Lori Lovely 2016-03-01 11:32:25
Caterpillar dealer in Chicago provides power for three simultaneous events. Chicago is a vibrant midwestern city where activities, events, and things to do are always abundant. Last mid-September, the convergence of three major sporting events on one weekend—the BMW Championship, the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final Chicago, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup—not only supplied residents and visitors with copious options for their spare time, but also challenged the local Caterpillar rental company to supply power to all of them simultaneously. Founded in 1933 by B. C. Patten, Sr., and now in five locations, Patten Industries is a fourth-generation family business that serves as Northern Illinois’ exclusive Caterpillar dealer. Patten Cat Power Rental, a division of Patten Cat based in Elmhurst, IL, is considered Northern Illinois’ leading Caterpillar power rental company and took on the challenge of supplying remote backup power and air conditioning (A/C) for these three simultaneous major sporting events. It represents one of the biggest remote power support projects the rental division has ever undertaken. “Two years ago, the NASCAR race and the golf tournament were the same weekend, but we’ve never had three at once before,” says Mike Madej, power rental manager for Patten Cat Power Rental. “We’ve taken on hurricanes, tornados, and snow storms to provide backup power support, but to take on the remote power and A/C needs of three major sporting events spread across the area, with nearly 100,000 people and three major sports organizations relying on us, was indeed daunting.” As intimidating as the task may have first seemed, particularly because the three events were separated by substantial distance, Madej—who has been doing this type of work for more than eight years—remained unwaveringly assured of success. “It certainly is something we’ve never done before, but we are confident in our equipment and fleet, our knowledge, and expertise,” he said prior to the big weekend. By the Numbers The logistics of providing power to three divergent events scattered across a 60-mile radius in greater Chicago wasn’t the only challenge Patten Cat faced. Each venue demanded a different application. Because the combined events required a total of 124 generators, after pulling everything available from Patten Cat’s five locations, Madej turned to a handful of Cat dealers in neighboring cities to help with supply, necessitating additional planning to get everything delivered on time. “Getting additional generators from Indianapolis, St. Louis, and Peoria was a huge logistical event,” says Madej, who called the logistics and coordination of the three events “enormous.” Together, the generators were able to supply more than 17,350 kW of power and required 22 miles of cable. The 58 air conditioners were prepared to provide 1,750 tons of cooling, but mild weather meant they didn’t have to work so hard. The team had to work a little harder. Ten technicians, with a combined 179 years’ worth of experience, spent their weekend ensuring that spectators at the three events were comfortable. The goal was to be as seamless as possible and address any “power hiccups” that may occur. Madej explains, “We like being behind the scenes so people have an enjoyable experience and never think once about the power or air conditioning going down.” Teeing It Up Perhaps the most challenging of the three events was the BMW Championship (formerly the Western Open). Patten Cat began preparations weeks in advance because it required covering an expansive area and powering many different units. Patten Cat has worked with the BMW Championship for more than 20 years. Madej explains the importance of this tournament: “It’s part of the PGA tour playoffs for the Fed-Ex Cup. Coming into the weekend, they’re down to 70 golfers; they’ll eliminate 40 this weekend.” The tournament winner receives $10 million, he notes. As it has for two decades, the BMW Championship relied fully on Patten Cat generators to support the whole event over the 209-acre Conway Farms Golf Course in Lake Forest, except at the main clubhouse facilities. Additionally, Patten Cat provided air conditioning for merchandise tents, hospitality suites, the media tent, and other temporary facilities, such as the double-deck steel structures used as suites for fans at half of the holes. “Some of the suites were glass-enclosed with air conditioning,” recalls Madej. The suites also required power for electricity for lights, food, and beverages. “We used different sizes [of generators] for 400 kilowatts of power.” In addition, they provided generators for power at the holes for all of the 30-kW scoreboards around the course. They also powered tactically placed cart-charging areas. Altogether, they supplied “approximately 46 generators, 36 air-conditioner units, 200 sections of 4-0 cable, and 200 sets of 2-5 cable,” lists Madej. All units are sound-attenuated, he specifies, underscoring the importance of quiet on the golf course. “They were strategically placed away from spectators and participants so as to be unobtrusive and quiet. We’ve been doing PGA events for more than 20 years; we understand their requirements.” One of those requirements was to keep off the grass during setup 45–60 days prior to the four-day event. Another was to have a weather contingency plan in place so they could easily adjust to changes. Three technicians onsite during the event ensured that there weren’t any glitches, although Madej admitted that the scope changed constantly in the weeks leading up to the tournament. “We needed to power one sky box at 200 amps, so we had a generator and 200 feet of cable, but two days later, we were told we needed 400 amps, so we rolled up that cable and started over. That kind of thing went on in the 45 days prior to the start of the tournament.” Downtown Delivery The timeframe for the ITU World Triathalon Grand Final Chicago was much tighter. “It was a short window,” confirms Madej. Delivery and setup were scheduled on Friday for the Saturday event, and the Patten crew had to have everything out by Sunday because of a Bears game. “The biggest thing is that, being downtown, we couldn’t deliver until Friday,” explains Madej. Circumstances shortened that window even further. “Grant Park was flooded due to a water main break. We couldn’t park there. We had to move equipment to other areas and deliver the bulk [of equipment] on Saturday because we had to wait for the water to recede.” Patten Cat supplied the