Quick Change Artists
Relatively new to the pumping business, concrete contractor steps up in FedEx facility slab pour.
By nature, pumping contractors have to be extremely resilient, able to deal with last minute changes, updates to plans, unforeseen obstacles, and more. Even after paying the closest attention to detail, logistics can often be derailed, seemingly in a heartbeat, a fact that Mark Chavez of Chavez Concrete Pumping (CCP) recently found out. On a project to pour the slab for one of FedEx’s newest freight distribution centers near Albuquerque, a key planned access point for positioning the pump was deemed inaccessible, prompting a change in strategy. Rethinking his approach, Chavez brought in a Schwing 52-meter pump and — utilizing every last inch of its reach — successfully made the 1,600 cu. yd. pour, keeping the project on track. Handling a change in midstream? All in a day’s work.
The above scenario becomes more impressive when one considers that, up until last year, Mark Chavez didn’t have a concrete pumping operation at all. As recently as late 2017, he was focused solely on running a very successful concrete contracting operation alongside his father, Robert Chavez; his uncle, Ed Chavez; and a cousin, Danny Chavez. They were also more than content to be subbing out the pumping facet of each job to area firms. However fate has a way of taking us in directions we can’t foresee. Today, for reasons known only to one of those pumping subcontractors, things are a whole lot different for Chavez.
“At the time, we were that pump company’s biggest customer,” he said. “We were involved in a project that needed a large boom to pour a second-story deck, so I called them to schedule the pour. I’m assuming they must have been extremely busy, because they said they couldn’t spare a pump and suggested I call their competitor. Although I found another pump company to cover that job, I was frustrated with the way we were treated and made a call to Schwing asking for a quote on a pump. At the time, I was only half-serious about making a purchase. The more research I did, though, the more I saw the amount of money going out of the company that could be kept in-house if we pumped jobs ourselves.”
That revelation led to the purchase of a 2017 Schwing 39-meter S 39 SX pump which, according to Chavez, was still considered something of a “one-off” for them.
“However, a combination of word-of-mouth and us landing a massive project south of Albuquerque, led to a dramatic increase in pump-related work,” he said. “That, in turn, prompted the purchase of three additional pumps and a belt conveyor, and culminated this year, with the formal establishment of Chavez Concrete Pumping — all within an 18-month period.”
Absolutely, Positively Productive
For the FedEx project mentioned above, Chavez used all four pumps in his fleet to pour the 70,000 sq. ft., 6-inch slab-on-grade and surrounding areas. Located in Albuquerque on Cordero Mesa (at the same mile-high altitude as Denver), the structure itself measures 700 ft. long by 100 ft. wide and features a loading dock with accommodation for 109 trucks.
“So far, all of the slab, the stem walls, footings and so on, have been placed with one of our booms,” he said. “Since purchasing that first 39-meter unit, we’ve added three others: a new S 46 SX 46-meter pump; and a pair of refurbished pumps purchased through Schwing’s CPR (Concrete Pump Repair) program, a 2004 52-meter unit and a 2003 31 XT 31-meter pump. The CPR option was particularly attractive to a ‘new’ company like us; we were able to realize a substantial savings — close to 40% — compared to buying brand new. It allowed us to grow the fleet without breaking the bank.”
Having the 52-meter reach was key in addressing the issue of accessibility at the FedEx site. Chavez had originally intended to pump off the long side of the slab using his shorter booms. However, because the general contractor wanted to keep traffic off the already-completed laser-graded base course for the surrounding pavement, plans had to change.
“That was really the only challenge we faced out there,” said Chavez. “On consecutive nights, we made two 25,000 sq. ft. pours, two pours of 15,000 sq. ft. and one of 5,000 sq. ft. — roughly 1,600 cubic yards in all. We were averaging pours of about 130 yards an hour and were running a pair of laser screeds: a Somero S-240 and a Somero S-940.”
They Come Out at Night
To deal with the hot, dry New Mexico climate, Chavez’s crews started pouring at 2 a.m. and generally pumped until 6 a.m. The mix was a 4,000 p.s.i. straight cement design with a mid-range admixture to achieve a 6 ½-inch slump.
“We had to put down the mud pretty quick — the screeds kept things moving right along,” said Chavez. “Heat and evaporation rates are definitely a concern out here. Pumping at night deals with the heat, but to address the evaporation issue, we used a Eucobar Evaporation Retarder which we applied through an agricultural sprayer that we have rigged into our larger laser screed. Inspectors were checking the evap rate regularly and to date it’s all worked out fine.”
Concrete work is slated to wrap up at the FedEx site by late October of this year, but Chavez said his fleet has been kept continually busy since CCP became a company of its own.
“When I ordered that first 39-meter pump, I remember the salesman saying: ‘Trust me, you will be calling me back in about a year for another one.’ Funny thing is, in about a year, I was calling him to order our fourth pump. That’s how quickly this part of the business has taken off. And here’s the ironic part: the pump company that suggested we go to their competitor is no longer even working in New Mexico. I think if you do a good job and treat people with respect, it goes a long way.”
Owner: FedEx Corporation
General contractor: JMD Construction Services, Little Rock, Ark.
Pumping Contractor: Chavez Concrete Pumping, Albuquerque, N.M
Equipment: Schwing S 31 XT, S 39 SX, S 46 SX, and S 52 SX truck-mounted concrete pumps with placing booms.