Tim Lautenbach, PE
During this last construction season, MTC’s laboratories experienced a large increase in workload. The group of technicians assigned to the laboratory needed to increase as well to meet the needs of our clients. Over the course of the 2013 construction season, MTC’s laboratory employed 17 technicians in its various laboratory areas. This group of technicians worked together often between areas of testing to provide timely service to meet the needs of our clients.
The Materials Testing Consultants Asphalt Laboratory began its 12th year of serving the MDOT Grand Region as the Region’s Hot Mix Asphalt (QA) Laboratory this season. This, along with performing the duties of the Traveling Mix Inspector, which includes providing Job Mix Formulas and certification of asphalt plants and field inspectors have kept the laboratory quite busy during the paving season. This past year MTC also engaged in a new laboratory testing contract for laboratory HMA testing in the Southwest Region. The Southwest Region could not operate out of their laboratory space and needed an experienced and proven laboratory to provide this testing while they transition to a new facility.
Our staff of three asphalt technicians Glen Kersjes, Ellen Roelofs, and Janine Todd needed to be increased to perform work in both regions. MTC ended up adding four additional employees to the asphalt laboratory to cover both contracts. MTC added Jon O’Brock and Rhonda Wright to help the laboratory continue to run tests in a timely manner. Jon has had experience working with MDOT’s Southwest Region in the past while providing services on our Geotechnical Contract. Rhonda’s experience included working at the Ferris State’s Construction Technologies certification program as an instructor and proctor for the Density, Aggregate and Bituminous classes. We also added two employees Daniel Lopez and Laura Donker as short term staff to help with sample management, plant binder sampling and HMA sample pickups.
The amount of aggregate testing increased a great deal this season for MTC’s Aggregate Laboratory. Two of the larger testing projects for the aggregate laboratory were for the Fermi nuclear power plant and the JH Campbell power plant. These projects required frequent testing of the aggregates being supplied for concrete mixtures. While in past seasons, we were able to cover most aggregate testing using HMA technicians, this year the volume of HMA samples prevented this from working out.
We found a new technician for this work in James Mata. James Mata has had experience in asphalt and aggregate testing while working for a supplier in the Michigan Upper Peninsula. In recent years, James has moved down to the Grand Rapids area and has taken on a teaching career. This left him with plenty of time to provide testing for MTC this summer. Later in the season, MTC brought on Tylor Witulski who came with 6 years of testing experience, and Lacie Carter who was working on finishing up her Masters coursework in biology and was eager for some additional laboratory experience. Like the rest of the laboratory areas, MTC’s concrete laboratory stayed very busy this season. Some of the larger projects for the concrete lab included work at the JH Campbell power plant, Amway Nutrilite facility, a new Meijer store in Alma, the Rapid BRT bus route in Grand Rapids and work at Michigan State University for replacement of the steam loop on West Circle Drive. Jake VanZalen and Dylan Haney were added to our concrete laboratory staff early this year. Jake and Dylan logged and tested concrete cylinders, beams, plastic pipe and steel anchor bolts in our load frames. Ian Tazelaar moved into the position towards the end of the season after Jake left to return to school. Ian recently earned his bachelor’s degree in Biology and was interested in using his laboratory coursework experience in the testing of construction materials.
Our soils laboratory found itself busy with a variety of large geotechnical projects. A new Enbridge oil pipeline, additions to several DTE power plants and testing for studies of the Manistique and Menominee rivers kept the soils laboratory busy well into the winter. These projects were notable in the aggressive schedule which needed to be met for turnaround of test results. Testing in the soils laboratory included just about every test in our repertoire from direct shear, consolidation, and permeability testing to Atterberg limits and hydrometers. MTC hired Jacqueline Bussey and Jessica Avink to help out in the soils laboratory. Jacqueline was able to use her Geology degree background to test and classify soils. Jessica used her experience analyzing and reporting of ocean seismic survey data to assemble soil laboratory reports.
The growing community of technicians formed a team of employees willing to help out where needed. The willingness of our new employees to learn new things and take on new responsibilities helped MTC’s laboratory provide the timely service that our clients have come to expect.