by Mary Weaver
Concrete Cutting & Breaking Co. (CCB), with service offices in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Indiana and Florida, does exactly what its name suggests: concrete cutting and breaking, and only that. It does that job, however, with considerable finesse. CCB uses equipment featuring diamond blades, diamond core bits, diamond wire and other specialized machinery. Some of this equipment is fabricated to suit particular jobs at the company’s “fab shop” by CCB mechanical staff. The “fab shop” is attached to the corporate offices in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“Because we have the trained manpower and specialized equipment, we tend to get called for the more complex work,” explained CCB’s Secretary/Treasurer Curt Tamminga. “We fall under the category of controlled demolition, which means we can operate with minimal vibration and no dust (because the water that cools the blades collects the dust as a slurry.)
“We cut. We do not generally remove the cut concrete,” continued Tamminga. ”Removal of the concrete pieces is typically handled by the customer.” In a manufacturing facility, removal may be done with a skid steer. On highway bridge jobs, a crane simply lifts out the large concrete pieces CCB employees have cut, which are loaded and hauled away. “We drill pick holes when requested. Sometimes the contractors do that job themselves. We can often be in and out in a couple of hours with our specialized equipment, on many jobs that would take far longer with other concrete breaking equipment.”
For example, CCB’s services have quickly removed 1.5 million lbs. of heavily reinforced concrete, located 35 feet above grade, INSIDE an operational power plant with 1-inch clearance on all four sides, without damaging surrounding steam-turbine generators. All the demolition was performed by CCB in Michigan, just 20 feet from a control room and 30 feet from a $15 million turbine generator, without interrupting the everyday operations.
CCB is also the preferred concrete cutter by contractors at the Kennedy Space Launch Complex. After several space shuttle launches, the material covering the flame deflector or refractory concrete, called “Fondue Fire,” must be removed and replaced. Because of the height and angle of the structure, access for large machines to break up the material was not possible. In addition, dust and debris were not acceptable. CCB, with its specialized techniques, was able to remove the 7000 square feet of “Fondue Fire” within the time constraints specified by NASA.
A bit less dramatic, but requiring the same expertise and specialized equipment, were the following jobs: Wire sawing a 5’ thick graving dock slab at Corpus Christi, TX; removing a 30 ton section of a bridge pier cap in Madison, Indiana; wire sawing a 10’ circular reinforced concrete silo for repurposing to a backlit sign in Battle Creek, MI; parapet removal using a slab saw in Boca Grande, Florida; 60” core drilling at a ship yard in Louisiana; and wall sawing at a US Coast Guard Station in MI.
Services routinely performed by CCB include diamond wire sawing, curb sawing, slab sawing, wall sawing and core drilling. The company is known for its commitment to complete each job on time and under budget.
“We are typically priced using units, such as per foot or per hole, cut. We can typically provide our services more quickly than alternative methods,” explained Tamminga. “On bridge decks, we cut concrete to fit the tonnage limits of the crane available on site for efficient removal.
In addition to the major projects, CCB prides itself on giving good service locally, the local area being defined as within two hours of each of their major offices. “We can’t commit our whole local staff on the bigger jobs out of the immediate market area and ignore the local needs. A municipality might need an emergency pavement removal to repair frozen water pipes that burst. We will be available immediately, and our customers know that.
“In the heat of summer, with the expansion of the pavement, a road can essentially ‘blow up,’ and we can be there when needed also. Sometimes a cement wall on a building is inadvertently poured too high, and we will be hired to cut it down to size. On excavation projects such as water and sewer, sometimes unforeseen concrete structures underground are encountered that require concrete sawing services. Our local service people may do three jobs a day, repeatedly taking out and setting up equipment.
“Our ‘Fab Shop’, attached to our corporate offices in Grand Rapids, is somewhat unique. There we build machinery for jobs that present special difficulties. We do not hire an engineer for this. We have people with solid field and mechanical skills who can put together what is needed. We also customize setups on all our service trucks out of this facility.
“We make our own diamond wire saws, adapted from the quarry industry, for concrete cutting needs. We also build parapet saws, which have bigger blades than the standard-purchase walk-behind concrete cutting saws.”
CCB’s Highway Division crews travel the country in pickup trucks pulling trailers with their walk-behind diamond saws. “We’re extremely competitive. We’re not confined to a single state or region that may happen to have a low highway budget. Because we have better equipment, better purchasing power and very well trained employees, we can travel from the local office to other states, even far away from the local office, and do the work at a lower cost.” As of last February, CCB was cutting concrete for a general contractor on a DOT job in Oklahoma, and simultaneously working in Seattle, WA using labor out of Michigan.
As one of CCB’s highway crew members explained to us at a jobsite in Minnesota, “Yes, certainly, contractors in other states could hire local workers to do this. But we do it more quickly and efficiently and at a lower cost. We frequently go south to Louisiana and other states.”
The company typically has little turnover with their highway crews. “They are mature individuals who have experience and can work as a team. If something breaks down, they can fix it,” noted Tamminga.
“It helps to have long-term relationships with general contractors. These companies know our production rates and our job site requirements. They understand what we need to have at-the- ready to deliver what they are expecting, and will have the water source, the power source, and the scaffolding all ready. We want to hire workers who, with an unfamiliar general contractor who is not prepared for them, on a big job site, are not afraid to stand their ground and say, ‘This is what I need to do the job in a safe manner, and provide the services you asked for in the time frame required.’ ”
The Michigan CCB offices are currently working on infrastructure and rehab projects in Detroit. “There’s a lot of investment going on in Detroit, including new sports and entertainment complexes for the Professional teams based there. We cut concrete there for putting in water sources and for general road rehab, for example.”
CCB deals with multiple suppliers for their diamond tools. “Different vendors deal with diamond blade technologies for different types of aggregate,” explained Tamminga. “On large projects, we may have to test several blades from several different vendors at a given site to find the best one for that job. A blade we would use in Florida, for example, where the local material is not a challenging aggregate, would not work in an area with harder aggregate,” and vice versa. “Labor and diamonds are our biggest expense, and must be managed well by our managers to produce profits on a consistent basis. For example, with a blade that cuts very fast, our labor costs will be lower, but our diamond costs will be much higher. A blade that cuts more slowly will save on diamond costs, but will raise labor costs. We have to carefully match the proper cutting speed with the appropriate labor.”
CCB offers excellent wages and union benefits, and the company is always looking for qualified, motivated employees. The company does not plan to open any more new service offices. “We can travel where we need to go,” explained Tamminga.
For more information, please see CCB’s website, www.concut.com .