redundant generators used for the television feed so coverage loss would be avoided should first-line power fail. The equipment consisted of 24 generators, six air conditioners, small pop-up tents, a scoreboard, and “a lot of vendor tents.” The biggest machines, Madej says, were two generators, a 200-kW twin pack for shaving load. They provided power for the TV broadcast so loss of coverage would be avoided in case of a first-line power failure. “We built in redundancy because it was critical,” he says. A team of five was on hand to deliver and set up, and two remained onsite throughout the event. In addition to the short timeframe for setup and going through the bureaucracy of obtaining permits to be on the public sidewalks, the event posed a challenge because of the difficulty in working at a venue in a busy urban setting. Race to the Finish While the challenges posed by the triathlon centered on its downtown location, weather impacted the NASCAR race at Chicagoland Speedway. Friday’s truck race was cancelled due to heavy showers all day and night. Rescheduling of the truck race Saturday morning affected Madej’s labor schedule. “The storms were outrageous, and there was lightning everywhere. There was even a tornado nearby. We let guys go home early Friday, but Saturday was a long day.” Fifty-four generators were on hand to provide backup power for lighting on the racetrack, ensuring safety for the drivers in the event of a power outage, and in other key spectator-focused areas critical to the event’s success. Backup power for track lighting included six 100-kW units. “We had two-megs on the north and south sides, with transformers to light the grandstands if the track lost power,” elaborates Madej. For safety reasons, a generator operator was on alert. A technician was onsite as early as Thursday; during the race, a tech was stationed on each two-meg. Although the drivers’ and teams’ RVs in the infield use house power, Patten Cat provided power for 568 RVs outside the track—spectators who typically stay until Monday. The vendors under the grandstands were also on house power, but Patten Cat crews set up their cables for them. Expecting the Unexpected Patten Cat has provided power to 50 NASCAR races at Chicagoland Speedway over the past 14 years since the track opened. “We could do the race in our sleep; it’s the same every year,” says Madej. However, a change of venue for the golf tournament in 2013 posed a “big challenge. We thought we knew what we needed, but we had to make adjustments.” Citing “little hiccups,” Madej says his philosophy is to “always expect the unexpected” and to adjust to any need. “Reacting to change is the nature of my department,” he says. “Our goal was to be as seamless as possible and address any power hiccups that may have occurred.” Along with a flexible approach, experience has contributed to Patten Cat’s longevity at these events. “We win the bids due to our expertise, our machines, and our labor that knows the job better than the customer. We have the knowledge and the experience. We know the most efficient, cost-effective way to execute.” Knowing that Patten Cat is not the cheapest option, Madej says he wins bids and people rent from him because of Cat’s reliability and his staff’s technical knowledge. “It’s due to the quality of the equipment. Cat gens are outstanding.” His staff of 10 dedicated technicians keeps the units running perfectly. “They keep them serviced; every 250 hours we do an oil change,” he says. To prepare a bid, Madej likes to walk the site and gather data. “The idea is to save money; that’s the biggest part of bidding,” he reveals. His calculations include trying to save fuel during delivery and setup by using as few generators as possible and running extra extensions. Furthermore, because his crew has so much experience, he’s able to use fewer people onsite, adding to the savings. “I have 10 permanent, full-time employees with 105 years’ experience at Patten, and 179 years total. I’m confident in the equipment and the manpower.” Performance Review Madej wasn’t nervous about the big weekend, although he experienced a little stress worrying about equipment delivery. “I have confidence in the Cat product. The main thing is acquiring the equipment, arranging delivery, and having my guys onsite, they’ll want us onsite; we’re the experts.” With more than 15 years of experience in industrial power rental sales and operations and a history of developing testing and training programs for technicians, Madej analyzes Patten Cat’s performance in order to make improvements that will help them win future bids and grow their presence in the power rental market. It’s what separates them from the competition, he believes. “We care. We want to be their partner and show them we’re serious about doing their events. Getting information on how things went will help us win next year’s bid.” It begins with a post-event staff meeting for each event, during which everyone involved discusses what went right and offers suggestions for improvements to become more efficient. “We do an extensive breakdown of what happened,” assesses Madej. “It’s paramount to our success.” After the internal meetings, he takes staff feedback and meets with each customer to review, offering recommendations for cost savings for the following year. But even before the formal reviews begin, Patten Cat evaluates its accomplishments and uses events like these to inspire better performance. “We leverage it at customer events,” says Madej, explaining that Patten Cat had a hospitality suite at the track for 350 guests who went to see not only the race, but also “how our generators work.” They also invited their top customers to a suite on the 17th green at the BMW Championship. “It’s a chance for us to show off, to show what we can do.” Patten Cat Power Rental has taken on some very demanding challenges in the past, Madej says. “Each time we’ve risen to the challenge. This is no different. The main reasons we can do these events are our equipment, knowledge, expertise, and past performance.” He credits his Cat rental network partners and a seasoned technical staff that allowed him to successfully manage three events at once, a situation no longer so daunting. “We think it says something for these three great venues to have put their trust in us,” he concludes. “We’re excited to be involved with each and every one of them.” BE Winner of several Society of Professional Journalists awards, Lori Lovely focuses on topics related to transportation and technology.
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