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Digging Deeper: Power Company Goes Lean to Build Clean

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Despite a tight site and complex coordination issues, efforts to construct a co-generation plant adjacent to a fully operating paper mill in Rothschild, Wis., are proceeding under budget and ahead of schedule, an accomplishment its team attributes in part to the adoption of lean construction practices.

Photo Courtesy of Boldt Construction Co.
In addition to deriving product from a paper mill to generate electricity, We Energies' new co-generation facility will generate heat for the mill's paper-drying operations.
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Among other tactics, Appleton, Wis.-based Boldt Construction Co., the project's construction manager and general contractor, developed a detailed plan identifying the locations for trailers, tool storage and temporary facilities prior to construction. "It's a matter of thinking through work flow and minimizing the steps required to get from one point to the other," says Jim Lee, Boldt group president for Northern operations.

Efficiency also is evident in efforts to install the eight miles of steam, hydraulic and other piping the $225-million project will require. Complete sections with fittings and flanges were welded in the shop and shipped to the site in sections.

To promote collaboration—a primary tenant of lean construction—team members chucked traditional contracts in favor of an "integrated form of agreement" stipulating that the success of the project, undertaken by Milwaukee-based We Energies, would determine their final compensation.

"Fixed-price contracts are adversarial by nature," says Will Lichtig, Boldt vice president for process development and deployment. "This one is intended to promote the opposite."

Here, the stakes are particularly high, since the project must be completed by the end of 2013 to qualify for federal tax credits. "It's a very hard deadline and worth tens of millions of dollars to us," says Al Mihm, director of generation projects for the owner.

Although not technically a design-build project, team members are performing much of the design and construction work in tandem.

They also are negotiating tough site constraints because paper manufacturer Domtar Corp., which will supply 20% to 30% of the fuel the plant requires, must remain operational throughout construction.

"We're continually interfacing with their operations staff to ensure production isn't interrupted," says Lee. Tie-ins to systems such as water, for instance, are scheduled to conform with Domtar's schedule rather than the project's.

Staging is another issue. The site is not only small but surrounded by a residential enclave. "We have neighbors literally right across the street," says Mihm.

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