Hobart company finishes big project months early
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent March 22, 2013 1:15PM
A worker welds on a low-pressure turbine cylinder at Midwest Service Center in Hobart. The company finished the major job and finished shipping the parts to a power plant in Louisiana. | Photo courtesy Midwest Service Center
Updated: April 24, 2013 6:09AM
HOBART — A truck carrying the second half of a steel turbine cylinder weighing a total of 170,000 pounds left Midwest Service Center on Friday en route to a power plant in Louisiana, culminating a job that encompassed 30,000 man-hours over a seven-month period and almost 100 tons of locally made steel.
As the truck departed, not only did all those involved in the production have the satisfaction of knowing they accomplished the $2.4 million order on time, but also that they proved an American company could do a job that was typically done overseas.
“We now know that the capabilities are here,” said Larry Beal, project manager with Siemens Energy Inc., Midwest Service Center’s customer for this project.
Midwest Service Center snagged the contract away from a company in Indonesia, which typically builds these cylinders.
“We reinstilled confidence in the domestic market,” said Don Gilger, managing partner/mechanical production manager of Midwest Service Center.
“I thought it could be done in the U.S.,” Gilger said.
The cylinder is headed to a utility company in Arcadia, La., where it will be used in the steam turbine system to generate electricity, Gilger said.
Ali Koucheki, manager of special projects and pump product line at Midwest Service Center, said the company started the job Aug. 7 and involved 30,000 man-hours, 5,000 of which were from outside vendors.
Koucheki said the first half of the cylinder, which weighed 98,000 pounds, was shipped out Thursday. The second half, weighing 75,000 pounds, left Friday. He said each section was 19 feet wide.
Koucheki said the most difficult part of the job was the time frame, which had been shortened from 12 to seven months.
“We had just three days off during that time — Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. We were open Thanksgiving. Don (Gilger) had a cookout for workers,” Koucheki said
He said crews worked around the clock on two, 12-hour shifts.
Managing all the workers during production was another challenge.
“At one time we had more than 20 people working on the cylinder,” he said.
Gilger said 90 percent of the workforce involved was from Northwest Indiana.
He said Area Sheet Metal in Hobart provided some workers and Varied Products of Indiana in Chesterton did some work.
The company added 15 people to its 80-person team of welders, machinists, mechanics and others to complete the job.
Gilger said it would keep its core group of workers, pointing out there hasn’t been a layoff at the company since current ownership took over in 1999. Plus, spring is one of its busy seasons.
Midwest Service Center repairs, refurbishes and manufactures parts for mechanical, electrical, electromechanical and power generation equipment. It has been in Hobart for 40 years, formerly under both Westinghouse and Siemens.