Collaboration and Trust Enable Early Completion on Huhtamaki North America Expansion Project
Every construction project carries risk. But when the project involves working around a client’s existing operations, those risks are magnified. Safety and security measures need to account for not just construction personnel, but for building occupants and users as well. Likewise, planning and coordination need to factor in the client’s operations to prevent unplanned or unnecessary disruption.
All of these were top concerns when Huhtamaki North America engaged Miller Valentine Construction to expand its molded fiber products plant in Hammond, Indiana, by 250,000 square feet. The project would more than double the plant and touch nearly every facet of the existing 75-year-old structure.
Safety was a top priority for the Finland-based company, and shutting down operations at any time was not an option. Long before construction kicked off in August 2022, Miller Valentine began collaborating with the client team to develop a phased approach that would elevate safety and protect Huhtamaki’s operations.
Maintaining Safety with Many Moving Parts
As a matter of practice, Miller Valentine maintains exceptionally high standards of safety on its projects. With up to 150 people working on site on a given day, daily huddles with client representatives, trade partners, and equipment installers were critical.
“When you have that many different operations going on at once, you have to make sure everyone is aware of the conditions on site,” said Superintendent Michael Hoffman. “We had to be diligent at all times and demand people be safe to keep everything running.”
Sometimes, that involved serving as literal traffic directors.
“There were times when we had deliveries coming in, we had roll-off exchanges, we had dump trucks and heavy equipment loading dirt in the same area where equipment deliveries needed to be made, so we would stand in the middle and direct traffic,” said Michael. “Vehicles would be so tightly packed together that you would think it wasn’t going to happen, but we made it happen.”
Adapting to Change with Agility
Experience and accountability are also key to dealing with changes to the scope or schedule. With major process equipment due to arrive two months earlier than anticipated, the Miller Valentine team worked fast to readjust the schedule and prioritize those sections of the structure that would house the new equipment. Slab-on-grade pours were accelerated by a month to accommodate the schedule, which meant concrete teams were working throughout late winter in northern Indiana. The team also fast-tracked roof installation to ensure the structure could be dried-in on time.
“We met with each trade partner individually to understand their requirements and with everyone together, including the owner, to work through how to best deploy our resources,” said Project Manager Kassie Holmes. “Mike did a great job making sure everyone was working safely and as efficiently as they could while the equipment was being installed.”
In addition, Miller Valentine worked closely with local and state authorities to attain phased occupancy permits so the Huhtamaki team could start testing and conditioning equipment and running product prior to final occupancy. Early coordination with the state Department of Transportation and Department of Homeland Security also ensured permits were received on time to keep the schedule moving.
Delivering Measurable Outcomes to Huhtamaki North America
Despite significant logistical challenges, the team beat the schedule by a month and worked 70,000 man-hours without a serious incident. Upfront planning, regular and honest communication, trust with local trade partners, and attention to safety were all key to delivering on the client’s goals.
“We had a very aggressive schedule with a lot of people and a lot of moving parts, but so did our client,” said Senior Project Manager Dave Settles. “By collaborating throughout planning and construction, we had a solid mutual understanding of what needed to happen. As a result, we put together a high-quality project with a repeat and happy client.”
This is the third project Miller Valentine has completed in partnership with Huhtamaki North America. Planning is already underway for the next project, and Miller Valentine is proud to be part of the process.
Huhtamaki is a leading global provider of sustainable packaging solutions for consumers around the world. Our innovative products protect on-the-go and on-the-shelf food and beverages, and personal care products, ensuring hygiene and safety, driving accessibility and affordability, and helping prevent food waste. We embed sustainability in everything we do. We are committed to achieving carbon-neutral production and designing all our products to be recyclable, compostable, or reusable by 2030. Our blueloopTM sustainable packaging solutions are world-leading and designed for circularity.
We are a participant in the UN Global Compact, Huhtamaki is rated ‘A’ on the MSCI ESG Ratings assessment and EcoVadis has awarded Huhtamaki with the Gold medal for performance in sustainability. To play our part in managing climate change, we have set science-based targets that have been approved and validated by the Science-Based Targets initiative.
With 100 years of history and a strong Nordic heritage, we operate in 37 countries and 116 operating locations around the world. Our values Care Dare Deliver guide our decisions and help our team of around 19 000 employees make a difference where it matters. Our 2022 net sales totalled EUR 4.5 billion. Huhtamaki Group is headquartered in Espoo, Finland and our parent company, Huhtamäki Oyj, is listed on Nasdaq Helsinki Ltd. Find out more about how we are protecting food, people and the planet at www.huhtamaki.com.