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Efficiency by the bucket

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Metromont arrives in Florida with big vision, small environmental footprint

More than 50 years after engineers and entrepreneurs made it the birthplace of precast/prestressed concrete production this side of the Atlantic, central Florida hosts a bold tribute to their market vision: An architectural and structural products plant with master plan of unprecedented scale and efficiency.

Metromont Corp. has staked Sunshine State claim through a 94-acre site in Bartow, about two-thirds of the way to Tampa from Orlando. Launched with one architectural and one structural bed, the plant shows sweeping attention to material and product handling efficiencies, plus wise water and energy usage. It is the largest greenfield operation thus far to heed widely applicable sustainability principles concrete producers can adopt on their own, or likely have forced on them by future market influences.

The sustainability strategy at Bartow is near- and long-term, underscored by daily water and aggregate recycling; galvanized interior/exterior equipment and structure surfaces set for a lengthy service life of low-maintenance with nary a drop of paint; 30-plus drives for material- and product-handling systems equipped for soft start; and, mix-handling methods that will see discharge chute-to-form concrete delivery with a fraction of the fuel such transfer normally requires in precast/prestressed.

With numbers near 50, Bartow staff follows a reclaimer-based water-recycling regimen Metromont has adopted at Greenville, S.C., headquarters, plus Virginia and Georgia plants, the latter logging more than 6 million gallons recycled annually. In a corporate sustainability profile highlighting that benchmark, Metromont affirms, “Commitment in sustainable manufacturing is saving a precious resource [and] decrease[s] our water bill by more than 70 percent.”

Just into phase one, Metromont Bartow runs what suppliers note are world record-sized flying concrete mix and crane-mounted casting buckets, 6 yd. each. They serve a central bay, 80 ft. wide and 500 ft. long. A master plan indicates longer, flanking bays plus additional mix buckets traveling expansive, inner and outer U-shaped rails. Precast columns and horizontal members framing central and adjacent bays carry bucket and crane rails.

The initial bay has twin, 25-ton bridge cranes spanning 400-ft.-long architectural and (12-ft.) double tee beds, plus additional fabrication space for vertical or horizontal structural members. The lifting capacity ensures crews can execute different functions across the bay’s two or three casting areas.

Metromont engineers have centered the batch plant and bucket charging within the production footprint. A 6-yd. twin-shaft mixer and 3-yd. planetary mixer, dedicated to structural and architectural lines, respectively, are positioned at the base of what will be the U bucket rails. Those who have observed mix bucket-bearing forklift or mix transport vehicle routing in precast/prestressed yards can appreciate how Bartow raises the bar for safe, rapid delivery and placement of high volumes of concrete. The mix conveying and placing footprint will ultimately encompass structural and architectural beds and forms occupying a few acres under double tee roof panels.

“We have the mix production and delivery capacity to suite a range of schedules and contract priorities,” says Plant Manager Billy Oyler. “The buckets can travel 7.2 mph loaded, 9.4 mph empty. Future plant phases will see additional buckets mounted and the ability to handle production peaks calling for maybe 400 yards an hour.” Rail and crane-mounted mix handling, he adds, factored into a recently observed milestone—Bartow’s one year of full operation with zero recordable OSHA incidents.

A Florida native, Bartow is Oyler’s latest and perhaps last stop with Metromont, following 20 years at the company’s Hiram plant outside Atlanta, plus brief tours of duty at sister Richmond and Greenville flagship operations. He oversaw batch plant upgrades, including twin-shaft mixer and reclaimer installations, at each. Management then looked to the Sunshine State, where for more than a decade leading up to the 2007 housing bust, investment in combined architectural and structural precast/prestressed capacity did not necessarily keep pace with longer-term market demand.

Supplier springboard
The sixth Metromont plant is a work in progress, but reinforces the company’s position among the largest regional precast/ prestressed players. Build out of initial and subsequent phases’ fabrication, product handling and storage areas will be gradual, driven by market recovery and evolving demand in a state whose rapid pace of population growth has subsided the past four years. Florida Office of Economic and Demographic Research projections, however, suggest 2010-11 as a good window to ramp up for construction demand rooted in rebounding population growth. Beginning in 2012, the office sees a return in line with the 1970–2000 clip, where an average of 3 million residents were added each decade.

Eighteen months into operation, Bartow crews—including eight members from Metromont Nashville and Hiram plants—have completed their anchor contract: Risers and columns for the New Marlins Ballpark. The $500 million-plus, retractable roof facility is rising on the former Orange Bowl site and will usher a rebranded Miami Marlins team for the 2012 MLB season. The job is a fitting gateway for the state’s newest precast/prestressed operator, whose stadium contract log includes 10 venues for professional football, basketball, baseball and hockey franchises. The Bartow plant has also delivered product for a St. Petersburg hospital expansion and Gainesville parking structure.

Its rectangular site has upwards of 2,000 ft. fronting U.S. Highway 17, affording abundant area to relay and stage all manner of architectural and structural pieces. Bartow was the second of two Florida parcels Metromont considered. “We are at the midpoint of the state, where half the population is to the north, the other half to the south,” says Billy Oyler. The plant has good proximity to Florida Highway 60, he adds, accessing interstate and toll routes along both coasts.

A neighbor to the immediate north, spun pole producer Valmont Newmark, has proved Bartow’s suitability for carriers hauling heavy, oversized prestressed concrete members. The former Sherman Utility Structures operation was built in 1993, equipped with custom batch plant and mixer by Michael Jamieson of Buford, Ga.-based Jamieson Equipment Corp. (JEC). In 2008, as Metromont weighed permitting of a parcel in nearby Haines City, he recommended the Valmont-bordering plot as an alternative.

Metromont enlisted JEC for the pre-Florida batch plant upgrades and, along with Robert Ober of San Antonio-based Plant Architects + Plant Outfitters, preliminary work for what would become the Bartow operation. Its design and specifications stemmed from JEC-arranged tours of European precast operations, including some equipped by Perugia, Italy batch plant and mixer specialists Marcantonini srl and Sicoma srl.

Following a nearly two-decade absence, Marcantonini was looking to return to the North American market. It realized that goal with the launch of MCT Supply Inc., in partnership with Michael and (father) Ted Jamieson, who run the entity from Buford, Ga. Metromont Bartow is an inaugural feat.