Sweet success in plant documentation

Chapter 1: Planning for a tank replacement

Sweet success in plant documentation

Author: Christine Grahl, October 2016

With the capacity to slice 22,000 tons of beets a day and produce over 1 billion pounds of sugar annually, the Michigan Sugar Co. is the third largest sugar producer in the United States. Its factories, which were built between 1889 and 1902, dot the Michigan landscape, providing employment to many people. During peak processing season, more than 1,000 grower-owners and 1,600 workers support the company.

Over the decades, Michigan Sugar has installed an assortment of machinery updates and additions in its Croswell, Michigan, USA plant. The company has also augmented operations with auxiliary buildings that house new machinery. Each time project managers have carved out space for the equipment and related piping, the plant has become more congested and complex. Until recently, as is typical in many factories, plant documentation had not kept pace with the ever changing environment.

Planning for a tank replacement

When Michigan Sugar Co.’s management decided to replace an evaporation tank that spans three stories inside the factory, the project engineer, Chris Schanbeck, knew careful planning was in order. In the past, to design the new structure and guide a project plan, his team might have updated old drawings of the facility with hand measurements of the planned installations. He knew, however, that inaccuracies and omissions in the as-built data could lead to unexpected equipment clashes and misfitting parts. The result would likely be field rework, increased costs and project delays.

To ensure a sound design, Schanbeck needed a comprehensive, accurate, up-to-dat4e as-built model of the interior of the factory that would provide guidance for fabricating systems and components for the new tank and its structural steel support. A comprehensive model would also enable the team to plan how to move support equipment, such as pumps and piping, that was required to install the new tank. And it would allow designers to model how best to reroute and connect the labyrinth of piping after installing the new tank.

When Schanbeck researched his options for creating such a model, a colleague referred him to 3D Imaging Services in Flint, Michigan, USA. The company provides technology solutions that include 3D laser scanning and as-built modelling. Schanbeck believed the firm’s 3D laser scanning capabilities would allow Michigan Sugar to produce the most precise, detailed model possible. Michael James, project manager at 3D Imaging Services, headed up the project. “The project was already in the planning phase and Michigan Sugar needed a way to capture existing conditions rapidly, so time was of the essence. Because of this, we chose the Leica ScanStation P40 to document the plant. It enabled us to reduce both field time and processing time,” he says.

Explore next chapter: Efficient, accurate data capture

Story: Sweet success in plant documentation
Chapter 1: Planning for a tank replacement
Chapter 2: Efficient, accurate data capture
Chapter 3: Time and cost savings, plus better information

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