Despite the success some concrete contractors have had specializing in a particular practice or area of expertise, versatility across the concrete spectrum wins the day almost every time. Being able to provide a broad range of concrete services allows a contractor greater success, both in initially winning the bid and subsequently meeting the needs of its clients. For those reasons, Southern Concrete & Construction chooses to offer everything from something as simple as a simple sidewalk pour to massive bridge deck repairs. And the commitment doesn’t stop there. A believer in the need for steady improvement, the company has also embraced GNSS-based technology to take many of those varied applications to their next level in both speed and efficiency. As one of the premier concrete contractors working the North/South Carolina and coastal Georgia regions, it’s a practice that’s obviously served them well.
Formed in 1995 by Kelly and Dan Boulware, Southern Concrete and Construction (SCC) is a minority-owned company based out of Anderson, South Carolina and employs between 70 and 80 people. According to Brandon Boulware, SCC’s divisional manager — and son of the company’s owners — since their humble beginnings, things have taken a decided uptick in a number of ways.
“My dad started out building box culverts with a few other guys, but then he and my mom decided to start their own company,” he said. “They grew the business gradually, but in recent years, we’ve really stepped up the pace. Today, between our structural and road divisions, we perform close to 30 projects a year and those jobs can range in value from $300,000 up to $10 million. What hasn’t changed is our key goals which are to provide a quality product while forming lasting relationships with our customers. We do so in a way that is often seen as being archaic by many these days: through honesty and integrity. My parents founded this company on those principles, and we’re committed to carrying them on.”
SCC currently lists as its specialties, the installation of box culverts, concrete paving, paved ditches, curb and gutter work, medians, slope protection, storm drainage structures, barrier walls, retaining walls, MSE walls, catch basins, and more. “We try to be the go-to source for all concrete construction matters in the area,” said Boulware.
“We try to be the go-to source for all concrete construction matters in the area.”
– Brandon Boulware
Streamlining the Workflow
In 2020, almost in conjunction with their 25th anniversary in business, Boulware decided to up SCC’s game by implementing a GNSS-based solution on its Power Curber 5700C slipform paver. Working with the team at Roper Laser’s Greer, S.C., location, they took delivery of Topcon Millimeter GPS — their first foray into the GNSS realm. Doing so, said Boulware, was predicated as much on what it could do for the customer as the benefits it could provide SCC.
“One of the key advantages of GPS-based machine control of any kind is that it minimizes reliance upon surveyors,” he said. “That’s a cost savings for the contractors we work for, which in turn is motivation for them to choose SCC. For us, the direct benefit is in eliminating the need for stringline in our pours which has dramatically improved our onsite efficiencies. And that’s actually a plus for everyone.”
The solution to which Boulware refers, Topcon Millimeter GPS, leverages GNSS for horizontal accuracy and the zone laser reference improves the overall vertical accuracy of SCC’s Power Curber 5700C. “The combination of GNSS and laser is a powerful one for letting the paver know its position — and the project’s design — at all times,” said Boulware.
“The combination of GNSS and laser is a powerful one for letting the paver know its position — and the project’s design — at all times.”
– Brandon Boulware
Success at 40,000 Feet
Those efficiencies were recently on display at a Charleston-area project in which SCC was pouring more than eight miles of curb at an industrial complex which will house six massive warehouses. Similar construction is occurring all throughout the Charleston area, driven by a growth in global shipping into and out of South Carolina. In fact, ports in South Carolina are some of the busiest in the United States, with the Port of Charleston moving a record 1.5 million containers in 2022 alone.
“On that project, working as a sub to Morgan Corp., the site contractor, we were running curb for the warehouse parking lot as well as for the roads leading into it,” said Boulware. “Because we were using Millimeter GPS, we were able to eliminate the need for a stringline crew as well as the time needed to set the line itself. That was a huge plus for us —probably in the range of a 40% time savings alone.”
While the benefits afforded by SCC’s Millimeter GPS solution are impressive, there are times when onsite obstructions — tree canopies and warehouse structures, for example — make its use prohibitive. For those cases, Boulware calls upon a pair of Topcon LN-150 robotic stations to provide an LPS solution. Doing so, they bypass the need for satellite tracking or a base station, using optical angles and distances to determine location and communicate that to a prism located on the curb machine.
“We were on millimeter the majority of the time out at the warehouse site,” he said. “However, when we were up against the buildings and the signal became tough to maintain, the LN-150s were a great workaround. It’s nice to always have a ‘Plan B’ and, even though we don’t need it that often, LPS with those robots is ideal.”
“However, when we were up against the buildings and the signal became tough to maintain, the LN-150s were a great workaround. It’s nice to always have a ‘Plan B’ and, even though we don’t need it that often, LPS with those robots is ideal.”
– Brandon Boulware
The Pour, The Barrier
On a separate job site located more than 200 miles north in Clayton, North Carolina, SCC could recently be found contributing to the widening of a major interstate highway. One of the primary east-west corridors through the eastern part of the state, U.S. 70 is, in addition to a hurricane evacuation route, a major transportation road, and a favorite choice for access to coastal beaches. The highway is currently undergoing a significant upgrade, one facet of which involves SCC using a Power Curber 7700 Multipurpose Slipform Machine to construct more than 13,000 feet of concrete barrier wall on an eastbound entrance ramp.
“Work on this project actually started in late 2021, but we didn't start until early August of this year,” said Boulware. “The job is fairly straightforward; we are slip forming better than 2.5 miles of barrier wall as well as some bridge parapet work. The barrier, a standard single slope design, is 49 inches tall and measures 8 inches the top and 24 inches at the base. As is always the case now, we bid this job with the use of Millimeter GPS in mind, knowing it would eliminate the time- and labor-intensive use of stringline. It just allows us to continuously pour without having to stop, pull string and re-set. So, not only can our bid be more competitive, as mentioned, it saves the contractor from having to hire a surveyor. So, there are savings across the board.”
At the Clayton site, each morning SCC would set a pair of Topcon LZ-T5 lasers about 300 feet apart and generally add one more in the afternoon to get them through the 1,000 feet of barrier wall — with expansion joints every 80 feet — they were slipforming each day. “The mix design for the wall was a hearty one: down here they call it Class AA, but it is essentially as 4,500 psi mix with a 1.5” slump,” said Boulware. “However, the 7700C handled it great and we were able to get the production we needed each day.”
He added that, even though the learning curve for the Millimeter GPS solution was an easy one, the support provided by Topcon and Georgia Surveyors, the Topcon dealer servicing them, has proven invaluable. “The system is pretty user-friendly so that helped,” he said. “However, when we initially bought, it Topcon sent a couple people out for two days while we got our feet wet. And, if I need any additional help, Topcon and Georgia Surveyors are just a phone call away. That peace of mind is important.”
“However, when we initially bought, it Topcon sent a couple people out for two days while we got our feet wet. And, if I need any additional help, Topcon and Georgia Surveyors are just a phone call away. That peace of mind is important.”
– Brandon Boulware
While the 7700C was a fairly new purchase for the U.S. 70 widening project, Boulware said they will have no problem utilizing it moving forward.
“For one thing, it is an extremely versatile machine, capable of everything from barrier wall like this to bridge parapet to road paving applications — even tunnel work if needed,” he said. “The fact that we can pair it up with a powerful solution like Topcon Millimeter GPS makes it that much more valuable, both to us and those who hire us. The reputation we’ve established as a company that gets things done on time, in budget and right the first time will just keep growing.”
SCC has currently completed 6,000’ of barrier for the U.S.70 on-ramp and will be returning to pour the remaining 7,000’ as the project progresses.
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