Monthly Archives: December 2013

October Employee Recognition Award

employee-recognitionCommitment with words alone is easy. But commitment linked to actions is what solves problems and saves the day.

It’s what sets us at TMS apart from other mechanical engineering contractors, and something that deserves our recognition.

When an employee goes “above and beyond,” we think we should take notice. In the case of a veteran TMS member, the client certainly did.

Into the grease tank …

The client in this case was a Fortune 500 grease company, and our awarded team member was on what appeared to be a routine project. But projects tend to be like people: unique, and sometimes unpredictable. The project we were on was a piping installation, when the client representative asked if we would make a tank entry and repair, which was completely unrelated to why we were there.

But, our awarded team member jumped right in (the grease tank) – literally. According to another TMS member, working inside the grease tank was “pretty nasty and most of us would not want to do it. But our awarded member said, ‘I will,’ with a great attitude and no complaint. Although he wore a tyvex suit, he was still covered in grease. I’m glad he was there and feel he is very deserving of this nomination for his hard work and dedication.”

The client representative applauded our awarded member: “The jobs you do here may not be glamorous or fun but they need to be done and you do them without complaining and with a positive attitude. You complement our workforce with your work ethic and quality of work.”

When our clients speak, we listen. And that’s why our veteran team member has earned our Employee Recognition Award for this month. On behalf of TMS clients, thank you for making their problems our problems, and then making them go away.

That’s why TMS is here. And why we’re growing.

Looking for a contractor who understands what quality, dedication, and “going beyond” means to your business? See for yourself why TMS is a leading provider of total mechanical engineering solutions for customers large and small.

Which Piping System is Best for your Business?

which-piping-system-is-bestConsider all of life’s tough decisions. We doubt choosing the right pipe was one of the first things that came to mind. But the correct piping system is critical to new construction, renovation, or remodeling jobs. Making the right choice can help prevent costly repairs or even accidents. In this article, we will examine the benefits and potential drawbacks of different types of piping systems.

PVC
PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is very versatile – you can use it for water, gases, chemicals, ultra-clean water, and more. As always, the material your pipe will be handling should determine the type you choose. But as a rule of thumb, PVCs are good for reactive or corrosive materials; elements that won’t react to plastic. Drawbacks include PVC’s rigidity, which can lead to cracks.

HDPE
HDPE, or high-density polyethylene, is a plastic pipe used with corrosive or chemically-reactive materials. We always tell our customers that this is the type of piping that you can bury and not look at again for 50 years. Tough and durable, it also has the capability of “moving with the ground,” making it a very good line to bury, which happens all the time in the gas industry.

Carbon steel
Carbon steel piping is best used for higher pressure and higher temperatures, like running steam or high-pressure gas. Examples include underground higher-pressure gas lines or piping oil. Obviously, carbon can rust – it’s the easiest steel there is to corrode – so you don’t want to use it anywhere you’re going to have a high reaction. And if carbon steel pipe is buried, it needs to be coated with protective sealant over the top to combat corrosion.

Stainless steel
This pipe serves well across multiple sectors where both higher pressure and non-corrosive or non-reactive properties are needed. There are several grades of stainless steel available, depending on corrosiveness/reactivity of what it carries, and stainless piping can be costly. An advantage to using stainless is that it is much easier to keep clean than any of the other pipes.

Aluminum
Aluminum piping is seldom used – because it is so expensive – but is still an option for very specific systems. So if you’re running compressed air or a gas system where weight matters, aluminum is the right choice. Aluminum also offers better flow dynamics for pressurized gases, but due to its high cost, there are creative solutions available to produce the same benefit without using aluminum. For example, creating higher pressure in stainless pipes can produce the same effect for far less expense.

Cast iron
Primarily used years ago, cast iron pipes can be very strong, but are also very brittle. In other words, when they break, they crack. This type of system was used for drainpipes in high-rise buildings and other large buildings, but plastic pipe is now a better choice due to its low reactive properties.

Lined
Lined pipe is usually designated for materials that are very corrosive. Pipes can be lined with glass, poly, fiberglass, or some other media to handle highly corrosive or reactive materials.

Copper
Used mainly indoors as water pipes, copper can be expensive, since it is now considered a precious metal, and its cost is directly impacted by market fluctuations. While copper is a better choice to carry water, PVC is a cheaper substitute.

