California-based Guntert & Zimmerman Const. Div., Inc. has cemented a solid reputation as a leading equipment innovator. Its advanced machinery has changed the way contractors lay down concrete in major highway, airfield and canal projects around the world. Dan Harvey reports on the highlights of a rich history that dates back to World War II.
When it comes to concrete highway, air-field and canal construction, Guntert & Zimmerman Const. Div., Inc. (G&Z) has exerted a reach befitting its inventiveness. “G&Z canal equipment has been used on 80 percent of the canals in the Western United States,” reveals Jan Miller, the company’s marketing manager.
Further, the Ripon, California-headquartered organization’s equipment has been used in the construction of many major concrete highways in the Western United States, as well as concrete motorways in Western Europe and other parts of the world, according to the company.
There’s a good reason. G&Z builds the most productive, durable and maintenance-free equipment in the construction industry. Throughout its history, the company demonstrated remarkable reliability as far as business development and creativity. “The company was established in 1942 to build ships for the military during World War II,” says Miller. “After the war, G&Z started building heavy construction machinery, and it branched into building canal concrete paving machines.”
Today, G&Z offers a complete line of high-performance, state-of-the-art equipment such as highway concrete slipform pavers, mechanical dowel bar inserters, texture/cure machines, concrete placer spreaders, mobile concrete mixing plants and twinshaft concrete mixers. Products are marketed and sold across the globe.
G&Z’s history encompasses nearly 70 years, a time-period rich with significant milestones. Initially, the company (which was founded by Ronald M. Guntert, Sr. and L.R. Zimmerman and originally known as Hickinbotham Bros. Const. Div.) contributed to the war effort by building floating crane barges, landing crafts, steel tugboats, and inter-island supply vessels for the U.S. Navy and U.S Army Transportation Corp.
Guntert and partner L.R. Zimmerman eventually acquired Hickinbotham’s interest and incorporated the company as Guntert & Zimmerman Const. Div., Inc. After the war, it focused on the design and fabrication of canal construction equipment, supplying its first set of canal machines in 1946. These early machines were used in many major projects, including the Grand Coulee Dam project in Washington and the Delta Mendota Canal Project in California.
G&Z’s canal machines, which include trimmers, cure jumbos, work jumbos and concrete slipform liners, were the first of their kind built in the world. Previously, canal machines traveled on rails, but in 1955 G&Z placed them on crawler tracks.
Today, the company custom builds its canal machinery to fit specific job requirements and perform in a number of applications. For instance, the G&Z canal construction machinery used on the Ghazi Barotha Power Channel Project in Pakistan in 1999 were the largest ever built in the world. The design and construction of the enormous machines compelled Engineering News Record to deem the Ghazi effort the “Best Project” of that year. These massive machines, some up to 200 tons, moved in and around the canal without cranes or disassembly in a matter of hours. In designing its canal equipment, G&Z draws on its vast experience in providing customers with exceptional before and after sale service. The company’s experienced field service personnel help clients with equipment job-site start-up and teach them how to get the best results.
Building on Success
G&Z’s pioneering use of mechanized, high-production canal construction machinery led to the development of the first viable crawler track-mounted, concrete slipform paver for highway and airfield paving. “In 1956, G&Z began converting its canal lining equipment onto crawler tracks and started building concrete highway slipform pavers on crawler tracks,” relates Miller. “The paver was the first crawler track mounted slipform paver with an automatic elevation and steering control system in reference to a grade wire that worked. G&Z introduced the concrete slipform paver in Western Europe in 1963.”
One notable early project that employed the pavers involved construction at the Orly airfield in Paris. Subsequent construction projects that utilized the technology include the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport which was the first paving job in the world done at 50 feet wide (15.25m), the shuttle landing strip at Cape Kennedy and the Chap Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong.
Today, G&Z’s pavers are used on major concrete airfields, highways, urban pavements and canal construction projects around the world. As far as airfield projects, G&Z equipment has literally placed thousands of miles of airfield aprons, runways and taxiways. Moreover, most concrete slipform pavers available on the market now employ the same principals that G&Z pioneered back in 1956.
Advancing Dowel Bar Placement
The G&Z name has also become synonymous with mechanical dowel bar insertion innovation. Since the late 1970s, the company has been in the vanguard of developing mechanized dowel bar inserter (DBI) technology for highway construction. Dowel bar inserters mount off of the back of a concrete slipform paver and automatically insert dowel bars into the plastic concrete. The company introduced DBIs in the United States in 1987. Since then, G&Z has maintained its market leadership and continues to improve the state-of-the-art, providing users with the highest productivity and accuracy, mobility, ease-of-width change, reliability, and smoothest rides.
In 1995, a G&Z Slipform with an automatic dowel bar inserter was used on the huge 407 toll road project in the Toronto, Canada area. This was the first use of a DBI in Canada. In 1999, G&Z introduced a redesigned DBI unit, called the Compact Dowel Bar Inserter (CDBI), first designed to fit with the company’s S850 QUADRA Paver model. “We’ve made significant inroads with those two pieces of equipment,” says Miller. “Contractors all around the world are now utilizing the CDBI and the paver because the equipment has been so successful in the United States and Europe. One of the major advantages is that it reduces the workforce needed on job sites and dramatically reduces material costs.”
G&Z designs and manufactures its machinery at its large and well-equipped Ripon production facility in central California. “It sits on 22 acres and includes 112,000 square feet of covered warehouse, steel storage and manufacturing space,” informs Miller. “There’s an additional 40,000 square feet of outside concrete slab area for parts storage and machine assembly. We also have about 12,000 square feet of administrative and customer service space.”
All building bays are serviced by one or more five-ton overhead bridge cranes, and the yard includes rubber tire and crawler-mounted cranes for heavy lifting. Facilities are equipped with a variety of computer-controlled processing tools, machine tools, welding and painting equipment.
Extensive shop capabilities include pre-production processing areas that can burn, shear, cut, form and make parts ready for welding, assembly or machining. A partial list of processing tools includes a 20-foot, 750-ton Cincinnati press brake; a 14-foot, 230-ton Cincinnati press brake; a 20-foot, three-quarter-inch Atlantic shear; a 12-foot, quarter-inch Cincinnati shear; both plasma and oxygen acetylene burning capability.
“Our engineering staff includes four full-time engineers,” says Miller. Working with the marketing staff, the engineers collaborate with customers to first identify and then build the right machine. Further, combining superior engineering ability with the latest 3D modeling and analysis software, G&Z staff always strives to build the right machine the first time. All G&Z equipment is thoroughly tested at the factory before it’s shipped.
Not only does G&Z take pride in its pioneering legacy, as well as in the quality of the equipment its produces, clients take pride in owning a G&Z-stamped piece of machinery. Customers fully understand that G&Z’s innovative equipment enhances their competitive edge.