Meeting The Surge

Anticipating markets where business has the greatest growth potential has become as important to the concrete industry as building up existing production

Steven Prokopy

Anticipating markets where business has the greatest growth potential has become as important to the concrete industry as building up existing production lines in areas already experiencing such a booming economy.

When the leadership of Dallas-based Hanson Pipe & Precast Inc. did a detailed analysis of the area around Columbus, Ohio, where the company’s Northeast Region has its headquarters, management decided to support the area’s diverse and growing economy by investing $10 million in one of the most modern dry-cast concrete operations in the state. The Columbus commitment is part of Hanson’s extraordinary capital upgrade and acquisition program; over the 2005-08 period, it is pacing perhaps $200 million annually and bringing lower-cost production and select precast/prestressed bolt-on businesses to the Northeast and three other regions.

We recognized the growth potential of the area, and the new facility brings additional manufacturing clout to Central Ohio, explains Eric Wheeler, president of Hanson Pipe & Precast’s 27-plant Northeast Region, which also serves Connecticut, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Virginia markets, as well as parts of the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Qu»bec. And while there were no specific big jobs we saw on the horizon, we did see the dynamics of the area and wanted to bring our capacity up to meet the expected growth needs of the greater Columbus market.

We look forward to supporting the Columbus area’s growth through the water transportation products this facility produces, says Richard Manning, president of Hanson Building Products North America. This new addition will help us not only increase production but also modernize our Columbus operations.

The addition represents a significant increase in production and centers on a new Hawkeye PipePro III XT Machine, which includes modules for creating three different diameters of pipe at the same time and is the first of its kind in the state. The Hawkeye equipment is replacing our old building and equipment from the 1970s, consisting of two pipe machines, and increasing our capacity from about 60,000 to 80,000 tons Û or 114 miles Û of product per year, says Vice President, Regional Capital Projects Engineer John Blankenship. And with the option of adding more shifts as customer needs grow, we can up our capacity to 100,000 tons.

Capable of 400-tons-per-shift output, the 62,000-sq.-ft. facility marked full ramp up at a late-June grand opening. To commemorate the expansion, Hanson Pipe & Precast made a donation to Children’s Miracle Network benefiting Columbus Children’s Hospital.


Columbus is ranked fifth in the nation for Fortune 500 companies and is home to the third-largest manufacturing sector in the country, all of which contributed to Hanson’s decision to carry out the expansion. Products made at the facility are used mainly for sewer and drainage systems for local universities, roadways and commercial or public works projects, such as the recently completed storm water drainage improvement at the Rickenbacker Airport Intermodal Railway Facility.

With the downturn in the residential market, the bulk of our business is now changing as well, says Wheeler. For years, our residential to nonresidential job ratio was running at about 70-30. Today, it’s the opposite: 30 percent residential, 70 percent nonresidential, which includes commercial, street, highway and Ohio DOT work.

Most job sites are within a 40- to 50-mile radius around the Columbus location, according to Wheeler. But some jobs lead you beyond that. We now have the ability to compliment our existing Macedonia facility by shipping into the Cleveland market.

The Columbus facility was previously operated by North Star Concrete Products, which was purchased by Hanson as part of the 1998 acquisition of parent company Condux Corp., the fifth-largest concrete pipe producer in the country. The Condux deal solidified Hanson’s commitment to the pipe and precast business.

The new Columbus building was built over the footprint of the original Î50s vintage pipe plant. In addition to the Hawkeye equipment in the new building, the overall facility includes a wet cast plnat in a separate structure, which was opened in the mid-1990s and is used for specialty products such as mega box culverts, three-sided bridges, elliptical pipe and the company’s HansonArch line Û all using self consolidation concrete mixes.

Another building on the property houses a large dry cast facility, capable of pipe diameters to 144 in. The old pipe plant building is still used for some production, with its active batching operation and 25-ton crane. The company plans to expand its product mix by adding more wet cast in this building in the future. If you take all of our products, we probably manufacture about 100,000 tons product every year, says Blankenship.


