Billy Poindexter, CEO/owner of Poindexter Excavating Inc., Indianapolis, smiles as he views a parade of earthmoving equipment reshaping hundreds of acres of land in southeastern Indiana. He enjoys watching his crews on the move — moving 7.5 million cubic yards of material to create the outline of Honda Motor Co.'s $550-million automobile manufacturing plant in Greensburg, situated 50 miles southeast of Indianapolis.
This massive earthmoving operation marks one of the largest site work projects in the country, and it represents the most challenging project in the 28-year history of Poindexter Excavating. "This is a big job and we have to do it in a short period of time," Poindexter says.
Poindexter is proud that his company is a participant in the high-profile, fast-paced Honda project. The new Greensburg plant, Honda's sixth auto plant and 14th major plant overall in North America, will begin production of fuel efficient four-cylinder vehicles in fall 2008. The plant will employ 2,000 workers and eventually produce 200,000 vehicles annually — boosting the Japanese automaker's North American production capacity from 1.4 million to 1.6 million vehicles a year.
According to Honda, the new plant will have the same type of flexible New Manufacturing System that is found in Honda's other auto plants in the United States and Canada, with advanced technologies that provide the flexibility to produce different models more quickly and efficiently. Major processes performed at the Greensburg plant will include stamping, welding, painting, plastic injection molding, and assembly operations.
As part of an infrastructure improvement package developed in cooperation with local and state government officials, the state and Greensburg will make various infrastructure improvements in the area.
Poindexter Excavating is working for construction manager Global Performance LLC, based in Greenville, S.C., a company that provides a full range of services in the automotive, chemicals, institutional, manufacturing, and pharmaceutics markets. Design work for the new Honda plant began in July 2006, and earthwork began in September 2006.
After receiving the award for the mass grading package from Global Performance LLC, the Poindexter Excavating team rapidly mobilized its fleet and crews. "We were prepared and mobilized very quickly," says Poindexter Excavating President David Sperry. "In fact, two days after we received the contract there were 40 pieces of equipment on the job."
"Once we got the word, 16 lowboys (from sister company Poindexter Transport & Crane Service) were lined up in front of the shop in about five minutes," notes Poindexter Project Manager Travis Fleetwood. "It was pretty amazing. Transporting the equipment to Greensburg as quickly as they did provided a big jump for us to get started quickly."
Poindexter Excavating initiated work on the Greensburg site on Sept. 18, and their contract is scheduled for completion in early June in preparation for foundation work. The project entails a massive amount of earth that has to be moved in less than 10 months. "We are developing 1,500 acres of the 1,700-acre site," Fleetwood says.
In addition to making mass site cuts and fills to make way for the new facility, the Poindexter Excavating team is responsible for paving, drainage work and stone placement. Numerous companies are assisting Poindexter Excavating, including Casey-Bertram Demolition — demolition work; Milestone Contractors, L.P. — paving; Mt. Carmel Stabilization/Specialties — lime stabilization; Rose Seeding & Sodding, landscaping and seeding; Schneider Engineering — staking; Tri-State Forestry — clearing; and F.A. Wilhelm Construction Co. — safety coordination, safety observation and management.
Team members are pleased to be involved with a project of Honda's magnitude. "It's a very special job — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," Sperry says.
An incredible number of construction machines are running around-the-clock on site, including a wide assortment of excavators, scrapers, graders, and dozers. In addition, numerous haul trucks are crisscrossing the site. "There are approximately 90 machines on-site, including 70 to 75 pieces of our equipment," Fleetwood says.
Caterpillar equipment, featuring the latest in GPS technology, dots the Greensburg landscape. "We bought a big package of equipment from MacAllister Equipment Co. (an Indianapolis-based Caterpillar dealer and Indiana's leading heavy equipment supplier) for this job and are renting the rest of the equipment," Poindexter says.
Poindexter Excavating enjoys a longtime relationship with MacAllister Equipment, and says MacAllister is playing a major role in preparing the Honda site. "Billy and Ron Frick (vice president of Poindexter Transport & Crane Service) worked with MacAllister for a long time — even before we bid this project — to line up the equipment," says Sperry. "MacAllister has done a very good job. It sounds cliché, but we consider them a partner on this project. They have provided everything from light plants to buggies."
Dave Clark, new machine sales development manager for MacAllister Equipment, says, "This is a very large job for us. We have 45 heavy rental units on the project. There is also plenty of light equipment, such as 35 light towers and other different pieces."
The construction machinery is definitely being put to use. During a recent jobsite visit by Construction Digest, the machines were on the move — transporting dirt and leveling the undulating land just south of Interstate 74. A host of haul trucks, excavators and scrapers were participating in the creation of one of the site's seven water retention lakes.
Poindexter Excavating crews are working the site in a controlled manner, getting critical areas done first. Substantial progress has already been made, with the site work more than 30-percent complete by late November, according to Fleetwood.
Poindexter Excavating has met initial goals concerning earthwork. "When we first moved on-site, we had 2 million yards of dirt to move by Dec. 14 and had to place 500,000 tons of stone," says Sperry. "We completed that work early, and we are now a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. A lot of companies said it was an impossible schedule to meet, but we met the schedule and even exceeded it."
The earthwork operation is running seven days a week. "We are working two, 10-hour shifts, leaving two hours in between for fuel and greasing," Sperry says.
"On a good day, our average production is 50,000 to 60,000 yards," says Fleetwood, "and we are burning 9,000 gallons of diesel fuel a day."
So far, the project has proceeded as planned, according to Fleetwood. He points out that crews will be working hard to achieve maximum production before the brunt of cold temperatures and snow hits the Midwest. "Weather is always a challenge," he says. "We began work here in September when the dry days were beginning to decrease, and we have had to use a lot of lime to move around the site."
Manpower for the earthwork operation varies between 100 to 120, with about 60 workers per shift. Poindexter Excavating has a large contingent of workers on-site. Helping to coordinate the operation are Lora Brumett, project manager; Rob Lockhart, day foreman; Brad Fleetwood, night foreman; Tom Flannery, equipment manager; and Mitch Davison, project manager.
For Billy Poindexter, the Honda project is the highlight of a 44-year construction career that began in 1962 when he worked as an operator. A Tompkinsville, Ky., native, Poindexter came to Indianapolis and worked for two contracting companies before founding Poindexter Excavating with his brother, James, in January 1978.
"Initially, we worked on commercial, big-box-type buildings," he says. "Then, we started doing a lot of airport work in Indianapolis."
Today, Poindexter Excavating has evolved from a small company with fewer than 10 employees to more than 300 during the peak summer months. The company has achieved great success on numerous earthwork projects throughout Indiana, and typically participates in 85 projects per year. "I never envisioned the success we would have," Poindexter says.
As a result of the company's growth, it expanded in 1986 with the formation of Poindexter Transport & Crane Service.
A modest man, Poindexter attributes much of the company's success to his veteran workforce. For example, Dave Sperry, a five-year Poindexter Excavating employee, has 35 years of construction experience. Travis Fleetwood, an 11-year Poindexter employee, has 13 years of construction experience.
Sperry and Fleetwood are quick to praise Poindexter. "He is the Great American success story," Fleetwood says. "He is an excellent owner to work for."
Sperry adds, "It is rare that you find someone who started basically with nothing and has achieved the success he has in the industry. Yet, he remains a very down-to-earth person."