When Claudio Mion, general manager at Utility Structures Inc. (USI), says his latest plant upgrade went through the roof, he really means it. The Ottawa, Ontario-based precaster started the year with a new, custom designed 7,700-cubic-foot capacity aggregate storage bin that was installed in a rather unconventional way.
The producer stores aggregates 75 feet high in a tower — the best location at the 70,000 square-foot plant, considering its limited yard space and the need to keep materials dry and warm through harsh Canadian winters. This meant the 55,000-pound bin would have to be disassembled and removed, and a new 75,000-pound unit installed, at roughly the height of a seven-story building.
Custom batch plant designer and manufacturer, BMH Systems, proposed a unique approach: Go in through the roof.
Before cutting into the plant’s roof, BMH engineers designed a bracing system. They built a rigid steel platform around the edge of the hole that served as reinforcement, as well as a work platform.
“The plan was to remove the old bin in several sections because of its weight,” says Matteo Falcucci, operations manager for USI. “But after they took off the top section, they couldn’t take the rest apart because it was too corroded. It would have fallen apart.”
Instead, the bin was removed in only two pieces — the heavier section weighing 35,000 pounds — with a 385-ton crane. USI was responsible for preparing the site, including relocating the chemical bins and adding a new foundation for extra support beams to accommodate the new bin’s weight.
The installation was scheduled to take six weeks but was completed in four. USI has been at full capacity ever since. “After two months up and running with the new bin, we are still doing our best to keep up with customers’ orders,” says Mion.
But before taking these seemingly drastic measures, Mion and Falcucci went through a painstaking planning process. They offer words of advice for producers considering a similar project.
Weigh the options
Mion and Falcucci began planning to upgrade the 25-year-old aggregate bin when rust and corrosion threatened to affect the quality of USI’s products: mainly precast concrete light poles and utility and traffic-related products. Although they had done patchwork repairs on rusted areas, contamination from the bin was causing aggregate colors to come out improperly.
They considered a full repair to fix and recoat the entire bin. However, they were unable to find a contractor to accept the logistical challenge of emptying and refilling each bin compartment, and completing extensive repairs without disrupting operations.
Relocating the bin outside was not an option. Due to limited yard space, the aggregates would have to be stored far from the plant, which would mean installing a cumbersome and costly conveyor system.
Ultimately, they decided a new bin was the best solution.