Guarantee Electrical Co. recently completed a massive electrical system renovation and additions at a 170,000-sq-ft TUMS factory in downtown St. Louis.

“We were working in a fully functioning facility,” said Steve Briesacher, Guarantee's project manager. “We took precautions to ensure our work would never contaminate or slow the production of TUMS.”

Guarantee's precautions included erecting temporary plastic partitions around all production areas and wearing lab coats, hair and beard nets, and boot covers in product-sensitive areas. In addition, Guarantee worked around factory shifts and during times when the plant was closed. The electrical team coordinated with McCarthy, the construction manager, and GlaxoSmithKline, the owner of TUMS, to shut down portions of the plant for periods of time, but some part of TUMS production continued at all times.

GlaxoSmithKline allotted $1.5 million out of a total $14 million for electrical work at the factory, which was required earlier than expected. The 70-year-old building did not even have enough power to hook up the construction equipment, so a new 15,000V substation was added before construction began. Guarantee later provided new power distribution, controls and instrumentation for the plant.

“It would have been easier for TUMS to build a new plant in a suburban area,” said Briesacher, “but they were committed to staying in this historic building in St. Louis.”

TUMS, which was introduced on the market as an antacid in 1930, began being prescribed as a calcium supplement in the mid-1980s.

“When they came out with Pepcid and all those antacids, they figured that TUMS was just going to wither away, but the doctors started prescribing it for the calcium and now they're making more Tums than ever,” he said. “They had to bring their plant up to FDA guidelines make their processes more efficient. Staying in an existing building was probably the most cost effective and quickest way to respond to the market conditions.”

Most new manufacturing/distribution facilities are single-story facilities spread out over a large area. In contrast, the TUMS factory is a multi-story building that uses the theory of gravity as an operating method. Product manufacturing begins on the top floor and moves through the lower floors until it reaches distribution on the bottom floor. Before the renovations, small quantities of raw materials were moved to the fifth floor via a freight elevator. As part of the renovation, the team implemented new “super sack” technology that blows large quantities of raw materials up a shaft from the first to the fifth floor, resulting in tremendously increased plant efficiency.

The TUMS factory was completed about a year ahead of schedule. Joining Guarantee and McCarthy on the project was Lockwood Greene, architect/engineer.

“By close coordination with the plant, we came up with scheduling methods that allowed us to improve and speed along the process,” Briesacher said.

  • Founded. 1902

  • Headquarters. St. Louis, Mo.

  • Peak workforce. 1,000

  • 2000 revenues. $126 million

  • Specialties. Electrical construction, electrical engineering design, design-assist, value engineering, procurement, service and preventative maintenance.

  • Current Projects. $276 million Renaissance Grand Hotel; $165 million A.G. Edwards complex; the $55 million Sigma-Aldrich Life Science Technology Center; and the retrofit of the Louisville Wastewater Treatment Plant in Louisville, Ky.