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PolyHorse helps contractor tackle cross-country fusions

by Drew L. Wilson

Many people have heard of a cross-country foot race. A cross-country race is a timed event where competitors face different challenges over a fixed distance. The obstacles can range from weather to adverse terrain. The thrill of the race might be the obstacles awaiting the competitors at every turn. However, no one would blame a competitor for using a shortcut in the race, if it were legal and within the rules.

Near Loudonville, Ohio, R&R Pipeline just finished a cross-country race of sorts. They were one of two contractors used to fuse a great distance of pipe in less than two months. Under a time limit and with several obstacles, R&R turned to some productivity shortcuts to gain speed and efficiency in efforts to meet the deadline.

The first stage of the race was a one-week time period to get the bid drawn up. R&R was awarded the contract by Dominion East Ohio to install 38,000 feet of high density polyethylene pipe (HPDE) on April 2nd. Four days later, the first six trucks delivered pipe. The finish line for the project was a very speedy May 31st.

The TracStar just has too many benefits

Jeff Emery

The cross-country metaphor extends even further. R&R Pipeline was forced to perform some of the fusions and directional bores far away from the roads. The boring of holes across fields and pastures was required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The measure was in place to protect cornfields that could hold artifacts from the Mohican Indians, as well as other Native American tribes.

With 30,000 feet of 12-inch and 8,000 feet of 8-inch pipe to install, R&R Vice President Jeff Emery began mobilizing resources, which included 50 fusion operators in the 140 person firm, immediately after winning the bid. Along with the miles of pipeline to be fused, 29 tie-ins and tapping tees were required.

The rural hills created a few hurdles, leaving spotty to non-existent cell phone reception to communicate between the 38 R&R workers on site. Multiple job sites operated in unison, but at distances just out of walkie-talkie range. Also, tree-covered hillsides offered little in terms of right-of-ways. Mixed with the EPA concerns and outright speed required to complete the job on time, Emery and R&R turned to Morain Sales and Service for answers or shortcuts that could boost productivity, while still doing great work for Dominion East Ohio.

Jeff Hattendorf at Morain had a few aces up his sleeve, including one of the first McElroy PolyHorse PowerAssist units ever put into the field. The PowerAssist is a hydraulically powered roller that replaces the pivoting roller on the original PolyHorse design. The PolyHorse is a pipe-handling system for 3" to 20" pipe (90mm to 500mm) that allows the pipe to be delivered and stored at a single location. The powered roller aids in maneuvering sticks of pipe up, down and into the fusion machine.

With the PolyHorse PowerAssist and a TracStar 412, R&R's fusion operators averaged 29 joints of 12-inch pipe per work day. However, the productivity didn't stop there. When fusing some of the longer lengths of pipe out of the 38,000 total feet of pipe, R&R used a technique called piggybacking. Piggybacking is the practice of having two machines staged at one location so that a fusion technician can fuse one joint while another cools. Once a joint is cooled and pulled out of the machine, the process starts over and rotates from machine to machine, using the downtime of the cooling period to the operator's advantage.

Emery's go-to fusion machine of choice on this job was the TracStar 412. Between the four 412 machines on site, Emery found the maneuverability and power of the TracStar to his liking.

"I wouldn't buy a wheeled machine. The TracStar just has too many benefits," said Emery. "McElroy's tracked machines are easier to line up and move."

R&R also found value in a simple, but often overlooked piece of the McElroy productivity tool lineup. On the opposite end of the fusion site from the PolyHorse, R&R used pipe stands to save wear and tear on the TracStar, keeping the length of pipe close to parallel for faster facing and hi/ low adjustment, and for ease in pulling the length of pipe after a completed joint.

When all was said and done, R&R completed the job a week and a half early. The productivity of all the tools, finding a job site setup that works and working hand-in-hand with a local McElroy distributor proved highly productive in the long run.

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