A Tricky Fit
Justifying the project turned out to be the easiest of the challenges. The tricky parts were designing the DC to fit the allotted space and connect seamlessly with both processing plants; then managing this complex construction project without impeding operations at the two plants, which continued to operate at full bore throughout the entire process.
Wayne Farms entrusted this responsibility to Primus Builders, Woodstock, GA, which successfully completed two other projects for the company, including the phase 2 expansion of Decatur West.
The initial concept was actually sketched out on a napkin by Narula and Paul Grenier, Primus' vice president of sales and marketing. Then it was turned over to the Primus design team, led by Michael D. Jones, president, Primus Design Services LLC.
"Foremost, we tried to maximize the space between the East and West plants to put in the largest usable footprint of a building possible, to maximize utilization of the available acreage. We probably went through at least 15 to 20 design iterations before we settled on how the final footprint would shake out. All three parties were instrumental in developing the final blueprint," Grenier comments.
The first puzzle in designing the cold storage center was how to accommodate the difference in grade between the two manufacturing plants of about 25-30 feet, Narula notes. The team chose the option of building the cold storage at the same elevation as the higher West plant. The lower-situated East plant would be connected to the DC via an overhead tunnel, which trucks shipping product from the DC could pass underneath.
"The project required a 20-foot high full-length retaining wall--which runs along the whole side of the plant--to provide a level surface for the facility," says Jones.
To move product between the East plant and the new cold storage facility, Wayne Farms installed automated conveying equipment leading directly from the processing lines to pallet elevators. These would transport pallets of product two at a time up to the cold storage facility, and deposit them into a small staging area, from where they would be picked up by the DC's RF-directed fork truck operators for putaway. From the West plant, which is at the same level as and directly connected to the cold storage operation, pallets from the lines are taken to a small "handshake area" where they are dropped off by plant personnel and picked up by warehouse employees.
"The elevated walkway required refrigeration to maintain product integrity, which added to the design challenge," adds Jones.
Other problems inherent to the challenge of sandwiching a new DC in between two existing plants included the need to relocate working utility lines, including high voltage electricity lines, that ran beneath the site, as well as multiple sewer lines, points out Erik Gunderson, vice president, Primus Builders.
"In addition, because the new building was in direct conflict with the existing shipping dock on the West plant, we had to create a new temporary shipping dock on the plant's south side before we could begin construction of the DC," notes Primus's senior project manager, Mark Auer.
Finally, everything, from relocating sewer and power lines to constructing and demolishing docks, to connecting the finished building to the plants on either side, to testing the equipment before going operational, had to be accomplished while both processing plants continued to run at full capacity.
Construction began November 1, 2007 and the finished DC was turned over to owner Wayne Farms on August 29, 2008, Auer says.
Wayne Farms and Richmond Cold Storage spent one week inspecting and testing all the installed systems, including the pallet conveyance and lift equipment, ensuring the building was maintaining correct temperature, and working out any start-up operational issues. At the start of the second week in September, Wayne Farms and Richmond Cold Storage in Decatur were ready to handle finished product.