phase 1 of construction for the Branson airport, which is scheduled for a May 2009 opening. Phase 1 consists of moving about 10 million cubic yards of earth, building the runway (7,400 linear feet) and constructing the three-mile entranceway with bridges. They also will install water, sewer and fueling facilities, construct parking lots and grade for the terminal. The site sprawls across 600 acres, but it's not just its sheer size that makes this McAninch's largest job to date: it's also the terrain of southern Missouri. An airport needs to be flat, of course, and the Ozarks are anything but flat, so the name of the game is "cut and fill": cut hilltops off and use them to fill huge valleys.

"Anything you do in this area is going to be a challenge because of the mountainous, rocky terrain," says Greg Hirth, project superintendent. "You just have to get to the bottom and get started."

McAninch started on this project in July 2007, and although Phase 1 work will continue throughout 2008, the grueling work of preparing the site will be mostly done in the first quarter of 2008. Because of the size of the job and the deadline, McAninch has about 75 pieces of equipment and nine service trucks assigned to this job site. The equipment is a mix of excavators, dozers and scrapers. The service trucks include a mix of Dominator mechanics trucks from Iowa Mold Tooling Co. Inc. (IMT) and IMT SiteStar lube trucks.

"Because we're running 24 hours a day, we have to service the equipment right here, and we have to keep it running," says Curt Sutton, field mechanics foreman for McAninch. "We never quit, so the machines can never quit."

Extreme Service

McAninch has dedicated an unprecedented number of service trucks to this job site primarily because of the rocky earth and the little tolerance they have for downtime.

"The rocky terrain down here does a real number on the equipment," Sutton says. "If it were dirt or soft clay on this job site, we would definitely not need to have nine service trucks down there."

Because McAninch has worked in the Ozark region before, they knew what they were getting into when they took on this job. Hirth says the rocky earth wears parts down so fast that they need replacing about twice as often as they normally would, and it's even worse for some components.

"Down here, the life of a tire is about a quarter of what it would normally be," Hirth says. "The rock just chews right through the tires."

Vibration also takes a huge toll on the equipment. Driving over smooth surfaces is a breeze compared to riding over jagged rock. "Everything gets shaken to pieces, so we have to replace everything — radiators, wiring, pins — so much more often," Hirth says. "You can't run this huge equipment on rock and expect it to have the same life as it would in dirt or soft clay."

On top of fixing the machines that breakdown and replacing the parts that wear out, the service trucks are tasked with doing preventive maintenance. Aside from routine oil changes, the equipment gets greased every shift, and the big excavators get greased four times a day, twice a shift. In addition, IMT service trucks from various Caterpillar dealerships are on the job site doing warranty work, so there are often more service trucks working alongside McAninch's.

New Equipment

McAninch had to buy new service trucks to meet the demands of this job. The company already had a fleet of 15 mechanics trucks and three lube trucks, but because of the scope of the Branson job on top of McAninch's other jobs throughout the Midwest, they had to buy two more trucks for the airport project. With the new trucks, they have just enough service units to cover all of their commitments.

McAninch purchased a 2007 IMT Dominator IV mechanics truck with an 8025 telescopic crane, as well as a 2007 IMT SiteStar lube truck, and these two trucks are among those stationed at the Branson job site.

The Dominator IV truck and the 8025 telescopic crane were introduced in 2007, and this mechanics body is the first one on the market that can accommodate an 80,000-foot-pound crane. This was crucial to McAninch's purchase decision because this job site required extremely large equipment — heavy equipment means heavy parts to service.

"Having the new Dominator IV truck with the 8025 crane on this job site has really increased productivity because we can service more of the larger equipment faster than we could with the previous model," Sutton says.

When McAninch ordered the 2007 SiteStar lube truck, they had it custom built. The standard SiteStar body's hose reels are on the back of the truck, and the sides of the body contain the storage compartments. One of McAninch's more significant specifications was that the hose reels be mounted on the side of the truck in order to save the operator time on each oil change. McAninch also specified that IMT install steel tanks instead of the customary polyethylene tanks because of the extreme conditions of this job site. IMT's willingness to build engineered-to-order trucks made these custom specifications possible.

"When our equipment isn't in the dirt, every second counts," Sutton says. "We need to get our oil changes done as quickly as possible, so if we can shave off a minute or two here and there, we'll do it."

IMT's new SiteStar body has some time-saving enhancements that McAninch appreciated. McAninch selected the new enclosed lube truck instead of the open version. The enclosed lube truck keeps the product tanks warmer, and when oil is warm, the viscosity changes and enables the product to pump faster. In some cases, this can save up to 15 minutes on an oil change.

"We're going full-bore 24 hours a day on this job site, so we simply cannot afford downtime," Sutton says.