April 2, 2020 - Welcome to a new edition in our ‘Gantrex Introducing Series’, where we talk with David Guest. David talks about some of the challenges he faces covering a large territory and why quality and safety are key to his and his team’s success.
David Guest – Quick Facts
So David, what project are you and your team working on right now?
- Position: Senior Installation Superintendent, Gantrex Inc.
- Base: USA
- Industry Experience: Several years working in commercial construction and > 30 years working for Gantrex
- Responsibility: Running assigned projects at the job-site construction level, projects can be assigned anywhere in the North American marketplace
- Guiding Principle: Never take short cuts!
We are currently preparing for a large shutdown project for Georgia-Pacific Leaf River plant in New Augusta, Mississippi. This project consists of the tear-out and removal of the old crane rail system and the installation of a new Gantrex rail system. It is approximately 2,800 feet of rail. The most challenging issues with the project are the scheduling and working around the production of a paper mill. There is limited access to the work area and the added complication of vehicle traffic on site.
With such a vast territory to look after, how do you maintain the required levels of quality in the work that you and your teams undertake?
Working on projects across the USA, Gantrex Installations Services Team and I work on a project portfolio that is as diverse as it is challenging. With such variety in both the type and location of each project, ensuring a quality approach to all that we do is key. For example, we could be working on a port project in South Florida with temperatures of 95 degrees F with high humidity and then for our next project, we could be looking at an aluminum plant in Washington State, 3,000 miles away with temperatures at freezing or below! Simply considering the logistics for equipment and manpower can be challenging, even before we get on site. And this is where good communication comes in. I believe that it is my responsibility to make sure that everyone involved in the project knows what to expect. From briefing my teams and leading by example, to making sure that I am in daily contact with the customer, everyone, at every stage, will know what we are doing on a daily basis and how we are going to achieve our goals.
In addition, there are a number of other tactics that I employ to keep project quality on track, regardless of location or project type. These include setting weekly milestones with the customer so that they can plan their schedule around our work, always putting the customer first, and then some basic but essential hygiene factors such as always being on time. These may seem obvious, but they can make all the difference to the smooth running of a complex project.
And in your opinion, why is quality so important?
Well, apart from the very obvious health, safety, efficiency and commercial benefits that quality installation will provide, it’s also about reputation. Customers will turn to brands that have a reputation and demonstrable track-record for quality, so they get the reassurance and peace of mind that they need to choose the right installation partner. Poor quality costs. And it’s a lose-lose situation for us and the customer. To be frank, any local construction company might claim to be able to do a basic crane rail installation. But we have seen the growth of our business come from word-of-mouth and reputation. Quality installation with quality products. And absolutely no short cuts.
David, you mention safety. How do you work this into your leadership style?
I believe that good leadership is leading by example. Do not expect your guys to do anything that you are not willing to do yourself. I always put safety first and drive them to do the same. I try to set a good example by being on site early, having the day planned out and the job safety assessment for the day ready for review prior to starting work. I try to remind my fellow Team Members to be their “Brother’s Keepers” so that we can all go home safely at the end of the day. And when feasible I will jump in and help the guys on site.
Is there a particular project that makes you especially proud?
I am lucky to be able to draw on a number of projects where I am proud of the work that we have done. I’ve been working on many key group projects such as: SAFECO Field and Miller Ball Park both retractable roof stadiums; Ports in Alaska, Panama, Columbia and throughout the US; Welding in Guam; and Special Projects such as the Reagan Missile Defense Systems in Marshall Islands.
But to select one, I recall a project we completed a few years ago with Stanford Research Institute, which is part of Stanford University in California. They have an old antenna that runs on a circle track that was installed in the 1960’s. The antenna has 4 sets of wheels. The project was challenging because Stanford were concerned about lifting the antenna for the rail change. They were also expecting very tight tolerances for the rail system. Gantrex came in and during a site visit we devised a way to change out the old rail system without the need to lift the antenna. They said that there were many other contractors who looked at the project, but none saw the system the way we did and that’s why they decided to award us the project.
The original idea for the project had been to reuse the old anchor bolts. However, after the demolition of the old soleplates and grout we found that the anchor bolts were so degraded that they could not be reused. Since the anchor bolt holes in the new soleplates were based on the old anchor bolt locations, we had to re-engineer the anchor bolt system and modify the new soleplates by field drilling new holes in the plates. The project was completed in a timely manner and the customer was delighted. This is just one of many successful jobs that I have worked on over the years, but one which exemplifies our ability to look at things differently and engineer the very best solution for the customer.
And finally, what would be your advice to those working in this sector?
Each and every project you work on will bring its own unique challenges. If you plan the work ahead of time the daily challenges will solve themselves. Always be grateful for the job you have. I know that I am, and that I get to play out my career in a growing company such as Gantrex.