Who else could help build the first Volvo Cars production facility in the United States? South Carolina contractor Landmark Construction has called on the help of 30 Volvo CE machines.
The picturesque 17th century seaside town of Charleston, South Carolina is now buzzing with activity. A new neighbor is moving in, and with it, the potential for economic growth that far exceeds the state’s – and the nation’s – boundaries.
The newcomer is none other than Volvo Cars. Spurred by a surging demand for Volvo manufactured cars in the US the company is laying down the road for the brand’s first US production facility – covering a giant 726 acres (293.80 ha) site. Construction of the $69 million (€60.5m) project is well underway and under tight deadlines. With initial land clearing initiated in July 2015, Volvo Cars is aiming for the first automobile to roll off the assembly line by late 2018.
Running in five phases, the job entails transforming the heavily wooded site into a modern, well-equipped production facility, complete with roads, ponds, elevated building pads and storm-water infrastructure.
Planning makes perfect
The bid was open to every earth-moving contractor in the southeastern United States and caught the interest of family-owned Landmark Construction. Founded in 1965 by Fredrick and Anne Mixson, Landmark has grown from humble beginnings as a small grading contractor to one of South Carolina’s most successful utility, concrete and site contractors. They attribute their success to good financial planning, a thorough approach to job estimating and family values. With Rick Mixson and his sister, Cindy, at the helm today, the company is now stronger than ever.
“We look at things differently since the recession,” says Cindy. As vice president of the company, she plays a role more typically associated with a CFO title. “It’s changed the way we acquire equipment, the way we look at jobs and who we involve in the process.”
Upon learning more about the bid, the Landmark team sprang to action, dedicating 10 full-time team members to the estimating process.
“First, we needed to look at the site and determine exactly what we were up against in terms of soil conditions – what were the unknowns, and what potential contingency plans were required,” says Rick. “Second, we needed to define how to build a fleet to get the job done on time and budget.”
Next on the checklist was equipment, supplied by ASC Construction Equipment, Landmark’s Volvo Construction Equipment dealer for 20 years. Enlisting the support of Volvo Site Simulation software to analyze the correct size and quantity of machines required, Mitch Bailey, key account manager at ASC recommended using 30 machines. Among the new additions are EC380E and EC480E excavators, and A40G articulated haulers.
With due diligence complete, and a fleet make-up and financing structure determined, it came as no surprise to anyone when Landmark won the bid. “My immediate reaction was natural enough – celebrate,” recalls Cindy. “Then it hits you – okay; now we have to get this job done and the clock is ticking.”
Landmark hit the ground running with the delivery of 16 new Volvo machines – more than doubling its existing Volvo fleet. The EC480E excavators and A40G articulated haulers are being used for the heavy load-and-haul work, while the EC380E excavators are assigned to complete ponds, storm drainage and finishing work.
“In peak production we’re moving up to 100,000 yd3 (76.45m3) of soil over a six day work week,” says Mark Mitchum, project superintendent at Landmark. “That’s the schedule we have to stick to, rain or shine.”
And 2015 brought a lot more rain than shine. “Often, there’s not enough time to dry the soil in between the rain, so we’re using a Volvo A25 truck equipped with a spreader to mix cement into the soil before we compact it with our Volvo rollers,” he adds. “The Volvo A40s are helping keep us on schedule during heavy rain. With their light footprint, they never bog down in the mud and we can run them at full capacity.”
Of course, earth can only be moved if the equipment is moving, which is why Landmark and ASC developed a customized service agreement specific to the job.
“ASC set up a canopy on site, stocked with all the common replacement parts, and they’ve had a full-time mechanic on call,” says Mitchum. “They’ve also taken care of all planned service intervals on evenings and weekends, so that it doesn’t disrupt our operations.”
Supplied with a flexible leasing program, customized by Volvo Financial Services (VFS), Landmark can maintain control of its machines and future business endeavors. “Landmark has the choice to return the machines at the end of the job, continue on with a traditional lease, or purchase the machines at fair market value – whatever makes the most sense for their workload a year down the road,” explains Larry Carroll, regional sales manager at VFS.
Paving the road ahead
As the project nears completion, the Mixson siblings are aware of the impact the high profile job will have on their business and the surrounding community. When complete, the factory will be capable of producing 100,000 cars per year, creating 2,000 jobs initially. The impact of the plant is estimated at approximately $4.8 billion (€4.2b) in annual economic output.
The company’s achievement opens up a new chapter, one driven by the family mentality. “It takes a team,” says Cindy. “We make a good team at Landmark, but it can’t be done without our partners. We consider Volvo, VFS and ASC our extended family.”