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Herbst Electric Builds State-of-the-Art Ceramics Plant
Ohio customer’s manufacturing schedule was not disrupted

By Rosalie E. Leposky

Lakewood, Ohio-based Advanced Ceramics wanted a seamless transition in its move to a new facility in nearby Strongsville. Who did this $50 million in annual revenues company turn to? Herbst Electric.

Advanced Ceramics couldn’t simply shut down for relocation. Thus, the main challenge facing Cleveland-based Herbst Electric and other players in the project contracting team was to design and build a new facility that could be brought into operation without disrupting Advanced Ceramics’ manufacturing schedule. Advanced Ceramics assured its clients that the move would not disrupt production.

“One of our new systems took four months to install,” said Stephen C. Dorr, manager of manufacturing engineering and relocation for Advanced Ceramics. “We started installing new equipment early, so we could start production as soon as possible in the new building while we tore down systems and equipment in the old building and moved them to the new building. Our goal always had been for the move to be transparent to our customers.

“The older Lakewood equipment was uninstalled, moved on flatbed trucks, and reinstalled. That process and installation of new equipment, all went like a well-practiced orchestra, with all the pieces on time and fitting together as planned. Some equipment actually was ready and moved ahead of time.”

At the completion of the first phase of the building and relocation project, about half of the Lakewood equipment and systems were relocated and installed in Strongsville, Ohio.

Herbst Electric Company’s role

“Duke and I brainstormed with Kenneth V.H. Maher, our project manager and a licensed engineer, to solve design problems,” said Herbst Electric Owner John Benevento. “For about seven years we’ve installed equipment and done maintenance for Advanced Ceramics. When the owners decided on a bid process to design and build their new Strongsville facility, Herbst consulted with them to establish the criteria.

Herbst was one of four Cleveland electrical contractors Jennings & Churella Construction Services Inc., a Wellington, Ohio, design/build contractor, invited to bid on the Advanced Ceramics project.

“Our bid and another company’s were close,” John Benevento said. “We won the contract because we presented valuable engineering ideas, including suggestions that lowered installation cost and offered future flexibility by converting conduit to cable and cable trays. Later we made other field project-design modifications with the Jennings & Churella design team.

“It was a very concentrated power project. We worked on all aspects of the job from the ground up, including a 15,000-volt (15KV) distribution system and a process Ethernet Category 6 network that links together all the machines in the plant. In addition to the main Ethernet, the Advanced Ceramics plant uses three Allen-Bradley data-highway networks.”

To meet standards announced last fall, Herbst purchased a Hewlett-Packard Wire Scope 350 with updates especially for this project. “We took H-P classes to learn how to use this new hand-held, low-voltage tool,” John Benevento said. “We encouraged Advanced Ceramics to use Category 6, because we wanted this world-class facility to have the best voice/data/video systems available. Advanced Ceramics’ management entrusted us with the complete design and installation of cabling and fiber optics.”

Herbst makes valuable field modifications

On February 1, 2000, Advanced Ceramics started the year-long process of moving equipment from its Lakewood plant to Strongsville.

“Herbst did a good job with a very difficult assignment and made valued field modifications to the project design,” said John Copley, chief operating officer of Jennings & Churella. “We hired Herbst because we knew they could be innovative and find creative solutions to the specific applications that our customer demanded. Most of Advanced Ceramics’ processes are proprietary and new to those of us in the construction trades. Success on the Advanced Ceramics project was measured by our maintaining budgets, quality, and schedules.”

Herbst Electric and the rest of the contracting team faced such challenges as the following:

· Building a new plant from scratch.

· Staging new equipment installation.

· Staging old equipment removal, relocation, and reinstallation.

· Arranging work schedules so all the trades could share space without delaying each other’s efforts.

· Tearing down, transporting, and installing equipment without interfering with Advanced Ceramics’ production at either site.

· Arranging for the flow of parts and supplies.

· Managing and maintaining two separate production sites until both phases are complete in 2003.

“Most of the problems we faced were coordination issues,” John Benevento said. “Can we put this piece of cable tray here, or will it conflict with a piece of machinery, or a large process pipe or other pipes and cables that need to be located in the same space?

“Our other major problem, because of the fast-track time frame, was finding the manpower to do the work. Cleveland has a shortage of skilled manpower that is being felt by all the building trades. The trickle-down manpower shortage, for example, affected us when we were ready to install a transformer before the bricklayer built the required wall.

