Sunday, September 27, 2015

Alignment Rack Install - The Team Getting It Done!!!

Hunter RX16 Alignment Rack

Our team recently completed the installation of our new Hunter 16,000lb Alignment Rack. There were many obstacles along the way but with the help and support of all our friends we managed to get it done on schedule. 

The plan was to replace our existing 12,000lb alignment rack which is only a few years old with Hunter Engineerings new RX 16,000lb system. As the light truck market continues to grow so has the need to be able perform alignment services on these vehicles. Over the past three years the weight of a standard pickup truck has increased an average of 2 to 3,000lbs. Trucks that were typically used in commercial markets are now showing up in driveways for noncommercial use. Manufacturers are adding four doors, big heavy diesel engines and all the amenities you would find in luxury cars to make trucks more appealing to everyday drivers. 

It's always been a challenge to have system that is able to service all the different market applications.      In order to transition from performing an alignment on a truck to a luxury or lowered vehicle our systems have always been flush mounted in the floor. By having a pit cut into the floor we are able to utilize much larger heavier equipment and still maintain a flush profile and zero ground clearance. Essentially giving us the ability to align a box truck and then a Mini Cooper without clearance concerns.

In order for the new larger alignment rack to fit we would need to cut four inches on each side of our existing floor pit. In most cases this would be a relatively easy task however here at Advanced Tire & Auto Center we have radiant heat flooring and drainage systems. After contacting countless contractors and equipment installers it became crystal clear that no one had encountered this situation before nor was anyone interested in assuming any liability if damage occurred. So the decision was made for our team to take the lead in preparing the pit for the new alignment rack.

The plan was to close the shop for a half day Friday disassemble and pull the old rack out with our BobCat then work through the weekend to be ready for install Monday morning at 7:00am. Anyone who knows Janet knows the she is not the type of person that can stand by and watch other people work. Still recovering from neck and back surgery the first order of business was to occupy Janet. So we hatched a plan and bought her a surprise plane ticket to Texas to see her sister who is also her best friend. ( This later turned out to be our biggest mistake )

Next we used a Flir infrared camera to image the floor before cutting. We needed to cut 14" deep and 2" wide on both sides. There were two concerns, one not to cut the radiant tubing which was within 1/2" of where we need to be. Potentially ruining a $40,000 floor. Second cutting down 6 inches  running out of solid concrete hitting the base coat, which would leave us with exposed walls. If we hit base coat the plan was to fabricate a steel frame and anchor it in place. ( Steel was onsite ready to go Brian and I are accomplished welders ). Three hours into cutting, the lights go out... thinking we blew a fuse panel we find out the entire roadway is without power.

No worries a few minutes later our backup generator kicks on. A quick trip to stock up on diesel just in case we need to run on the generator all weekend and we're back in business. In order to have a clean finish we had to stop cutting 8" before our marks in the front and back of the pit because we were using a 32 inch saw blade. Now the real work begins utilizing hammers and hand chisels to perfect the corners. Around 2:00am three Aberdeen Police cars swiftly pull in surrounding the building and approaching us from all sides. After carefully putting our hammers down we explain what we are doing here at 2:00am. Honestly it looked bad for us with most of the building blacked out, one garage door half open and a pickup truck backed up to the door. During our conversation with the officers I explained how we were running on generator power and needed to disarm our fire system to prevent it from going off due to the concrete dust. They graciously offered to keep an eye on the building overnight. I have to say that the Aberdeen Police Dept. is a true class act, this isn't the first time they have extended themselves to us or anyone in our community that needed assistance.

So now it's 3:00am we're all exhausted so we decide to call it quits for a few hours. Run home take a shower to get the dust off and back to the shop at 7:00am. Not before stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a few boxes of Joe. David Shaw owner of Dunkin Donuts pushes me out the door, boxes of Joe in hand, won't take my money says I'll see you later. ( Guess who's  getting the first alignment ).

Sunday morning 7:00am we all definitely have a feeling of accomplishment. Next step is to use diamond concrete sanders to rough and clean the exposed surfaces so we can start applying epoxy. Starting to feel the pressure we needed to kick it into high gear. We needed to start applying the epoxy base coat by 12:00pm in order to allow enough setup curing time for 7:00am installation the next morning. Already pushing the limits using fast set hardeners this was a nonnegotiable time line. 

