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Victaulic Prefab Strategies and Products Help Marelich Mechanical Speed Up Installation, Cut Costs

The lean layout of shop fabrication tooling by Victaulic helps Marelich Mechanical increase efficiencies, minimize risks, control project schedules, and decrease fatigue of shop workers.

Efficient prefabrication strategies and Victaulic products made it possible for California-based Marelich Mechanical to overcome a tight timeline and space constraints for a 43,000-square-foot data center project by speeding up the installation process and keeping costs down. Marelich Mechanical constructed all of the project’s mechanical and plumbing systems in just three months.

Tight Schedules, Tight Spaces

The construction schedule included the installation of the chiller plant and a variable-flow split system on the mezzanine level to service bathroom and support areas. The piping systems were also required to have built-in redundancies, and all systems needed to be designed for future expansion. The equipment included five air-cooled chillers as well as 10 interior Data Aire units, with two on the mezzanine level. Other equipment included six cold/hot water pumps with variable frequency drives, 12 relief air fans with variable frequency drives, a split system, an outside condenser, two fan coil units, and two heat recovery pumps.

In addition to the tight timeline, the project’s other largest challenge was the installation of 14-inch piping on the roof that would hang under and on top of the air-cooled chiller platform, which sat a mere five to six feet above the roof. To manage the process on a fast-track schedule, the contractors detailed the project’s mechanical system during the prefabrication process and assembled the piping in spools long enough to lower below the platform. Once fabricated in the shop, Bob Goldsberry, welder and piping superintendent, and the site foreman developed a 2D layout identifying how to sequence the piping onto the truck so that it could be delivered to the field in the right order at the right time.

During the prefabrication process, all pipe spools were uniquely itemized with the 2D layout so that all materials could be easily located. Additionally, Victaulic product was selected and delivered to the fabrication shop or the field based on the spool drawings so that it arrived when and where it was needed. This process of “bagging and tagging,” along with the truck sequencing, provided a seamless transition from fabrication shop to field. Victaulic’s new 3D software helps with trucking layouts, including cribbing and spool placement, to enhance productivity while reducing material handling.

Once on site, the piping was placed on the roof using a crane. The roof setup was quickly configured under the platform using the identification process, and all prefabricated pieces were strung underneath the platform. After the pipe was hung, the contractors secured the connections using Victaulic Advanced Groove System (AGS) couplings. The only grooved piping system to offer two-piece housing segments in all 14–60-inch sizes. The work was completed within three days, and ultimately, Marelich Mechanical completed the job on schedule. Goldsberry credited Victaulic for speeding up the process, saving costs, and reducing the crew size needed to handle and install the piping.

“Victaulic AGS couplings were a fast and simple joining system,” said Goldsberry. “The alternative was to use 14-inch flanges, which would have required much more time and labor than the Victaulic couplings.”

Prefabricated Victaulic pipe spools were loaded onto the truck in sequence so that they could easily be delivered to the jobsite in the right order at the right time, saving Marelich Mechanical time on the job.

Victaulic Demonstrates Lean Strategies

It was a trip to Easton, PA, that radically changed Marelich Mechanical’s piping fabrication strategies, making the data center project possible. Goldsberry toured the Victaulic manufacturing facility to learn how to shop-fabricate and assemble pipe more efficiently.

As part of the visit, Victaulic demonstrated ways to increase efficiencies in the fabrication process, minimize risks, control project schedules, and decrease fatigue of shop workers. The tooling that Victaulic demonstrated uses a minimal footprint to deliver one-man fabrication on 24-inch and down pipe. The lean layout of the shop fabrication tooling maximizes cell throughput and minimizes travel and set-up time between sizes/spools.

“The first time I saw it, I liked it right away. I’ve assembled grooved piping systems enough in the field that I could easily see the advantages of using the lean principles Victaulic was demonstrating and applying them in our prefabrication process,” said Goldsberry.

After witnessing the productivity of Victaulic prefabrication strategies, Marelich Mechanical made the decision to work with Victaulic to implement the same strategies in their own fabrication shop. The new tooling and work cell layout allowed Marelich Mechanical to fabricate and assemble grooved piping systems larger than 10 inches in the shop, something they had previously been unable to do because of the size and weight of the larger components.

Goldsberry said it would have been impossible to get all the pumps connected for the data center within one week without the Victaulic prefabrication strategies.

“There was no way we could complete the project in the scheduled time frame without fabricating in the shop with Victaulic,” said Goldsberry. “For our first large project using the new strategy, the process went extremely well. There is no way our people in the field could have welded the joints fast enough to be successful.”

Another benefit of fabricating in the shop with Victaulic, noted Goldsberry, was the ability to decrease excess material and garbage at the jobsite. Trash remained in the fabrication shop where it was easily managed, rather than getting in the way and wasting precious time in the field.

Prefabrication Is the Future

Because of the success they have had, Marelich Mechanical tries to put Victaulic prefabrication strategies to work on as many jobs as possible, particularly those that have a lot of small offsets or big equipment connections.

Being a welder, Goldsberry anticipated some initial skepticism surrounding the new processes, but he says that everyone on his team likes it. There was a minimal learning curve, and the process was simple and safe for fabricators in the shop. Goldsberry suggests that welders and mechanical contractors just starting to use grooved in their prefabrication processes approach it with an open mind.

“I credit our Victaulic fabrication strategies for getting the data center work,” said Goldsberry. “Prefabrication is the future of where our industry is going, and we plan to take advantage of it.”

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