Taking on a "Giant"

When David Gemmill formed D.E. Gemmill in 1986 he was the sole owner and employee for the pavement marking company. Twenty-one years later his business has grown both in size and industry. Gemmill, who is president of the company, says he has anywhere from 18 to 22 employees who are spread across the pavement marking, asphalt maintenance, traffic control, and signage markets. These divisions of D.E. Gemmill serve Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Northern Virginia, but most of the company's work is in the South-Central part of Pennsylvania.

Four years after Gemmill started the company, contractors' needs prompted its expansion. "We've tried to become a one-source supplier for our contractors that we do work with," he says. "It has allowed us to grow our business and encompass a larger volume of work through one single project." In fact, serving multiple areas and divisions of the market has increased some project dollar values as much as 300% to 400%, Gemmill says.

Despite expanding into other markets over the years, pavement marking has been the core business for D.E. Gemmill from the beginning, and it continues to grow. But the sign and pavement maintenance divisions are growing as well and beginning to catch up to the pavement marking side of the business. Gemmill says 35% to 38% of the company's business comes from its sign division.

D.E. Gemmill's participation in different areas of the market has enabled the company to be hired and contracted to do projects of all sizes. "We do anything from the 20- to 25-space parking lot all the way up to road projects that consist sometimes up to eight miles of road," he says. In 2007, a previous client offered D.E. Gemmill an opportunity for one of those large-scale projects.

Getting the big one
In 2007, the Hershey Company awarded D.E. Gemmill a bid to work on an addition to the Hershey Giant Center. The Hershey Giant Center, Hershey, PA, is host to multiple sporting and large scale events. On the Giant Center project D.E. Gemmill's responsibilities included striping a parking lot addition of 2,100 spaces as well as relocating old and creating new directional signs. A new ring road for entering and exiting also had to be striped. The company was in charge of both temporary and permanent road striping for the new ring road.

Insights into the bid
When it came to bidding the project Gemmill says the company put a lot of time and effort into its bid. The company reviewed the project plans and discussed possible issues that could arise because the Giant Center was not a new building and it would be open during construction. Gemmill says he included both management and pavement marking foremen in the discussions to get the most comprehensive view of potential issues. A walk through of the actual site was done as well. During the walk through, photographs were taken so employees could get a better look at the site in advance.

The sign portion of the job was also looked at carefully. Gemmill says they paid close attention to the colors and letters on the existing signs to ensure matches could be made for touch-ups and new signs. Cranes would also be needed to move and place the signs, so D.E. Gemmill included crane quotes in its bid.

One of the most difficult aspects of the bid was considering all of the coordination that needed to be planned for the project, according to Gemmill. Since the Hershey Giant Center and the access roads would remain open during the job, worker safety was a concern. Gemmill also knew that the project would require some long days, and he factored overtime hours into the bid as well.

"Hershey Entertainment is associated with Hershey Chocolate Company, and we felt that it was very important to make sure this project went smoothly, was coordinated properly, and that they were pleased with the end result," Gemmill says.

D.E. Gemmill already had history with the Hershey Company prior to the 2007 job. The company striped the original Giant Center parking lots back in 2000. But on the new job D.E. Gemmill worked for B.R Kreider, Lancaster, PA - the excavating and paving contractor in charge of the project - instead of working directly with the Hershey Company. As the project progressed Gemmill said the Hershey Company did contract his company to do some extra work.

The process
After being awarded the project, D.E. Gemmill completed the layout, striping, and sign installation in four phases over two months.

In phase one, D.E. Gemmill had to remove some of the directional signs that were going to be relocated. A bucket truck was used to lower and unattach higher signs, and then flatbed trucks were used to transport these signs to the company's warehouse facility where they were temporarily stored. Once the temporary ring road was paved, D.E. Gemmill had to place temporary striping to tie the temporary road into the existing road, Gemmill says.

Because the ring road was in use during the project, the workers sometimes had to complete the temporary striping work overnight or early in the morning. "We had to do many mobilizations to strip those temporary roads so that activities that were going [during work on the project] could have access and a safe passage for the vehicles," he says. The company used one airless Graco and Linear Dynamics paint truck for the striping and also used lighting towers to provide light.

Phase two started once the ring road was established. D.E. Gemmill striped the permanent ring road just as it had done the temporary striping. Since the road was paved in sections, Gemmill says his employees also had to strip in sections.

D.E. Gemmill also began installing some of the permanent signs required for the project during phase two. This involved excavating, pouring the foundations, and installing the signs. Gemmill says they built templates for bolt and mounting patterns. Then they used a Bobcat skid steer and auger equipment to dig the holes for the signs. Although a concrete supplier was used, Gemmill says his employees did all the pouring of the concrete themselves.

The dominating project of phase two was moving the overhead mast signs and relocating them to the new ring road. Cranes from an outside firm had to be coordinated to move the signs to their new location about a quarter mile away. And, the relocation had to be done in one day, Gemmill adds. He says tearing down, relocating, and reassembling the overhead mast took about 16 hours to complete.

The next phase of the Giant Center project focused on striping the paved areas of the new parking lot. Like the ring road, the parking lot was also paved in sections. For the parking lot striping, Gemmill says a group of three to four employees did the striping with a combination of walk-behind and ride-on Graco striping units. The size of each section varied with D.E. Gemmill working on a small section of 150 parking spaces once to a section of almost 1,000 parking spaces another time, Gemmill says.

The final phase consisted of finishing the road and parking lot striping and installing the rest of the signs. Final touches on the road consisted of striping around a tollbooth, Gemmill says. For that, Gemmill's employees used both the paint truck and a walk-behind striper. Although his company doesn't do much parking lot tollbooth striping, he says the patterns were similar to those used for highway tollbooths. As a result, his employees were familiar with the striping required.

The Hershey Company specified all the signs D.E. Gemmill created and installed matched the existing signs, Gemmill says. His company did all of the lettering and reflective sheeting, but did hand over some of the metal work to a metal fabrication company. "Some of the larger signs that required special equipment to fabricate we contracted out. But we also did perform some of the work in-house as well."

The Benefits
Taking on this challenging project turned out to be a good business decision for D.E. Gemmill. Since the Hershey Giant Center was a very public project, it gave Gemmill's company a chance to be in the spotlight and show what it can do. With public exposure also comes the opportunity for scrutiny, and Gemmill says doing their best work was essential. "It worked out very well," Gemmill says, "and we'd like to think it is a feather in our cap."