June 23 - Plains Fabrication & Supply, a steel fabrication company based in Alberta, Canada, which produces heaters, separators, pressure vessels, skid packages, and other custom fabrication items has purchased a Shuttlelift SL 75II to increase productivi

Plains Fabrication & Supply undertook a Lean Manufacturing programme some years ago in an attempt to recognise unnecessary movements and the time it took to complete tasks, therby improving profit margins, increasing productivity, saving time and reducing waste.

Paul Pagenkopf, operations manager at Plains Fabrication & Supply explains, "Once we had the facts it was time to find the product that would help us achieve our goals and the Shuttlelift SL 75II (pictured below) fits the bill."

Commenting on why the new mobile gantry crane works well in the operation he says: "On a WAC vessel, the old material handling time was approximately 10 hours of labour. That required two pieces of equipment and three workers to move product from assembly to the paint process."

The mobile gantry crane reduced the workflow by more than half. "Now, it takes approximately four hours of labour using one machine and two workers to complete the process."

Besides the increase in production, Pagenkopf is pleased with the company's first partnership with Shuttlelift. "This was our first unit and it was remarkably easy for the operators to become confident using the unit."

Explaining how the new machine is utilised, he says: "The Shuttlelift SL 75II moves product from bay to bay and raw product from outside to the fabrication area. It moves fabricated products to the blast bay and into the paint bay. It also moves completed products to storage or it can load products directly onto trucks for shipment to customers."

The mobile gantry crane was chosen to avoid installing outdoor stationary cranes on either sides of the building due to the cost associated with the cranes; as well as the limited specialised lifting capabilities for each application. "The stationary characteristics limits your work area; whereas the Shuttlelift allows you to move anywhere in the yard or building and allows us to easily adjust the crane for each application. It is invaluable," said Pagenkopf.

The Shuttlelift SL 75II was designed with custom features for Plains Fabrication & Supply. It includes a hydraulic block adjust that maximizes the versatility and lifting potential enabling the operator to change the spacing between the slings at the touch of a button. "This feature gives the ability to maintain a straight wire rope to the products attach points and allow adjustments to suit the variety of lifting lug centre distances," added Pagenkopf.

The mobile gantry crane also included a wireless remote control that allows the operator to be on the ground anywhere around the crane. "It is a very tight fit at our facility between the door frame and the crane; so the remote makes the operator's job much easier. The operator almost always uses the remote control," added Pagenkopf.

Another key feature that has provided flexibility is the all wheel electronic steering that enables each wheel on the gantry crane to steer independently. Plains Fabrication & Supply specifically purchased the optional carousel steer because it allows all wheels to turn around a centre or axis point at the machine's centre. Pagenkopf explained that the operator moves the product through the bay door outdoors and then uses the carrousel steering to pivot 90 degrees before traveling to the next set of bay doors where he uses carousel steer again to pivot 90 degrees." The machine's flexibility does not stop at carousel steering but also includes front, rear, crab, traverse and coordinate steering. "The various steering modes are used extensively when moving product from bay to bay."

An additional amenity included in the mobile gantry crane was a sound suppression kit that reduces engine noise and reduces audible range fatigue. "It offers quieter working conditions when working inside and is well worth it for safety reasons," said Pagenkopf.