In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, Thermo Fisher Scientific, a biotechnology company, needed to scale up its operations to match the rapidly increasing demand for its products, specifically those used for COVID-19 sample collection and transportation. Vital to the company’s success would be the renovation of one of its existing facilities to add much-needed handling and processing capacity.
Expanding its facility in Lenexa, Kansas, would make an additional 120,000 square feet available to produce viral transport media (VTM), allowing the company to scale up production from 50,000 VTM tubes per week to more than 8 million. VTM tubes protect the integrity of COVID-19 and flu samples and help prevent contamination or false negatives.
More than 300 new full-time jobs would be created, and the site would continue to be used for collection and sampling productions for the flu and other viruses post-pandemic.
“This project itself is an incredible opportunity to respond to what really is a need for all of society,” says Bret Johnson, Thermo Fisher’s vice president of global operations for specialty diagnostics. “When we looked at this project, we said this is incredibly difficult to do with a near-impossible timeline, but it’s really in the face of these impossible odds that, together, we choose the opportunity to do what is right.”
While a project of this size would normally take over a year to complete, Thermo Fisher needed the renovation completed in just eight weeks. With an increasing need for COVID-19 resources and a tight turnaround, construction began without hesitation.
Controlling building temperatures was mission critical
Handling certain medical grade materials, supplies and testing samples requires reliable temperature control, making the operational performance of the building’s new chilled and hot water systems mission critical.
Thermo Fisher looked to InSite Group, a Kansas City-based consulting engineering design services group, to deliver the building’s infrastructure build out in just five weeks, a project that would normally take six months. Rand Construction, also from Kansas City, was brought on to design, coordinate and install the heating and cooling systems, among other tasks.
“With the pace of the project in general, there was no time to even design before we hit the site,” says Chad Young, foreman for Rand Construction. “So we had to design as we went.”
Recognizing the tall task at hand, Rand Construction called on Victaulic, a global manufacturer of mechanical pipe joining systems, to streamline the chilled and hot water piping installations. After reviewing the project goals and timeline together, and recognizing the amount of distribution pipe needed for the install, the teams agreed Victaulic’s solutions were ideally suited for the job.
A speedy installation
Jobsite health, safety and cleanliness were top priorities for Thermo Fischer and its construction partners, and these standards barred any welding at the facility. Instead, crews fabricated parts of the piping system at Rand Construction’s shop and used two Victaulic roll grooving tools to prepare the pipe for installation.
The 2-inch to 8-inch carbon steel pipe was joined using Victaulic Installation-Ready couplings and fittings, which allowed for a fast and easy installation. Their single-unit design allows the pipe-installers to simply insert the coupling onto the grooved end of a pipe and tighten two bolts using standard hand tools. They then visually verified the joints were installed correctly by ensuring metal-to-metal bolt pad contact, giving the teams confidence in the system’s durability and longevity.
“To install the grooved pipe, we would rack up four pieces of pipe together, two hot and two cold, and then quickly put them into the hangers and easily couple them together,” Young explains. “Over a matter of two days, we hung out a little over 1,000 feet of pipe, safely and quickly.”
After working around the clock for five weeks straight, Rand Construction completed the installation, including the chilled and hot water systems, and met their extremely tight deadline.
“Victaulic was a great asset to this project because we were able to order exactly what we needed, clamp [the couplings] on the pipe, and move on,” Young says. “It really aided in our completion of this project within such a short timeframe.”
A win for the world
With Victaulic’s help, Rand Construction successfully installed and tested the chilled and hot water system in record time, without incident, in the middle of a global pandemic. Their fast and quality work ensured Thermo Fischer could continue providing their valuable support to the world in its fight against COVID-19.
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