Lithko Contracting, LLC was formed in 1992 by skilled concrete construction professionals who found the constant travel their job required was no longer conducive to their growing families. Seeing an opportunity to create a different kind of organization, they formed a commercial concrete contracting company focused on working close to home.
In less than twenty-five years, the small commercial contracting company they started has grown to employ thousands of coworkers at fourteen locations within the United States, yet remains true to its vision of balancing work and life while maintaining an unwavering commitment to its customers.
Through this unique local service delivery model, clients receive the personal services of a local company with the resources of a large contractor. So its co-workers do not have to travel too much, it has developed a strategy of directing its work toward middle-market projects and adding locations to meet customer needs. This model allows the company to support co-worker development while keeping workers closer to their families. The company’s co-workers exhibit a broad range of skill sets which include project engineering, field engineering, estimating, project management, and business unit & regional leadership.
“When we say ‘unique local model,’ it is exactly that,” says Will Phelps, operations manager for Nashville. “We are flexible across different types of markets and keep people close enough where they can spend their evenings and weekends with their families.”
The fourteen business units serve approximately thirty-five states. Every business unit is a full-service concrete contractor that utilizes detailed processes and expertise to deliver superior project results.
Lithko Contracting continues to grow at approximately fifteen percent per year. Given its existing market share, the company would eventually like to see fifty locations across the United States, a move that will likely be facilitated by the recent purchase of Lithko by The Pritzker Organization, L.L.C.
The concrete contractor has forged a reputation for its high quality work. The full-service concrete contracting company offers tilt-up walls, structural concrete, cast-in-place walls, slab-on-grade/deck, foundations, high tolerance floors, site work and pre-construction services.
Co-workers start on different kinds of projects in a variety of markets and increase their knowledge base and opportunity for advancement. This provides them with the opportunity to showcase their abilities and alignment to a subject matter expert to help facilitate learning.
Lithko Contracting utilizes its project execution process to plan, prepare and deliver each project at the highest level of expectation. Its thorough planning process includes team alignment, budgeting, design assistance, safety, collaboration, market understanding, customer plan presentation and levels of planning and preparation. Comprehensive planning means it can create projects on-budget and even ahead of the anticipated completion date.
The contractor is a member of the Tilt-Up Concrete Association (TCA) and can accept all aspects of project construction, from site work to slabs, walls, high-tolerance floors, decks and more. Tilt-up construction sees the concrete walls of a structure placed directly at the job site. These are allowed to cure, then raised into position to create exterior walls. Since the method enables the construction of buildings in a much shorter period than conventional methods such as masonry, it is increasing in popularity. Site supervisors monitor the process firsthand as the concrete wall panels are created at the building location and the method is less costly than having bricks or cinderblocks transported to the site.
“Tilt-up construction is site-cast walls,” says Phelps. “We pour the foundations. We prepare the sub-base. We pour the concrete slab on grade, and we apply bond breaker, which is a chemical compound that separates two concrete surfaces. And we form up a vertical wall horizontally on the ground on the slab, pour that concrete, and – once the concrete has cured – we come back in and pick up or erect that panel off of the slab and tilt that into place for the vertical wall.”
For the company and its clients, the advantages of tilt-up construction are many, ranging from cost-saving to scheduling to speed. Tilt-up is much faster than using concrete masonry units (CMUs) such as hollow blocks or concrete bricks. Because general contractors can oversee scheduling of the concrete on-site, they are better able to determine if the project is on schedule. According to Phelps, this allows the contractor to adjust the work pace to “align their other subcontractors to fit into the overall schedule of the building.”
The contractor has undertaken many tilt-up projects over the years. One of the most recent was for automobile giant Nissan, which saw the completion of a massive, 1.5-million-square-foot manufacturing plant and logistics centre for the company’s North American operations in Smyrna, Tennessee, on a greenfield site adjacent to the existing Nissan manufacturing factory. Lithko was initially contacted by Clayco, the general contractor for the project, late last December. The team at Lithko had a past working relationship with Clayco, having worked on large warehouses together.
“They wanted to understand our schedule and our availability and our desire to complete the project,” says Lithko’s Chris Dittman, Area Lead for the Nashville location. “We bid on the job and estimated the project sometime in mid-to-late February. We were awarded the job in mid-March, and we were on site late March/early April. During that time – early February to late March – several components of estimating, value engineering, scheduling, all those conversations were taking place during that timeframe.”
Timelines were extremely tight, with a move in date of September 7. After being mobilized on March 28, Lithko Contracting immediately started working on a foundation near an existing Nissan facility and made its first slab pour on April 12.
“This building was split into two different parts: a one-million-square-foot warehouse with a fairly simple design with a six-inch-thick unreinforced slab,” states Dittman. “The other half million square feet was a much heavier foundation and slab on grade system. It went from six-inch unreinforced to ten-inch, with a double mat of rebar slab. It has an overhead crane high bay area, so the panels actually stepped up from forty feet tall to sixty-five feet tall, where they run an overhead crane throughout the centre of the manufacturing side of the warehouse. There will be extensive pit and trench work that is going to take place inside the manufacturing side of that warehouse.”
“We were given very high-level information from our customer, and then we engaged our suppliers and our close relationships – one of them being Jason Reuter with American Contractor Supply – to help us basically design the tilt-up wall panels themselves. Jason’s vast knowledge of tilt-up construction and concrete chemicals was vital to this project’s success,” says Dittman. “And to keep it in context, with the timing that took place from the pre-construction in the planning activities to construction and how quickly this project went, it was really important for us to have close relationships with key suppliers to help us get through some of those design/build phases that took place on the front end and throughout the early portion of the project.”
The team at Lithko was able to work within an incredibly tight sixteen-week deadline, which the company met due to responsible planning and a trained workforce of about seventy during the peak of the project. A concrete batch plant poured 35,000 cubic yards of concrete in a fourteen-week timeframe.
“There have been a lot of challenges on the Nissan project, and there have been a lot of people that were given the opportunity to step up and develop their careers,” says Dittman. “And because it was such a large project with a condensed schedule, some co-workers were asked to step outside their comfort zones and were challenged in their careers.” He notes that every one of them answered the call.