Our Vallourec Story: a Project with Legs ... Strong Legs

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When you do good work, demonstrate the ability to develop solutions on the spot, and show you’re able to communicate well and work as a team, you get noticed. And rewarded with more work. 

Such was the case at Vallourec Star, a new construction pipe mill manufacturing facility in Youngstown, Ohio, that we worked on from its inception in 2010 until its completion and start of production in 2014.

It actually started out with just one project for us, some temporary construction work, and in the end it resulted in 165 projects involving 250 tradesmen at its peak, and almost a half-a-million man hours. The project had legs, in other words.

It was a massive undertaking; a 1 million square-foot facility. 

We managed major pieces like installing all the underground electrical, which included an extensive underground concrete-embedded conduit system that covered more than 750,000 square feet; and a large portion of the above-ground electrical, which involved cable tray systems for power control, instrumentation and fiber optics, and electrical transformers and switchgear. 

Among other major initiatives, we installed a medium voltage duct bank for the entire facility, PLC and remote I/O cabinets, a complete network, closed circuit television, wireless access points, structured cabling and more than 150 security cameras.

We also assisted in the commissioning of several pieces of steel processing equipment, such as furnaces, conveyor systems, compressors, pumps, threading machines, bundlers and substations.

When I think back as to how we earned this business, I attribute it to us being a local contractor, competitive in our bid, and large enough to do the project both financially and manpower-wise. We had the tools and equipment to do the project, as well as value-add resources like a fab shop and design assistance.

We also had a good working relationship from the start with the customer, and that’s extremely important. Unfortunately, projects don’t always go as originally designed, so you run into some obstacles. You have to be able to manage all the different interferences that arise, whether it’s with the customer, the trades or other contractors on site.

Plus, the better your relationship the easier it is to have the tough conversations. Like when you have to tell them you have to submit a change order for a substantial amount of money. I’d much rather tell that to someone I have a good relationship with than someone I don’t. 

I like to say a project is like a table. It’s only as strong as the legs underneath it. 

The legs represent your project manager, your superintendent, your foreman and your support staff. And if one of those fails, the table is going to fall over. We had a good management team down there at Vallourec, and that’s what it took to make this project a success.