It’s not a pretty sight for anyone who longs to see a rebirth of America’s manufacturing prowess. The once-sprawling Ford Loraine Assembly Plant, located on the shores of Lake Erie, has been closed since the mid-2000s and is a brutal reminder of the industry’s decline. While efforts to divide the four million square foot plant into separate, smaller, renovated parcels for new businesses are underway, more than a third of the total space is in such disrepair it’s been deemed beyond renovation and slated for demolition.
The firm heading up that demolition, Grafton, Ohio-based Sitetech, Inc., reports that having the right tools for the job—particularly a Genesis GXP 400 mobile shear and a Genesis LXP 300 Logix Processor—has helped them obtain demo rates as high as 40,000 sq. ft. per day, meet a demanding schedule and enable the plant to continue transitioning into a functional space.
Tall Order to Fill
In its heyday, the Ford Loraine Assembly Plant employed more than 7,000 workers and produced some truly iconic models including nearly a million Ford Falcons, almost two decades of Thunderbirds, and approximately 7.5 million Ford Econoline trucks and vans. After a steady downturn in U.S. auto sales, however, Ford closed the plant in 2005. From that point the site sat idle, except for a time when—in a brutal bit of irony—it served as a storage facility for Honda vehicles. Today it is reinventing itself as an industrial park, currently housing a beer and wine distributor, indoor storage facility, wholesale goods distributor and other businesses. However, according to Jason Friscone, Sitetech’s co-owner and project superintendent, the unused part of the plant’s midsection proved to be beyond a feasible level of rehab, bringing his company into the picture.
“Since we started our business in 2005, our project load has been fairly evenly split between demo and highway/heavy, so we’ve seen our share of decent demo projects,” he says. “But at 1.5 million sq. ft., this is by far the largest we have ever undertaken, and by anyone’s standards, the size alone would be pretty challenging. However, when this plant was constructed in the late ‘50s, overbuilding seemed to be the order of the day, so we have encountered some really huge steel at almost every turn. But we knew all this coming in and, working with Mike Camp at Gibson Machinery’s Dayton, Ohio office, made plans to ensure we had the tools we needed to get the job done.”
Confidence is High
Those tools include a Genesis GXP 400 mobile shear purchased specifically for this job, several grapples for material handling and loading, and a Genesis LXP 300 Logix Processor it had previously acquired through Gibson. Due to the overwhelming size of the project, Sitetech also rented an additional shear/excavator package to increase production even further.
“When you consider the size of the structure and the relatively short four-month window we have to get it down, processed and either shipped to a mill or reused onsite, you can see why we need tools in which we have a high level of confidence. During the planning stages, we had our equipment suppliers narrowed down to Genesis and one other manufacturer. The factor that ultimately moved us toward Genesis was their obvious emphasis on customer service. A demolition company simply cannot be without its shear, and we left our meeting with them confident we would never be in such a position. You need that peace of mind, particularly when beginning a job like this.”
Friscone says they mounted the GXP 400 on a John Deere 450 and have been extremely impressed with what it has been able to cut. “We have come across everything from lighter structural beams, piping and conduit to columns of riveted, two-inch thick plate, and the GXP 400 has been processing it all. In fact, because of that versatility, it has been spending a good deal of its time on this project downsizing material to prepared lengths for shipment to the mill.”
And process it does. Friscone says they have been sending a steady stream of 20 to 30 rolloff containers out of the site each day. He adds that, before demolition started, a look at the structure was deceiving; it appeared as if there was an awful lot of air space inside. “That’s due to the immense overall size of the structure itself,” he says. “But make no mistake about it; there is a lot of steel that will come out of here. We are shipping about 1.2 million lbs. per week, and by the time we wrap up, we will have recycled 8,000 to 10,000 tons of steel for the owner.”
Harkening back to his earlier comment about customer service, Friscone says equipment dependability really becomes key when mill shipments hang in the balance. “Timing is everything on jobs like these in which we are trying to capitalize on the best scrap prices to maximize profitability for the owner. Not being able to jump on a nice price because a shear is down could be very costly; we don’t run that risk.”
Logix Makes a Difference
In addition to the steel, Sitetech is also stockpiling the more than 7,000 cu. yds. of concrete, brick and block from the project. The company expects the Genesis LXP 300, an attachment with interchangeable jaws, to play a key role in that part of the job.
“We’ve been using the LXP with all three jaw sets—shear, concrete cracking and pulverizing—for about a year and a half now. We really saw the value it can bring to the table on a demo project we did last year in Akron. We used all three jaws, were impressed with its power and found the jaw change-overs to be as fast as promised. It really played a huge role in keeping us on track there.”
At Loraine, he says they’ve already used the LXP alongside the GXP 400 processing scrap, but, later in the project, they will fit it with the pulverizer jaw and begin downsizing concrete for full-scale crushing and backfilling of voids onsite. “It’s just a great, versatile tool to have at your disposal.”
Ahead of the Curve
Despite the enormity of the structure, Sitetech is maintaining an impressive average production rate of about 20,000 sq. ft. per day. Friscone says they have had days in which they’ve almost doubled that rate, but some areas of the plant are more difficult than others.
“We can be moving along at a clip better than 30,000 square feet a day, then move to a multi-story area with paint booths and three- to four-times the amount of steel, and that rate goes down. But 20,000 square feet a day is still very nice; that’s the equivalent of taking down a decent sized building each day.”
He adds that because the Loraine plant is such a huge job, they were a bit intimidated when they first went out to the site. But they were confident that having the right tools for the job, and a great support network behind them, would make the difference.
“That’s one of the reasons we tried to stay away from the smaller, less proven manufacturers—we wanted that level of confidence,” he says. “Is Genesis the lowest-priced attachment out there? No, it’s not. But, on the largest job we’ve ever undertaken, a job with massive steel sizes and huge volumes, we will be out of here on time, if not before, and a lot of that is due to the equipment we use. So in the bigger scheme of things, I’m feeling like we’re way ahead of the curve.”