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Phenco Inc. Finds ABI Mobilram Improves Safety, Saves Time and Money

hammer steel abi mobilram phenco inc cedar river marina michigan upper peninsula abi tm-13/16After his first experience with an ABI Mobilram system, Tim Horswill, owner of Phenco Inc., was so impressed that he now refers to the traditional way of driving sheet piling with a crane and vibratory driver as "the old mentality."

Phenco, a Neenah, Wisconsin-based contractor, had the contract to drive sheet piling and excavate the marina basin at the new Cedar River Marina on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Using the ABI TM-13/16 Mobilram system to drive about 2300 wall feet of sheeting, Horswill found he was able to increase production, get a better installed product and employ a smaller crew.

"The ABI's performance was excellent," Horswill said. "It gave us a 30 to 40 percent better production rate with a better finished product. The wall we installed was straight and plumb. With the 'old mentality' of a crane and a vibratory driver, it can be more difficult to get such a straight wall."

Production with the Mobilram was about 50 sheets a day or 112 wall feet, ranging from 25 to 35 feet in length. Soil conditions varied, and Phenco ran into everything from sand to stiff clay, as well as a mix. At the beginning the project, the company also had to deal with three to four feet of frost in the ground.

hammer steel phenco abi mobilram cedar marina upper michigan peninsulaOne way the Mobilram sped production was by giving the crew a clear indication when they were driving into an obstruction. "Normally, you don't know about obstructions until it's too late," Horswill explained, "but with the Mobilram you can monitor the pressure gauge and know what you are encountering." Less time was wasted trying to drive through obstructions, and fewer sheets were damaged. In fact, Phenco only damaged two sheets on the project, as the Mobilram gauge gave a clear indication of when to bring in the excavator and remove an obstruction before driving sheeting into it.

The layout of the piling wall was complex, calling for multiple lengths and 12 specially fabricated corners. Hammer & Steel supplied a CAD-generated layout for the walls. It was important to keep the sheet from leading, because the corners would have to be re-fabricated if they didn't land in the proper spot. "We made a jig to keep the sheet from leading, and everything came out pretty close."

The piling was supplied by Hammer & Steel and manufactured by Shoreline Steel, based in New Haven, Michigan. Shoreline Steel has worked with Hammer & Steel on a number of projects like this. "A one-quarter inch thick sheeting section, SZ-14.5, was specified, but we were able to avoid the damage and pan spreading inherent in lighter-weight steel because the Mobilram gauges indicate what's happening to the sheeting," Horswill noted. Because of the complicated layout, timely delivery in the proper sequence was critical. "We felt the job went very smoothly. We feel these multiple-length and customcorner projects are our strong suit," said Tom Willey, Shoreline Steel sales manager. "It was a pleasure to do business with Hammer & Steel and Phenco."

Phenco used a three-man crew on the Mobilram - one man on the ground feeding sheets, one plumbing, and a third man operating the machine. "In addition to reducing crew size by one or two men from conventional method," Horswill said, "I believe the Mobilram is much safer because there's no need for a top man to thread sheets."

Horswill's competitors watched the ABI system with interest during the marina work, and as soon as Phenco was done with it, one of them rented it to drive piling on a soldier pile project. "I spoke to them and they had a good experience with it as well," he said.

Phenco does a variety of work including marine work, road grading, demolition and cell towers. Phenco has used Hammer & Steel as a supplier for a decade. "They are great to work with," Horswill commented. "They resolve problems quickly, and you get your steel on time." While not all Phenco's jobs are suitable for an ABI Mobilram, Horswill stated, "If we come across another similar project, we'll definitely use it again."
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