Choosing the one that’s right for you
At TMS, helping a client choose which piping system to install starts with finding out what they’re running through it. We ask about different applications, mixing of materials, and any other variables that would impact the piping system. We then apply our wide experience with different systems to come up with the best, most workable solution.

If you have any questions, contact TMS to talk over how we can help you build the piping system that is right for your project.

The General Mills Situation

general-millsWhen prospective clients come to TMS with mechanical needs they have one major question.

“Can I trust you to get the project done and get me running when I am supposed to be running?” The easiest way to answer that is with client experiences.

  1. A two month dust collection project for General Mills culminated with a shutdown weekend to:
  2. Commission the new Buhler dust collector
  3. Service its mill side tie-ins
  4. Relocate their Ferrari fan and speed it up to mitigate the increased static from the additional ductwork in the system.
  5. Test all equipment and have plant back in operation by Monday afternoon.

The job went according to plan. Our TMS crews worked quickly and efficiently and by Saturday afternoon we were ready to do system testing. The electricians  were going to spin motors and test on Sunday, we had a small TMS crew on hand in case anything arose.

As the fan was being tested it was notice that the fan was out of balance and the final elbow into collector was sucking in, causing concern. Buhler was contacted to address the fan on Monday and the leadership team decided to move on with the elbow as is.

IBT was in Monday to balance the fan. This required starting and stopping for balancing, which  caused the drive at the MCC to fail. Brookside Electric was there and had the drive changed out so work could continue and we could get the plant back on line.

The balanced fan came on and the system was running smoothly until the elbow that was sucking in before crumpled under the vacuum.

“Houston, we have a problem” 

Who sized the fan? Who sized the duct? Who set the static? There are a multitude of questions being asked at this time but reality is someone 5 states away did and they aren’t here and they can’t make this thing run. The only question that matters is what can we do and how quickly.

The team jelled immediately, TMS, Buhler, Brookside Electric, ATI  and the General Mills crews all worked seamlessly to address the problem – Step one assess what has happened to ensure you aren’t missing something. The crew assessed what we had and developed and action plan to follow. The Elbow was removed and sent back to ATI’s shop to fix ( it was determined at the ATI  shop it was quicker to build a new one out of heavier material – good thinking). Reinforce the surrounding ducting with thru bolts. Half the crew went to the shop with the elbow and half stayed to thru bolt the duct. Within 4 hours the new elbow was back on site and installed and the system was turned over to General Mills.

The plant was running, a little behind schedule, but running. When the trouble hit this project no one said it’s not my job, it’s not our part. The TMS crew jumped in and did whatever was required to get this plant running. When things go smoothly it is easy to shine, when they go bad, and they will you have to have a team you can trust, TMS is that team.

Good Management as a Contractor

good-management-contractorCommunication between a client and a contractor is so important. Nothing sets a person off more than being told that a project will be completed by a specific time and then it’s not. Part of good management as a contractor is the ability to communicate.

If, at any point in a project, there is going to be a change that is going to impact a completion date, you must immediately communicate that to your client. When you tell a client that you will be done in two weeks, you absolutely have to be done in that time period, because they are planning their business off of what you are telling them. Poor communication or a lack of communication on your part can result in missed deadlines and the potential loss of a client. As a contractor, you must be able to effectively and precisely communicate to your client and your crew.

Learn How to Communicate

Communication is one of the things that most people are not good with. They graduate from school with the understanding that they have to do their best and give their all, which are legitimate things to teach people. Yet if you have given your all and you still fail, we all failed.  What you need to know is what honestly can be done and when it can be done. If you don’t know, communicate that so that everyone can focus on finding the answer. You want to be able to answer with 100-percent certainty when the project will finish.

One of your jobs as a good mechanical contractor is to determine the feasibility of your client’s request. You need to let them know sooner rather than later if you cannot meet their expectations. What often happens in many industries is that contractors accept jobs and offer to give their all, without communicating to the client potential issues. The fact is that, while your clients want your all, they also want the job done.

Train your people to provide an exact date and time for completion of a project if they are talking with a customer or a potential client. If precise specifications and deadlines are not agreed upon, then this is not communication. A deadline suggesting that “anytime is fine” is ambiguous. So when clients says something like that, give them an exact day and time that you can have their project completed, giving them the opportunity to agree or disagree. That is communication. You are taking the ambiguity out of the discussion. You must have solid expectations every time you leave a meeting.