Employing 18 full-time staffers, the new Columbus facility is capable of running year round since all of its operations are enclosed. Trucks with raw materials discharge into a hopper located just outside the building. Cement from a mill in Xenia, Ohio, as well as fly ash, is stored in two 60-ton-capacity silos. Raw material is fed into the Wiggert/ACT batch plant, with the mix delivery handled entirely by conveyor belts. The Wiggert mixer features a self-cleaning washout system.

With an eye toward setting up forms to be as efficient as possible, the PipePro unit is able to produce three different sizes of pipe in one turn. The plant is capable of about 50 turns per day, with one turn usually representing seven pieces Û four 12-, 15-, or 18-in. pipes; two 24-, 27-, or 30-in. units; and a single as large as 72 in. The system also features synchronized core vibration, allowing for 50 percent more vibration for a more compact and dense product. The vibration mechanism is activated as the concrete is poured into the form.

The PipePro is equipped with a Smart Chute, which automatically adjusts the placement and rotation of the chute to match the form size.

Three Kyungnam automated cage machines Û a 27 in, a 36 in. and a 54 in. Û are used for the standard-size pipe, while a Mid-America programmable wire roller with shear is employed for elliptical product.

The Hawkeye also offers a great profile joint, says Blankenship. The core, bell pallet, spigot header and jacket interchange produce a crisp, zero-defect joint, and the demand for top-quality joints is out there.

Once a form is filled, a header is pressed and vibrated into a the fresh concrete in the form. The pipe is then ready to be stripped of its form with the aide of an extruder bar equipped with an air bladder controlled by the bridge crane.

The new building operates three Demag overhead cranes: two 5-ton utility units Û one over the cage machine area and the other near the batch system Û and the main 20-ton crane with a 90-ft. span for offbearing pipes from the PipePro to the curing staging area. By using the cranes, we only have need for one fork lift in the plant, explains Blankenship. And that is mainly used to move trays with pallets and headers back to the PipePro machine.

Curing is done with a 3 million-Btu Kraft Energy steam generator used in combination with Hawkeye canopy kiln curing curtains hanging from the ceiling and draped over the product. Most products are fully cured by the morning after the pour.

The sole forklift used inside the plant takes the cured product up to 36-in. in diameter to the ROCO pipe and joint ring handling system, which removes the bell-forming pallet and the spigot-forming header. The depalletizer mechanism automatically engages the out flange of the pallet as the product is secured at the joint ring removal station. The unit exerts a pulling force and pneumatic tapping on the pallet until it is removed. The header removal manipulator engages the lugs of the header and again pulls and taps on the piece until it is removed.

The removed joint rings are then automatically cleaned and stacked on transport trays for transfer to the pipe machine or storage. With joint rings removed, the pipe advances to processing stations, where it is deburred, vacuum tested and stenciled with the Hanson name and the date produced.

Since the Columbus operation features multiform production, the rings are stacked with the appropriate centers for direct use with the automatic feeding devices. The ROCO’s offbear conveyor carries the pipe outside the plant walls, where it is inspected and processed to the yard by forklifts.

The vacuum test checks for consistency of quality, according to Blankenship. The test assures the product is leak proof and gives a good indication of its density and consolidation. The inline vacuum tester uses an electric-powered rotary screw vacuum pump and reservoir tank. Horizontal testers include two bulkheads equipped with close cell neoprene for sealing to the pipe ends. The vacuum is drawn to a preset value and held for a specified time. Pressure is monitored during the test cycle. If the product passes the test, the bulkhead automatically releases. If it does not pass, an alarm sounds.

The pipe wouldn’t pass if the ends weren’t squared or if there were any chips, cracks or spalls, Blankenship explains The vacuum is the real litmus test for a pipe’s condition. In addition, periodic testing is done for absorption, as well as three-edge bearing load testing.

Despite a fairly sizeable yard, product doesn’t sit for long at the Columbus facility. We don’t keep a big inventory because we can run three sizes at a time, says Eric Wheeler. But for bigger projects we know are coming, we do have to produce ahead of the job.

Wheeler cites a major job for which the facility is currently completing production: 287 pieces of 20- x 8- x 412-ft.-long pipe for the Wilson Road flowage redirection project, work that is necessary as Columbus continues to grow.