Project Profile: Perryman Solar Field

When a land owner in Aberdeen, MD decided to turn several of his harvest fields into a solar field, a local ordinance dictated that he must mitigate a certain percentage of land to become a reforestation area. To meet this requirement, he partnered with Constellation Energy who subcontracted our Maryland Landscape Construction (MDL) branch to install 2,500 1-inch caliper trees, 300 24-inch shrubs and 300 1-gallon perennials across 13.5 acres of land.

With their sizeable backlog and busy schedule combined with their desire to accomplish this job for a very valued client, the branch developed a plan that would enable them to meet their project deadlines and maximize efficiency. Their substantial goals included cutting man hours by 50% and cutting the project duration time from 10 weeks to five. The MDL crew, led by field managers Rob Watson and Agustin Cedillos and overseen by production manager Adam Bennet, were faced with numerous challenges throughout the project and, with the help of director of quality and efficiency Ken Thompson, came up with solutions to not only increase efficiency but also to keep the team motivated.

One of the biggest challenges they faced was that the staging area was ½ mile away – a 25 minute walk – from the installation area. The land itself is only three feet above sea level and that, combined with a very rainy spring, made for swampy conditions. Project specifications required MDL to fix any turf areas that were damaged by vehicles or equipment. With a limited seeding repair budget, the team focused on minimizing damage and reducing travel time by carefully selecting vehicles and by limiting the amount of trips to and from the staging area.

The job specifications called for evenly spaced rows of trees with a pattern of seven different species repeating down each row. Normally, the trailer would be loaded with one species of tree, driven to the field and placed by the holes, then the team would move on to the next species. Instead of making seven trips down each row, they carefully loaded the trailer with all seven species in the order in which they would be planted so that they only had to make one trip per row. This method took careful coordination—instead of having the entire quantity of a certain species delivered all at once, MDL purchaser Stacy Fryfogle was able to work with the vendors to deliver plant material in smaller increments so that they were able to load the job efficiently.

With 2,500 trees to install, the branch had to find a way to reduce fatigue and increase productivity. Rather than have each crewman perform all of the tasks necessary to install each tree, the MDL crew created a continuous workflow—one person to dig the hole, one to backfill…mulch…place the tree stake…place the tree guard and secure with zip ties. This process allowed them to establish product specialists and, by performing one specific task throughout the day, they were able to limit the person’s range of motion and lessen fatigue. But how do you keep people motivated to do the same task all day long? MDL accomplished this by constantly setting goals, measuring productivity and rewarding success. The field managers would set a goal for one person and motivate them to reach that goal with incentives including small bonuses and free lunch. If that person met the goal, the next person would be challenged to beat their record and would be rewarded for doing so. The ultimate incentive was a celebration for the entire team if the project goals were met.

The project concluded toward the end of May. Not only did the team meet their goals of cutting man hours and duration time in half, they were able to cut a month off of the client’s overall schedule. During a final site visit, the project owner told Rob Watson that he was extremely impressed with his people, their efficiency, and the quality of the material. We are incredibly proud of our MDL team members who used their innovation, dedication, hustle and efficiency to achieve their goals.

The Maryland landscape branch celebrated the project’s completion with a crab feast on the Friday leading into Memorial Day weekend.