In 1960 the father and son team of P.M. and Ronnie Campbell founded Associated Mechanical Erectors Inc. (AME) with a single location in Rock Hill, S.C. For more than 50 years, the business has grown, providing increasingly diverse services to a range of industrial clients. Third generation Gregg Campbell, CEO, and Jeff Campbell, executive vice president, are now proudly leading the family operation with a strong management team, including Scott Walker, Jason Walker and Greg Dunlap.
Altogether, AME employs more than 200 people, operating from four main locations across North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to the Carolinas, the company also holds general contracting licenses in Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia and Alabama. Additionally, AME is an active member of the Specialized Carriers and Riggers Association, and is notably one of the top 10 privately held contracting firms in South Carolina.
While technology has changed dramatically, the core of the company remains the same. AME provides rigging and crane services, equipment relocation, metal fabrication, industrial construction site services, general contracting, as well as industrial contracting. In recent years, the heavy rigging aspect of the business has grown as the company has grown to meet the need of the automotive, plastics and steel markets in the region. While much of the company’s work is domestic, AME has worked in Canada, Mexico, Germany and Italy.
A growing portfolio
Over the last few years, the team has been involved with a range of complicated new construction and relocation projects for several major industrial clients. “The plant relocation project we did for Siemens is a pinnacle representation of the type of work that best suits us,” Scott notes. “This was a complete plant dismantle, relocation and reinstallation contract.”
AME moved all machinery, over 300 truckloads, from Canada to a facility in Charlotte, N.C. “We were hired as the turnkey contractor to execute the project,” Scott elaborates. “They killed the power, turned everything off, and said, ‘It’s yours, give it back when everything is up and running.’ The project took almost two years. That involved everything from large machining centers, build stands, spray booths, ovens, control centers, as well as all upstream and downstream support equipment for the larger machining centers.”
Scott goes on to note that AME is a single-source turnkey contractor. “So, we partnered with some of the OEM vendors who built the machines for technical support and drafted our top electrical and piping vendors here in the U.S. and Canada to help round out our team,” he details.
According to Scott, logistics scheduling and re-commissioning represented the largest challenges for the project. “Coordinating of the sequential removal and reinstallation of the machinery into a plant that is still undergoing construction and will be during the entire reinstallation process was a monumental task, which was constantly fluid,” he details. “A lot of this equipment was very old.”
Scott explains that the Siemens plant makes turbines; therefore, the machining centers have very tight tolerances. “In this case, you have a machine sitting in a plant for 20 years making the same part, and then you shut it down, dismantle it, ship it thousands of miles, put it back together and it has to be able to make the exact same part to the same quality level or better as it did before,” he explains. “The alignment and re-commissioning process can be slow and very stressful. Any qualified rigger can pick up a machine, move it, set it down and turn it back over to the owner safely. We were held accountable for that machine able to make the same parts it made before and again; with gas turbines, tolerances for error are very tight.”
The team also executed the retrofitting of the existing turbine test station at General Electric in Greenville, S.C., to test its largest turbines, which required a significant amount of heavy rigging and lift planning. “This is the largest test station in the world, which allows General Electric to full load test their turbines without limitations of the grid,” Scott explains. “Some of these components were in excess of 100 feet off the ground, and 60,000 to 70,000 pounds. We had to fit them onto pieces previously erected, like a very large erector set.”
Scott details that the fabricated components came from all over the United States, designed and engineered by either the engineering group or General Electric. “When they arrived at the site, the components had to be inventoried, staged and prepared for installation sequentially to facilitate an efficient workflow and utilization of the heavy lifting equipment on the site,” he details. “A lot of the erection was done outside, so our lift plans were all contingent upon the weather. If the weather was inclement or if the wind was too high we couldn’t lift pieces into place safely, someone could get hurt, so we would have to focus that days efforts elsewhere. That site was challenging. It has been an interesting and rewarding project.”
It is no public secret, according to Scott, that South Carolina is the recent recipient of two large tire plant additions for the Michelin and Bridgestone campuses, which already occupy the state and for whom AME has worked for years. “All I can say is that it takes a vast amount of machinery to make a tire, and no two machines are alike,” says Scott.
AME has been receiving components from across the globe, which has resulted in some logistical challenges for the team – client and contractor alike. “There are hundreds of parts for each machine,” he adds. “Coordinating the manpower and equipment allocations to meet the need of varying schedules and equipment arrivals while controlling cost both for us and our client is a constant challenge, but one we handle well as we are fortunate to own a large fleet of heavy lifting equipment.”
To address logistical concerns and the ever-present safety issues on a jobsite, Scott admires his team’s ability to plan ahead. “Every project is scheduled and engineered before we start to the best of our ability,” he explains. “Our project management staff is full of smart, strong-minded A-type personalities, which, to the benefit of our clients, make for great personal commitments by each of them to be successful on the projects they execute.”
To meet clients’ needs, and to comply with governing bodies, training and safety is of utmost importance. “Upon hire, all of our employees are drug-screened, and for key personnel then they take the OSHA 10-hour or 30-hour courses,” Scott explains.
Beyond that, the business contracts third-party training for heavy lifting and rigging equipment certifications. “We own a lot of heavy lifting equipment from specialized lifts, to gantries and cranes over 500 ton, and to safely operate them requires training and certification,” he continues. Additionally, every worker on-site has been through flagman training and all crane operators have NCCO certifications and annual skill reviews.
The company also has a safety department, which is managed by Billy Powers, safety director for AME. It is the safety team’s responsibility to oversee and track training for every employee on payroll. Furthermore, AME has set itself ahead of other rigging companies with a strong foundation and dedication to quality and efficiency.
These factors have allowed the business to stay ahead, even throughout the recent recession. Scott and his team are looking ahead to a solid backlog of challenging work. The team has seen improvements in the market on a national scale and the company is prepared to continue on a steady path of growth. In the coming years, AME Inc. will continue to deliver complex rigging, construction and installation projects that help industrial businesses stay ahead.
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