When you hear a client or somebody on your team using ambiguous words or phrases, such as “roughly,” “just about,” or I’ll take care of it,” that should be a flag to you that there has been a miscommunication. It is easy for a customer to say they have to have it tomorrow afternoon or in two weeks. If they are not setting a specific date and time, then you are not setting it yourself. As soon as you stop and say “that’s not good enough; I need a solid due date,” you are truly communicating. Train and manage your customers in the same way. Remove the ambiguity and have solid expectations.

The Benefits of 3D Laser Scanning in Mechanical Engineering

3d-laser-scannerTraditional survey services work well for most mechanical engineering projects. However, 3D laser scanning is fast emerging as the most economical and accurate surveying method. 3D laser scanning is a highly efficient tool that provides more precise measurements for mechanical engineering projects.

Because of its increasing availability and benefits, laser scanning is becoming a go-to method for the AECO (architects, engineers, contractors and owners) industry.

Seven Positive Impacts of 3D Laser Scanning

The establishment of smooth workflows has led to the laser scanning process taking its place as a value added function in how structures can come together and be efficiently built.

Laser scanning can:

  • Provide more precise as-built documentation
  • Decrease surveying time in the pre-design phase
  • Use 3D visualization to reduce site visits
  • Enhance the ability to accurately price in the bidding stage
  • Reduce the need for change orders
  • Increase off-site fabrication possibilities
  • Create site topography with an accuracy of up to 1/8th inch

Laser scanning helps ensure that the structure matches the intent of the original design. The resulting decrease in waste, improved labor efficiency and reduced need for rework can also lower the total project cost.

MillMac LLC Partners with TMS General Mechanical Contractors

In order to offer our valued clients both traditional and advanced surveying services, TMS General Mechanical Contractors has teamed with MillMac, LLC. MillMac uses the latest technological advances to perform As-Built, ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys and Topographic Surveying services. They are especially proficient in 3D laser scanning.

Paul Miller, Senior Project Engineer, and his staff have over 60 years of combined experience in this dynamic field.

TMS General Mechanical Contractors

TMS is an established mechanical piping contractor serving the greater Kansas City area for almost 40 years. We provide the following services:

  • Piping/Pipe Fitting
  • Millwright Services
  • Plant Maintenance Services
  • Design Services
  • Custom Steel Fabrication
  • HVAC Service and Installation

Contact TMS for any of your mechanical engineering needs.

TMS’ Differential Points and How They Benefit You

tms-differentiationOur professionals at TMS work hard to provide our customers with superior pipe fitting, millwright, and custom steel fabrication. But it takes more to consistently deliver the best customer experience. While we constantly endeavor to install premier systems, we work equally hard to stand out from our competition – all with the aim of being the best for our customer.

Here are four ways that TMS works to differentiate itself within the industry.

Attitude of ownership – We see the project from the customer’s point-of-view. We recognize that the customer wants the project completed the right way, while saving time and money where ever possible. We also know how downtime, shutdowns, and delays can negatively impact a schedule. So we not only work to prevent these issues, but we also provide solutions to overcome them if challenges do arise.

Experience in multiple fields – TMS’ vast experience helps us provide solutions to customers across the business spectrum. Understanding various, sometimes slight, nuances in mechanical engineering methods helps us learn about customer challenges. These nuances may be subtle, but they have helped us build a wide knowledge base across multiple fields and overcome the challenges we face at various jobsites.

Saving customers money – We search for solutions and modifications that we know will save the customer money. While rule #1 is to get the job done as quickly as possible, if we see ways to save our customers money, we won’t let haste get in the way of savings. We always bring the saving opportunity to our customer’s attention. This may be rare in the contracting world, but we feel that our honesty is not only the right thing to do, but it will also lead to increased loyalty and positive referrals.

Critical path discussions, milestoning, and budgeting go hand-in-hand. The TMS process is: Consider all the information the client provides, understand what they want to do, determine the necessary equipment, and then come up with an overall cost.

Non-union shop means versatility – We excel in overseeing seamless transitions within jobs. We make them run more rapidly and smoothly because we can handle all the different requirements of the job installation.

For example, if we’re installing a process piping system that needs a pump, and we have to modify a mezzanine to handle the new pump, we don’t have to bring in other people to handle that part of the job. We can do what needs to be done on the spot – ourselves.  This transitioning between job tasks is something the customer never needs to worry about. It’s just done, and done right.

