Graycor Construction Company recently completed a major manufacturing project for Polyplex Corporation Ltd. in Decatur, AL. The facility, named the "Wild Turkey Project," is the first manufacturing facility in the United States for Polyplex, the world's fourth largest producer of plastic film. Based in India, Polyplex produces thin plastic film used in food packaging and industrial applications.
Location was an important component of the Wild Turkey Project-named for the equipment that was initially ordered for a project in the Republic of Turkey, but was then redirected to Alabama when the site was chosen. The strategic selection of the 44-acre Decatur location was made as a result of several key factors including the area's existing industrial infrastructure, access to trained manpower and key raw materials, and close proximity to major U.S. customers. Since unloading large quantities of raw materials is also an important part of the facility's operations, 2,700 feet of rail head/rail yard onsite was key to servicing the unloading station.
For this complex project, Graycor was hired to construct not one, but six primary buildings onsite. These structures included a 34,000 square foot packaging/shipping warehouse, a 14,500 square foot central utilities building, a 15,000 square foot resin plant, an 84,000 square foot film plant, a 12,500 square foot value-added building and a 6,000 square foot office building. In addition to building construction and equipment installation, Graycor performed mass grading, utility infrastructure, railroad installation, site paving and landscaping as part of the project scope. While challenges were faced with the design, logistics and construction workflow, the team successfully completed Polyplex's first U.S. project while ensuring the highest level of quality and achieving an exceptional safety record of 562,445 total man hours worked with zero lost time.
There are many facets of the Wild Turkey Project design and construction that made it a unique and one-of-a-kind. The overall design was an integration of concepts from Polyplex plants from around the world and inspired by Vastu Shastra principles-the ancient Indian system of design and construction methods that use dynamic balance between form and energy to create harmonious conditions for the inhabitance of the structure and the profitability of the business. For the resin plant, a decision to increase efficiency of the design translated to decreasing the building size by approximately 50%. This newly adopted design created logistical challenges when trying to fit the equipment and the 30 different piping systems, totaling more than 22,000 feet, into the smaller space. However, the collaborative efforts between the design and construction teams utilized the designer's 3D model and a strategic sequencing approach that ensured seamless piping installation.
The equipment and manufacturing systems used on this project brought with them a distinct set of challenges. Since the major equipment for the project had already been ordered, delivery dates were immovable. To accommodate equipment delivery and installation, the team worked to modify the construction workflow by starting construction from the middle of the film plant and working out. This allowed for the installation of a significant piece of equipment while the structure was being finished. Many large-sized pieces of equipment were installed during structural steel assembly to eliminate the need for leave-outs, while others were installed after the building was enclosed. Most notably, two 20-ton overhead bridge cranes were picked into place though a small hole left on the roof, and a 50-ton piece of process equipment was installed after the roof was enclosed.
Another challenge that teams faced on this project was developing standards that both domestic and foreign team members (sometimes trained under different building codes and safety standards) could understand. Since the equipment was manufactured overseas using the metric standard, the project team needed to decide which piping option was best-DN or ANSI piping. While metric seemed the obvious choice, cost and availability of the special piping materials compelled the team to use ANSI piping. To accomplish this, the team had flanges specially machined to convert from DN to ANSI, relieving procurement pressure on the installation contractor which created significant savings for Polyplex. Education was essential for navigating the unique challenges of the U.S. safety and building code requirements with a foreign client. During equipment start-up, Graycor worked closely with Polyplex and their foreign manufacturers to mold the performance-based knowledge into procedures that the field crews could use to ensure a safe, efficient, and effective start-up of the plant.
"This was definitely one of the most complex and interesting projects I have ever worked on," stated Alex Evelhoch, Senior Project Manager at Graycor Construction Company. "It was a great opportunity to work with the team at Polyplex on this truly state-of-the-art facility. We were fortunate to have the right infrastructure, systems and policies in place to handle all the different moving pieces involved and deliver a successful and injury-free project."