Right Tools Help Demo Ford Lorain Assembly Plant

Information from this article was first published in Demolition Magazine and is being reused with permission from the National Demolition Association.

The once-sprawling Ford Lorain Assembly Plant, located on the shores of Lake Erie, has been closed since the mid-2000s. Efforts to divide the four-million-square-foot plant into separate, smaller parcels, renovate those sections and make them available to new businesses has been somewhat successful. However more than a third of that space has fallen into such disrepair that it was deemed beyond renovation and slated for demolition.

Heading up that effort is Grafton, Ohio-based Sitetech, Inc. The firm reports that having the right tools for the job - particularly a Genesis GXP 400 mobile shear and LXP 300 Logix Processor - has helped them get demo rates as high as 40,000 square feet per day. That, in turn, has allowed them to meet a demanding schedule and get the plant to a point where it can continue its transition into a different, but still very functional, space.

Tall Order to Fill

After a steady downturn in U.S. auto sales Ford closed the Lorain plant in 2005. From that point forward the site sat idle, except for a time when it served as a storage facility for Honda vehicles. Today it is working hard to reinvent itself as something of an industrial park and having some success in doing so, currently housing a distributor of beers and wines, an indoor storage facility, a wholesale goods distributor and more. However, according to Jason Friscone, Sitetech's co-owner and project superintendent, an unused part of the plant's midsection which has sat idle since the closing, proved to be beyond a feasible level of rehab. The prospect of tackling a job of that size was daunting, he says.

"At 1.5 million square feet, this is by far the largest we have ever undertaken," he says. "However, when this plant was constructed in the late '50s, 'overbuilding' was apparently the order of the day, so at almost every turn, we have encountered some really huge steel. But we knew all that coming in and, working with Mike Camp at Gibson Machinery's Dayton, (Ohio) office, made plans to ensure we had the tools we needed to get the job done."

Confidence is High

The tools to which Friscone refers, include a Genesis GXP 400 mobile shear which they purchased specifically for the plant job. That, along with several grapples for material handling and loading, and a Genesis LXP 300 Logix Processor it had previously acquired through Gibson, represent the bulk of their demo/processing equipment. Due to the overwhelming size of the project, Sitetech also rented an additional shear/excavator package to up production even further.

"When you consider the size of the structure and the relatively short four-month window we have to get it down, processed and either shipped to a mill or reused onsite, you can see why we need to have tools in which we have a high level of confidence."

Impressive Volumes

Friscone says they purchased the GXP 400, mounted it on a John Deere 450 and have been extremely impressed with what it has been able to cut. "We have come across everything from lighter structural beams to piping and conduit to columns made of riveted, 2-inch thick plate, and the GXP 400 has been able to process it all. In fact, because of that versatility, it has been spending a good deal of its time on this project downsizing material to prepared lengths in preparation for shipment to the mill."

Friscone says they have been sending a steady stream of anywhere from 20 to 30 rolloff containers out of the site each day. "We are shipping about 1.2 million pounds per week and by the time we wrap up, we will have recycled more than 12,000 tons of steel for the owner."

Logix Makes a Difference

In addition to the steel, Sitetech is also stockpiling the more than 7,000 cubic yards of concrete, brick and block from the project. The company expects the LXP 300, an attachment with interchangeable jaws, to play a key role in that part of the job.

At Lorain, Friscone says they've already used it alongside the GXP 400 in processing scrap, but, later in the project, they will fit it with the pulverizer jaw and begin downsizing concrete in preparation for full-scale crushing and backfilling of voids onsite. 

Ahead of the Curve

Despite the enormity of the structure, Sitetech is maintaining an impressive average production rate of about 20,000 square feet per day. Friscone says they have had days in which they've almost doubled that rate, but some areas of the plant are more difficult than others. "Twenty thousand feet a day is still very nice; that's the equivalent of taking down a decent sized building each day."