Differential points working for you

If you would like to talk to us about how our points of differentiation can work for your project, contact our knowledgeable experts. They can help you figure out which pipe fitting, millwright, or custom steel fabrication is the right choice for your project.

Should You Plan for Down Time?

scheduled-down-timeScheduling is crucial in maintaining the production of a plant or factory that runs at all hours. The goal is to prepare for everything, including regular maintenance, but operations are not always that predictable or simple. Whether or not you schedule downtime can sometimes depend more on the constraints of what you are producing than how you may want to operate.

There are two main operation modes that facilities are constrained by: either running to failure or running until a scheduled break occurs. Running to failure simply means operations do not stop unless something breaks or is failing. The failure transitions to downtime; time is then taken to make as many repairs as possible until things are running again. This works only because what is being produced is not time critical, and there is enough capacity to meet customer’s needs during this unscheduled downtime.

The other way of operating is by scheduling downtime. For operations that rely on every minute, that have a product that is time critical or has a brief shelf life and is likely very expensive: This is the means by which they run. Time itself is a constraint, and any lost production time results in resources that will never be recovered. Without scheduling for factory maintenance, both predictive and preventive, an operation risks not getting the product to the client.

For example: Quarries run to failure. Processes like this are easier to run without stopping, and failure isn’t a real concern. If a quarry stops crushing rock, it doesn’t hurt that product to sit on the line, and it can be stockpiled. Therefore, machinery, such as belts, is not going to be changed until it breaks. But when one piece of equipment does break, an opportunity arises to fix everything possible.

A pharmaceutical company, however, cannot take the chance of running to failure. Their product is very time sensitive, and customer needs are immediate. If it is left in the system before it can get packaged, product could be ruined, and the company could lose millions of dollars. It is more beneficial to keep the maintenance program up to date, to avoid the risk of unscheduled downtime. With the industry relying more on next-day delivery and in-time servicing, more companies are transitioning to predictive maintenance schedules. Production goes down only when it is supposed to, and the expected work is completed.

Even though many industries do run to failure, and it may work in how their business functions it’s really not the best option.  Plant or factory maintenance depends on the type of operation, and it has to be tailored to your process, your system and your functions however it’s best to schedule repairs and maintenance whenever possible to ensure you have the staff and supplies on hand to do all the work that is needed. Keep in mind even the best of plans cannot account for everything, and it is important that you have a way to make repairs quickly.

3 Indications that You Need Help from a Mechanical Contractor

mechanical-contractor-helpIt is easy to fall behind when the timely manufacturing of your product depends on every minute. Despite the best scheduling – complete with planned down time and properly conducted maintenance – things can and often do go wrong. However, there is a clear difference between missing one day of production every year or so and missing several days.

When a factory or plant goes down, the company loses more than just time. Resources are lost, and for those producing sensitive products, the ability to meet consumer demand decreases. In some cases, factories are dependent upon one another, and when one falls short, the result is a domino effect of missed production and sales. There is a struggle to regain what was lost, and more than a few days go by before things are back on track.

Every company has a bad day here and there, but at a certain point, it becomes a serious problem. So how do you know when you need outside help? There are three common indicators that will help you decide if you need the assistance of a mechanical contractor to help operations get back on track.

1) Multiple unscheduled downtimes. Although unscheduled down time is inevitable, it should still be a rare occurrence. Time is crucial in an industry such as this, and any unscheduled event has the potential for disaster. Even factories that run to failure cannot produce if they are frequently experiencing fails.

2) You’re not meeting sales and production goals because of maintenance issues. It becomes increasingly difficult to take steps forward when you are consistently dealing with uprising issues.

3) Work orders are stacked to such an extent that the maintenance department can’t attend to all of them. Consistently having at least one order on the desk is entirely different from a pile of work orders that never seems to diminish. If you are seeing nothing more than a change in thickness in the work order pile, it’s time to call in the experts.

There are many dangers associated with unscheduled down time, and one of the more crucial considerations is the relationship with a client. If there is an occasional lack of production or a miss in sales, a loyal client is not going to be disturbed. However, a client is going to think twice if it becomes a regular habit. Unscheduled down time is not worth the loss. A mechanical contractor can not only help you put things back together, but they have the skills to ensure that it will run smoothly in the future.