On August 1, 2007, the I - 35W interstate highway bridge over the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota suddenly collapsed, causing many deaths and injuries. The Minnesota Department of Transportation launched an emergency relief project to reconstruct the bridge, targeting completion by December 2008. The construction material selected was prestressed concrete (PC), which can support heavy loads and has a long service life of 100 years. SWPC, Sumitomo Electric's US subsidiary, was awarded the contract to manufacture and supply the PC strand for this reconstruction effort. Originally, the PC strand deliveries were scheduled to occur from March 2008 to October 2008. However, responding to the wishes of the people of Minneapolis and other users for the earliest possible replacement of the bridge, SWPC managed to restructure the production and shipment system and completed delivery by May 2008.
Established in 1979 as the first manufacturing subsidiary of Sumitomo Electric in the USA. Based in the two locations of California and Tennessee, SWPC manufactures and markets PC strand used as a material for construction and bridge building as well as stainless steel wire for springs.
Desire to Contribute to a Construction Project Waited for across the USA
Before its collapse, the bridge running through the urban center of Minneapolis carr ied more than 140,000 cars per day. It is estimated Minnesota lost 113,000 dollars every day after the bridge was out of service. An emergency project was launched to rapidly replace the bridge.
Jon Cornelius, General Manager of SWPC, says, “Since the project attracted a great deal of attention and served national interests, our company had to decide carefully whether or not to take this job. We would suffer major damage if any unexpected quality issue occurred." He states, however, that he still wanted to engage in reconstruction of the bridge. "We wanted to do our part to help the people of Minneapolis recover both emotionally and financially from this terrible loss. It was also great for our company's history to engage in such a construction project attracting national and international attention. Given SWPC's 30-year history and experience producing PC strand, we were confident we could do our part in this historic reconstruction effort." On January 8, 2008, SWPC officially won the contract, and received an order for 1,560 tons of PC strand from DYWIDAG Systems International. The order was accepted based on an aggressive eight month delivery schedule planned for March 2008 － October 2008. Within just 2 short months of accepting the order, SWPC was quickly faced with some unexpected challenges.
Rising to the Challenge
In early March, SWPC was suddenly asked to compress the delivery schedule from eight months down to three months! The emergency reconstruction effort was advancing ahead of schedule and SWPC had to begin immediate and rapid PC strand deliveries to support the accelerated pace. Unfortunately, the need for faster deliveries occurred in the middle of a worldwide shortage of carbon steel wire rod, the raw material used for PC strand. This resulted in a major problem requiring SWPC to rearrange its deliveries to its other customers.
"I immediately revised the delivery schedule for other customers from March to August," says Steve Koch, Regional Sales Manager. "In the process, I was on the phone for hours coordinating careful adjustments to delivery schedules to ensure all customers' needs were met. During the project period, our shipping volumes reached record highs and the workload on the staff in charge was incredible."
The capacity in the Tennessee plant was insufficient given the compressed delivery schedule, so shipments were also scheduled from the California plant although the transportation costs were higher. As a result of these careful adjustments, SWPC managed to deliver all of the required PC strand within three months (88 days) allowing the construction team to maintain its accelerated erection schedule. Deliveries to other important SWPC customers were also managed to meet their needs.
Mr. Dave Martin, Business Unit Manager of DYWIDAG Systems International, also commented, "SWPC was a very reliable supplier. The completion of the bridge within this unprecedentedly short period could not have been realized without their sincere efforts."
Overcoming the Emergency Thanks to Ties with Suppliers
According to Cornelius, SWPC managed to keep up with the accelerated schedule despite the difficulty in procuring raw materials thanks to critical relationships with key raw material suppliers in the USA. “Although it would also have been possible to accept other orders that were more profitable, everyone, including internal and external staff members, understood that the Sumitomo Spirit gives top priority to social credibility and worked as a team to meet the delivery date. This experience of overcoming the hurdles of an emergency project set a good example for us. I am proud of the job we did and the team I am leading."
The policy of emphasizing relationships with customers is widespread at SWPC.
“From 2008 to 2009, when the financial crisis turned into a global recessi on, many of our customers faced difficulties in financing and asked us to address the deadline flexibly,” says Jennifer Parker, Credit Control Manager of SWPC. “Our credit control section worked hard to respond to the requests of our customers while minimizing the credit risk. Everyone at SWPC understands that relationships with customers can be built by overcoming difficulties through cooperation with them and that such relationships will help our company grow and flourish.”
SWPC Has Successfully Positioned Itself as a US Manufacturer
Yuichi Sano President of SWPC
"Marking its 30th anniversary, SWPC has been recognized as a US company, and we have many fans of the SUMIDEN brand," Yuichi Sano, President of SWPC says emphatically. "While the management team is mainly comprised of young Americans in our company, the established corporate style, such as an emphasis on key relationships with customers, is different from that of many US companies. Our policy to 'provide good products for society' also has favorable impact on quality. It is noteworthy that our products are adopted as materials for applications requiring high quality like large bridges. We hope to contribute to society through our new businesses such as stainless steel wire for medical use in the future."
We want to improve the standard of PC based on high value added technology
Managing Executive Officer
Deputy General Manager,
Industrial Materials Business Unit General Manager,
Special Steel Wire Division
Bai Chai Bridge
PC (prestressed concrete) technology uses prestressing steel products to impart compressive force to concrete creating concrete members with high strength and ductility. The recent progress in PC technology has been outstanding. PC strand is increasingly used nowadays in large bridges and structures that formerly did not use PC strand. As bridges often require high corrosion resistance, especially those constructed in coastal areas, we are also actively developing and marketing epoxy-coated steel wire strand and corrosion-resistant steels using composite coatings with zinc and polyethylene, in addition to traditional general purpose products. Such coating technology has been achieved by applying the electric cable coating technology developed by SEI over many years to PC strand.
Our group's PC business, including SWPC, is different from our competitors mass-producing and selling only general purpose PC strand. Our uniqueness is highly rated by customers all over the world. Our products have recently been used in many monumental structures such as the Oakland Bay Bridge in California, USA, the monorail in Dubai and the Bai Chai Bridge over Ha Long Bay (one of five UNESCO World Heritage sites) in Vietnam. I am proud our technology is contributing to improving the reliability and durability of bridges around the world.