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Site prep on a massive scale   

Rounding the corner of the approach road that passes towering pines looking like sentries, your breath will be taken away when you see the enormous Target Corp. warehouse for imported goods. Sitting on a 2 million-square-foot footprint, strategically located a mere four miles from the Port of Savannah on the Georgia coastline, it could be registered in the Guinness World Records as the largest single-story warehouse in the world.


The enormity doesn’t sink in until you realize that within a year or so there will likely be 95 semi-trailers loading or unloading at any given time and 200+ employees working in what will be a state-of-the-art logistics warehouse for Target, the Minneapolis-based discount retailer. The company anticipates that several hundred additional jobs will be added within the first few years of the facility’s start up.

“We built the pad the structure sits on, and we’re in the process of grading about 50 acres of parking lot surrounding the building,” stated Joey Keiffer, general superintendent – coastal Georgia for Malphrus Construction Company, which is based in Ridgeland , S.C. “This is one of the bigger projects we’ve worked on.”

Malphrus anticipates moving approximately 600,000 cubic yards – mostly hard Georgia clay. “Building and grading that enormous building pad was a challenge,” Keiffer said. “We’re glad our Cat® 12H Motor Grader is equipped with the latest in GPS-based grade control.

We wouldn’t have been nearly as precise, nor completed the pad as quickly, without it.” The Cat 12H is equipped with the Trimble® GCS900 Grade Control System.

“I’ve been accused of being overly particular about making sure my work is done right,” said Tony Pye, Malphrus motor grader operator. “I like the Trimble GCS900 because it gives me confidence that I’m dead on in one pass.” Pye was responsible for the finish grading on the entire Target warehouse pad.

Work quality monitored

“We’re responsible for quality control,” stated Gene Drinkman, senior superintendent with Ryan Companies, the general contractor on the Target site, “so we had our own survey crew check the building pad when it was completed. The finished pad was consistently within a half inch of the plan throughout the whole expanse, fully one-third of the mandated tolerances … which is very, very impressive.”

According to Drinkman, the tight tolerances of the graded pad made for much smoother placement of concrete.” You can imagine if you’re off even a quarter-inch on two million square feet, that’s a lot of additional concrete,” Drinkman said. It is estimated that each additional quarter-inch of concrete would cost $1 million.

Paved lot equally challenging

Nearly half of the overall 100-acre site will be paved for the stream of trucks servicing the warehouse and for

employee parking. The site prep for the paved lot has been equally challenging. The lot is engineered with undulations and contours designed to funnel rainwater into the drain boxes, thus minimizing the amount of drain piping required.

“There is no way we would have attempted to grade this complex parking lot design without the Trimble GPS-based grade control system,” Scott Dehbozorgi, Malphrus Survey Department manager said. “You just can’t achieve the accuracy required without the GPS grade control system.”

“You can’t run a stringline from the high point to the low point because it doesn’t run flat,” Pye said. “There was a concrete subcontractor who completed a small section of the parking lot’s finish grading using stakes and lines. After a big storm you could see the puddling on that section, and on mine everything drained as expected.”

Quality results and speed

In addition to higher quality results, Kieffer added that the Trimble Grade Control System helps them meet tight timelines.

“When you’re talking about the major advantages of equipping our motor graders and dozers with the Trimble systems, the big one is time … it takes less time to do the work, and to do it right,” Kieffer stated. “We’re completing projects sooner, and we’ve literally cut our rework by 70% by using the GPS system.”

As an example of the time saved, Pye pointed to a four-acre section of the parking lot that he had recently finish graded in 2-1/2 days. “If I had completed that section the conventional way with driving hubs every 25 feet, it would have taken me six days.

Malphrus Construction Company is one of about 20 tier-one contractors working on various areas of the massive Target import warehouse site. There is certainly a lot of activity at the site.

“For our part, with all the site prep work, we know that we’re right on or ahead of target … yes, the pun is intended,” Keiffer said.

Published in Trimble Productivity Fall 2006

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