In this edition of Voices of the Industry, Zech Connell, Data Center Market Manager at ProLift Rigging, shares how project buffering saved Compass Datacenters both time and money when building their new Phoenix data center.
ProLift Rigging recently partnered directly with Compass Datacenters, and their General Contractor in Phoenix, to provide a shell ahead buffering of critical products. This approach resulted in our team storing, transporting, handling, and site setting over 1,500,000 lbs. of critical product in under 4 weeks, compared to some of the industry benchmarks we’ve witnessed that are around 12 to 16 weeks.
Mid-2019, ProLift Rigging began discussions with Nancy Novak, Chief Innovation Officer at Compass regarding site level optimization. Our first meeting was a holistic conversation around our core service: site crane and rigging support. During this discussion, we built a logistics plan to optimize their Phoenix, AZ campus to have one heavy lift crane to set all major OFCI critical products in precast, heating, and cooling. This led to multiple meetings where we worked through packaging our services to support the movement of their OFCI critical products from production to pad.
Our partnership is based on common strategic objectives. ProLift’s mission is to build owner-enabled supply chains that integrate oversized and overweight products directly into the construction site. This strategy, aligned with Compass’s focus on innovation and transparency, allowed for such a transformational change in their construction process. Their transition from stick-built data centers, to a productized, shell ahead model, has proven to be extremely successful.
Why Project Buffering?
On a recent episode of the Data Center Frontier Show – Talking Data Centers with Compass CEO Chris Crosby podcast, host Rich Miller and Chris discussed how market requirements make continual improvement and innovation a competitive imperative. Per Chris, “Growing in tech, if you’re not innovating, you’re dying. If you can’t get better, and continuous improvement is one of our pillars and core convictions, how do we get better? You must willfully invest in those things. We’ve had all kinds of neat initiatives, whether it’s that, or things that we’re doing on submittals, or you know we work closely with a group called ProLift to create storage areas around the country. Innovation comes in a lot of shapes and forms, it comes in process, it comes in product, in a lot of different ways that we do things. For us, it’s core to the business and core to our continued success. If we’re not investing in it, we are dying.” The development of our project buffering capability, in conjunction with Compass, illustrates the requirements Chris describes. Project buffering has been developed to address supply issues that have been intensified as a result of the recent pandemic including:
Competing demand for data center critical products
As the demand for cloud computing and data centers has continued to increase, suppliers of the mission critical products have struggled to keep up. Now, more and more vendors have pushed production completion timelines further out. As a result, there are hundreds of data center projects around the globe that are planned, or currently under construction, with hundreds of thousands of products with varying production and delivery lead times, all competing against your site’s critical path readiness date.
Unpredictable supply chain outputs
It is no secret that an efficient and predictable supply chain is critical to the success of a data center construction project. With the ever-increasing demands, manufacturers and integrators are tasked with accelerated production and delivery schedules. Across the board, we are witnessing pandemic supply chain unpredictability in material costs, material shortages, product lead time, port delays, skilled labor shortages, third party trucking driver quality, etc. For data center providers these factors manifest themselves in the form of additional delays, emergencies, and high markup costs.
Based on the challenges identified above, accurately estimating product manufacturing completion and site delivery dates on a just-in-time scenario is highly volatile. Production delays are inevitable, despite manufacturers’ high interest in rapid production and movement of the product off their production floors.
Trucking companies hired by the manufacturer to transport the product to the site are also a moving piece to the unsolidified delivery schedules. The trucking company’s ability to predict site arrival is led by a myriad of potential daily hurdles, such as last-minute pickup delays, department of transportation hours of service rules, permitting issues, weather, border closures, qualified driver shortages, and mechanical malfunctions.
As all these delays pile up and push back the delivery date, hundreds of skilled, highly paid, craft workers from the general contractor, subcontractors, and specialty heavy lift contractors are sitting idle. This increases cost to the owner and creates health and safety congestion issues for other crews and contractors onsite attempting to complete their scope of work. The misaligned schedules between manufacturing completion dates, transportation schedules, and onsite work crews, leads to extreme inefficiencies in the construction process.
These are just a few of the speed to market threats that we have witnessed over the years and ultimately why our team, in partnership with Compass, launched our Project Buffering Program. These threats have only increased in the last year due to the current supply chain crisis caused by the pandemic.
Phoenix DH1 Case Study
In partnership with Compass Datacenters, and their site General Contractor, we helped execute their new data center build; Phoenix Data Hall 1 (DH1). Our scope of work included the offload and set of over 1,500,000 lbs. of indoor and outdoor critical products over a one-month timeframe. Due to our strong partnership, and already running national project buffering program, we were able to perform our contracted scope within a 4-week window, allowing Compass’s site teams to start cable pulling and hook up early; and ultimately completing this project ahead of schedule. Here’s our summarized approach from production to pad for this project:
During the transportation and handling phase, our logistics team was heavily involved from the beginning, acting as extensions of Compass to their OEMs and Integrators. We regularly communicated back and forth receiving production updates and scheduling trucking pickup dates.
We transported and delivered all product to our Phoenix facility, located at 5621 S 25th St, Phoenix, AZ 85040, which is 30 minutes from their project site in Goodyear, AZ. We tracked every piece from the production facility to our secured storage location. All product statuses were inventoried on our secure logistics platform, visible to all Compass stakeholders and site teams involved.
During the inventory and buffering warehouse phase, our local Project Manager and Qualified Riggers received all product and performed all inbound inspection reports. The site construction teams also had access to our facility to perform QA/QC with field line-up verification inspections and any additional assembly work prior to site arrival. This step prevented any site delays associated with foundation alignment, cable hookup, and product issues during installation. As we delivered each piece of product to our warehouse, our team, in partnership with the site General Contractor, worked through a logistics and delivery plan that aligned and integrated with the site schedule demands. All our planning and engineering met OSHA, Compass, and General Contractor requirements.
During the Site Delivery, Rigging, and Setting phase, we loaded, transported, and set the 1,500,000 lbs. of product in one mobilization of heavy lift resources. In total, our team tracked, stored, hauled, and set over 175 critical products for this one Compass data hall project. We were able to execute our plan in ¼ of the time, compared to an industry normal stick build schedule. At the same time, we were able to save Compass up to 40% costs on markups alone, not including any potential supply chain delay costs. Upon completion of the project, Catherine Choppin, Compass Sr. Construction Manager, said “Compass made a very wise decision when we engaged ProLift to be our logistics and equipment setting Partner. With them coordinating directly with our Vendors and onsite GC, it has raised the bar in efficiency.”
The data center industry is converging to build better, cheaper, and faster now more than ever to meet the current demand. We have witnessed the costly gap between critical product production, delivery, and site installation schedules when supply chain speed to market threats prevail. Our partnership with Compass is a win-win scenario, held together by trust, that enables Compass to have transparency into their supply chain, remove product delivery delays, minimize site rework delays, lower site risk, lower costs, and ultimately continue to win the speed to market race.
This article was written by Zech Connell, Data Center Market Manager, at ProLift Rigging. ProLift Rigging helps data center owners and contractors build data centers faster and more efficiently through innovative solutions.