SMACNA’s Albers Commercial Kitchen Services, a division of Albers Mechanical Contractors, Inc., St. Paul, Minn., recently devoted about 30,000 man-hours on the $1.3 billion U.S. Bank Stadium project located in downtown Minneapolis and home of the NFL’s Vikings.
Albers’ craftspersons fabricated and installed approximately 600,000 lbs. of stainless steel kitchen equipment—from 14- to 22-gage, grade 304, No. 4 finish stock—and other components in the executive suites and concession stands, among other locations.
“It was quite an experience,” said Albers Mechanical Contractors Executive Vice President Tom Westby. “Most people think of concession stands as the place where you buy hotdogs at a high school football game. This is more like the Taj Mahal of food and entertainment.”
Albers specializes in stainless steel fabrication for the food service industry and is the only full-service food service equipment fabricator in the upper Midwest.
Their largest—and smoothest—project ever performed
While the stadium project was the largest Albers has ever performed—keeping 60 craftspersons busy for 1½ years—it was also the smoothest, according to Mr. Westby. He said Department Manager/Estimator Brandon Hansen was instrumental in the management of the project—which wasn’t easy because Albers was completing another 174 projects during the period it took to finish the stadium.
“While we were doing all that work, everyone—including helpers, CAD operators, fabricators, and installers—was on call seven days a week. It was pretty crazy and I was proud of every member of the team,” Mr. Westby said.
New fiber optic laser produces more on the floor
During this period, Albers expanded its fabrication facility by 13,000 square feet—up to 31,000 square feet. Further, because the company logged triple-digit sales growth, company leaders upgraded a shear and hydraulic press brake to high-production automated metal-forming equipment, including a new fiber laser cutting table and press brake line.
“It was clear to us a laser was worth building a business plan around,” Mr. Westby said. “We looked at it from every angle and, at the end of the day, the laser has allowed us to produce more with the same fabrication staff on the floor all within the same facility footprint.”
The fiber optic laser provided a serious time advantage, which meant that fabrication required less than half of the total hours involved. The new equipment also allowed craftspersons to translate clients’ CAD files directly into shop drawings, electronically send the drawings to clients for approval, and then electronically forward the drawings to the shop floor in paper form.
“The laser processes the CAD file with instant, accurate and extremely fast results,” Mr. Westby added, “saving about 2,000 hours per year.”
The key is managing the workload well
Further, using the laser reduced the need for metal shearing because it could cut 400 to 700 inches per minute. Before using the laser, Albers’ employees would spend about 900 man-hours a year cutting parts, and additional time for notching, punching, grinding, and other press brake prep.
“The past two years put stress on our system, but instead of crumbling, we are thriving,” Mr. Westby said. “The key was that we managed our workload well and found a few places to improve without adding a lot of expense.”
Albers Mechanical Contractors Inc. has been delivering simple to complex stainless steel and food service industry fabrication and installation projects for more than 50 years. Albers is one of the few full-service food service equipment fabricators in the U.S. that provides full turn-key solutions from concept to completion.
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