Timely deliveries made

To ensure that the right supplies were delivered to the site on time, Herbst Electric joined the growing number of electrical contractors partnering for specific fast-track jobs with major supply companies.

“Graybar helped Herbst set up staging, storage, and the scheduling of deliveries required for the Advanced Ceramics project,” said John M. Graber, a sales manager at Galvert Wire & Cable Corp., a national distributor of wire, cable, and connectivity products.

“Our ultimate goal was to have the lowest-cost solution,” he said. “That doesn’t always mean the lowest price for materials, but does mean the lowest overall cost for material and paperwork. Costs are less when less paper is handled, and when the electrical contractor knows he will not have to deal with multiple vendors. Graybar was responsible for distribution and material handling, and for ensuring there were no delays in arrival of materials, freeing Herbst to concentrate on what they do best. At both Graybar and Calvert Wire & Cable, we try to convince electricians to focus on total cost rather than on cost of individual parts for a project.”

Graybar supplied everything electrical except the Allen-Bradley Motor Control Centers, which came from Rexel/Midland Electric in Cleveland.

Fire, communications, and HVAC systems installed smoothly Herbst partnered with the Cleveland office of Simplex Time Record Company to install Advanced Ceramics’ fire-alarm system. “Herbst physically installed our systems,” said David A. Ziegler, a building-systems sales executive, “and we provided them with technical, start-up, and check-out support. Delivery and installation went smoothly. Herbst, as primary electrical contractor, had everything worked out beforehand, from lights to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) controls to power distribution and location of new and old machinery.”

Eventually, the Strongsville plant will employ about 200 high-tech employees. Advanced Ceramics installed a communications system designed to provide for staff growth. “Digital Matrix, Inc., of Cleveland installed a C comdial FXS communications system,” said Benjamin M. Trevarthen, Digital’s vice president. “Herbst provided electrical-power sources and installed the voice cabling.”

“After construction began on the Advanced Ceramics plant, we were awarded the contract to install the temperature wiring for the project’s HVAC systems,” John Benevento said. “Wadsworth Slawson North East, a Cleveland environmental-control company and building-automation and equipment supplier, was selected to provide the HVAC. We’ve worked with them before and knew they would be able to install the HVAC system in a tight time framework.”

“Herbst devoted a lot of crucial attention to detail, which is so important in wiring temperature-control systems,” said Patrick B. Middleton, sales engineer at Wadsworth Slawson North East.

Pushing the boundaries

What can you do when your landlord tells you he won’t renew your lease? If you’re Advanced Ceramics Corp., producer of advanced ceramic (non-oxide) powders and hot-pressed ceramic shapes, you spend more than $20 million to build a new state-of-the-art plant.

Since 1963, Advanced Ceramics occupied increasingly cramped space leased from its former corporate parent, Union Carbide Corp., and more recently from Union Carbide’s successor public company, UCAR Graph-Tech, Inc., on a 22-acre site in Lakewood, Ohio.

Union Carbide/UCAR prevented Advanced Ceramics from expanding its physical space and then told Advanced that its lease, which expires in 2003, would not be renewed.

“In Lakewood, in a 200,000-square-foot building, we have about 150,000 square feet of usable space,” said Stephen C. Dorr, manager of manufacturing engineering and relocation manager for Advanced Ceramics. “For years we were not allowed to expand beyond our building, but we still had to grow, so we have pushed more equipment into our usable space than anyone should.

“We started occupying the first phase of our new facility on January 1, 2000. Our first phase has 150,000 square feet of usable space in the Foltz Industrial Park in Strongsville, Ohio, about 15 miles south of Lakewood. Our second phase will add 130,000 square feet of usable space. In round numbers, we will have an increase of about 100,000 square feet, plus nearly 25 acres of expansion space to accommodate further growth.”

Throughout the design/build stages, Advanced Ceramics staff members planned old equipment relocation and new equipment installation with Herbst Electric Company of Cleveland, Ohio. Dorr estimated that phase two, scheduled for completion by the end of 2003, will cost an additional $13 to $14 million. He measured the scope of Herbst Electric’s extensive contribution to phase one as “about 15 percent of the project cost, including land.”

LEPOSKY is a freelance writer based in Miami. She can be reached at

(C) Electrical Contractor Magazine March 2001

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