SMACNA industrial contractors are confident this year promises to be a positive one for the industrial sector with large-scale capital projects, more design/build work, and industry growth.
SMACNA member H.T. Lyons of Allentown, Pennsylvania, is nearing completion on a pharmaceutical research and manufacturing facility in eastern Pennsylvania. “We are working with a multinational pharmaceutical company and a top construction manager for a facility that will produce millions of vaccines each year,” said Roeland Hoeke, president of H.T. Lyons.
“There are 16 large air handling units, 37 exhaust fans, and a significant amount of process equipment. Lyons fabricated and installed over 400,000 pounds of sheet metal, with 25 percent being fully-welded stainless steel duct. The sheet metal installation work began in August of 2017 and will be substantially complete in February.”
Members see growth in a wide range of industries. “H.T. Lyons industrial customers include chemical plants, pharmaceutical, breweries, foundries, manufacturing plants and power plants,” said Buddy Kida, industrial general manager for H.T. Lyons.
“We also fabricate, install, and maintain the systems that exhaust toxic, carcinogenic fumes like hexavalent chromium out of power plants during their shutdowns. This also allows the welders to work safely,” he said. On one such project, H.T. Lyons engineers designed the custom fabricated hoods and exhaust systems that exhaust toxic fumes during the industrial process for a metal refining company in Pennsylvania.
More Projects Planned
“Many of our customers are planning large capital projects in the industrial area,” said Sam Fuller, senior project manager for Central Industrial Sheet Metal in Kansas City, Missouri. “These are usually design/build, which gives us a decent profit margin while saving time and controlling costs for clients.”
Central Industrial is laying the foundation for future growth by identifying and solving current issues. “One of our 2019 challenges is finding enough manpower,” Fuller said. “I joined the recruiting committee to have more influence on new apprentices. We’re reaching out to rural areas and recruiting at technical schools, bringing in people who might not know about our craft.”
Wage increases and the rising cost of materials also put pressure on contractors to cut other costs. “I’m helping our school increase lean construction training,” Fuller said. “We have to work efficiently to stay profitable in a changing market.”
Adapting to New Markets
“In the construction business, you have to adapt to the market,” noted Jim Gribbins, president of Gribbins Insulation in Evansville, Indiana. “Ten years ago, 30 to 40 percent of our business was in coal-fired plants. With a changing political climate, many of those projects are going away. We’ve expanded into other markets, and now we do less 10 percent of our business in coal-fired plants.”
Gribbins also works to improve communication with designers, which can prevent costly errors. “Engineers put time and effort in to designing a system, but they don’t always think much about insulation. Insulation is an after-thought,” Gribbins explained. “The wrong insulation might give the wrong results, or promote corrosion, particularly at extreme temperatures. Explaining an insulation problem to the owner can be the hardest part of a job.”
On the other hand, Gribbins advocates design/build projects, which reduce misunderstandings by bringing contractors to the conversation early. “Design/build projects give contractors time to work out solutions before there’s a problem. This allows us to provide the best possible product and to do it on schedule.”