Around 10:00am I receive a phone call from our Hunter Engineering representative who has been tracking the delivery and in constant contact with the driver of the freight company. The news is I'm really sorry but the equipment will not be there in the morning. Apparently the driver was sitting in North Carolina waiting to off load another order but is unable to due to road paving at the off load site. Our equipment is going to arrive two days late.

Remember the part where I told you putting Janet on a plane was our biggest mistake. Two days late was not an option we service several bodyshops who were already in a tight spot with us closing for two days. How it works with bodyshops is the insurance company gives them a delivery date for a vehicle based on the type of repair. For example the one shop had eight cars waiting for Tuesday if they failed to deliver those vehicles on time they would not receive any more cars until  the schedule was cleared. You may think it's no big deal one or two days but the reality is it's a $30,000.00 a day loss.  Once their schedule is cleared they still don't start receiving vehicles again until the next shop fails to meet their deadline. 

The call goes out to Janet that we need her to pack her bag and get on a plane to North Carolina. We're renting a truck and need her to fly in and and drive it to New Jersey. Without hesitation Janet is online looking for a flight and we're scrambling to secure a truck big enough to haul the equipment. After an hour of doing load and weight calculations we aren't able to rent a truck big enough to carry the load. So now the plan is to split the load rent two trucks and fly in a second driver. The hauler our equipment is on ships exclusive for Hunter Engineering there is custom crane built into the truck to be able to move the equipment pieces around just to give you an idea of how heavy this load is.

We're able to secure one truck but a second just isn't available within 100 miles. I reached out to ShoreLand Construction who is the contractor that built our building for suggestions. Kevin the owner calls me back on his cell and tells me he just purchased a new International that is large enough to handle the load but it's only a fews days old and hasn't been lettered yet. Also their family happens to  be on vacation in Florida so we would have to drive it. Without hesitation Kevin gives us the yard gate code and the keys to a $200,000.00 truck with 13 miles on it. Once reality sets in we realize none of us have a CDL license ( This wasn't a little truck by any means ). Now another phone call to a friend of the shop Brian Gerity of Gerity Property Management within minutes Brian is lining up a driver for us. Brain is the guy you call if it's gotta get done now no questions asked. Brian has dug us out in snow storms, picked up generators from Foley Cat when no one would go out on the roads and countless other save your ass requests.

Our new plan is to split the team  turn and burn an all nighter to North Carolina to get our equipment. Just as we're about to go we get a call from Fred Gopel our Hunter Representative who says he was able to make a deal with the driver to leave North Carolina and deliver our equipment. The catch is it's about $1,900.00 in fuel and time. It was a no brainer..  

Equipment on the way we turned our focus back to the task at hand. So far behind schedule we weren't able to get the first coat of epoxy on till 5:00pm. With no other options we cranked up the radiant heat floor and used fans to speed the process up. Having to wait in-between applications made for another long night 4:30am we did all we could do and were satisfied with our results. 

Monday morning we're back at the shop 8:00am anxiously awaiting the arrival of our new alignment system. We had prearranged to offload at National Auto Parts just up the street. Use their forklift to split the load onto equipment trailers. At 9:15 we get the long awaited call the driver is in Aberdeen but can't get down the road to National Auto Parts because they are paving.................. !!!
You can't make this Sh*#t up.....

O.K plan H or are we on plan K.. Reached out to Tom Roman owner of Quality 1st Basement System. Quality 1st Basement purchased the 84 Lumber building just up the street. Tom gave us the green light to offload at his location and said he had a yard full of equipment and loaders that we were welcome to use anything he had that we needed. Without the use of Nationals forklift we had the idea of offloading onto a tow truck then we could tilt the bed to get the equipment ground level. Call goes out to Greg from M&M Towing and without disappointment 15 minutes later M&M is onsite with truck and crew to assist in the offload.

Equipment finally onsite Hunter Engineering stepped up to the plate bringing in three installers  from throughout Central Jersey to knockout the install by Monday night on schedule.

Tuesday morning 8:00am first alignment helping out our friends at Toms's Ford. 
Special Thanks to all our friends that made this possible.

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