Port firm takes concrete pumping to the limit

Construction Forms celebrates 50 years as an industry leader in North America for high-pressure solutions and equipment

A SPIDER PLACER developed by Construction Forms poured concrete for a high-rise parking structure in Hopkins, Minn. The Port Washington-based company is an industry leader in providing high-pressure concrete pumping equipment in North America.
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press staff

Construction Forms in Port Washington has been an industry leader in designing and manufacturing high-pressure concrete pumping equipment throughout North America for the past 50 years.

“I would say 99% of the projects you see out there, dealing with pumping concrete in North America, have our product on the job,” Vice President of Research and Development John Schantz said. “We have been the go-to company for any components from the pump to the point of placement.”

The company’s equipment has been used to create the Freedom Tower in New York City at the site of the former World Trade Center and the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, which at 3,281 feet will be the tallest building in the world.

Locally, its equipment is being used to construct the Foxconn plant in Mount Pleasant and the Amazon facility in Oak Creek.

“Pretty much all the major high-rise buildings you see use our pipes,” Chief Sales and Marketing Officer Stephan Achs said.

While the sky appears to be the limit for the company, it is also working underground. Construction Forms recently developed a custom concrete placer for the Second Avenue subway system in New York that will pour the main concrete base through miles of subway tunnels.

Schantz said the project presented many challenges because typical concrete delivery equipment like a boom or tunnel placer wouldn’t work in the limited space.

“I like to say I have a giant box of Legos here and we can build almost anything,” he said.

The company’s headquarters is in the Port industrial park at 777 Maritime Dr., where it has a metallurgical lab, testing facility and heat-treating and welding equipment for abrasion-resistant pipe systems. Schantz said the company focuses its resources on developing solutions for concrete placing challenges for contractors.

“We’re more than just a supplier, we’re also a solutions provider for our customers,” Schantz said. “We get involved with a lot of larger projects and develop products for those projects. That’s the exciting part.”  

Construction Forms was founded in Cedarburg in 1969 and moved to its 125,000-square-foot plant in Port in 1998.

The company also has a smaller-scale manufacturing facility in Grafton. Between the two facilities and its satellite locations around the world, it has more than 200 employees.

Achs said most of the competition is from Europe and Asia.

In 2013, Construction Forms bought its leading competitor, Esser Werke GmbH in Germany.  

“One of the key things in our market is we’re pretty much the only manufacturer and design engineering house in this industry in North America,” Achs said. “All the other competitors we have are resellers bringing in parts from Eastern Europe and Asia. We make everything here, which makes a huge difference.”

In 1989, the company developed its Ultra Tech division, which manufactures a range of abrasion resistant piping systems for the mining, dredging, pulp and paper, wastewater and power generation industries.

Achs said the Ultra Tech division helps insulate the company during a recession because the government attempts to reduce a down economy with large commercial projects that involve mining and dredging.

“When America is in a recession, usually the world is in a recession,” Achs said. “We will slow with the economy, but unlike a lot of manufacturers we don’t fall off the cliff because we can grow with the economy.”

The company’s No. 1 product is pumping elbow pipes. It produces approximately 2,000 of them per month.

“It’s our highest grossing product. It’s the most common elbow used on pumping trucks,” Schantz said. “Up to eight of them are used on every single truck.”

 Some of the pipes must be heated to 1,800 degrees with an induction heat treater that uses so much electricity it can only be operated at night through a special power line with We Energies.

“This is really the secret sauce in having a consistent product. Very few companies in the world use this type of system. No one else heat treats in the industry, and it adds a lot of value to our product line,” Achs said. “Thankfully we’re pretty close to the power plant. Port Washington kind of dims when we turn it on.”

With the number of projects the company is working on, it is seeking more engineers and skilled workers to join their team

Construction Forms offers opportunities for local students through the Ozaukee Youth Apprenticeship program and Milwaukee Area Technical College’s Mequon campus.

“We’re always looking for talented engineers,” Achs said.

 

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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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