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Overview

A Wisconsin based manufacturer of special bar quality steel (SBQ) produces rolled steel, coils, rods, bars, and wire products. Although they have several manufacturing plants throughout the mid-west, their Wisconsin facility has been around since 1978, and they’ve expanded the factory several times since. The Wisconsin facility is also home to their corporate offices, as well as a fully integrated mill that includes a melt shop, rolling area, and processing facility.

In 2012, the production team at the Wisconsin facility was looking to make further expansions to their machining and mill center. With an annual coil-making capacity of approximately 1.2 million tons, they also needed a more effective material handling solution to move raw materials in and out of machinery to shape and mold parts for their products.

Solution

Production managers reached out to a local Spanco distributor, who visited their Wisconsin facility to assess their needs for the furnace machine workstation. Most flat production processes consist of a furnace, a caster, and a hot strip mill (HSM). These three steps are part of a continuous process. If trouble occurs at any point throughout these processes, it affects the entire production line. If bottlenecking occurs or materials are melted incorrectly in the furnace, the semi-finished product will still travel through the rest of the production process—from the furnace to the caster and the hot strip mill.

In order to create a leaner production process, ensure the highest quality products from beginning to end, and reduce workplace injury, the Spanco dealer suggested that the production team install a Spanco Articulating Jib Crane. The jib crane is wall-mounted over the furnace workstation, where workers can use it to move raw materials in and out of the furnace.

The company installed a light-duty wall-mounted articulating jib with a 250-pound capacity to cover the first part (the furnace) of their production process. The system is light-weight, making it cost-effective, ergonomic, and flexible. The jib spans eleven feet, total, with the inner arm spanning 60 inches and the outer arm spanning 72 inches. The outer arm provides a full 360-degree rotation, while the inner arm provides 200-degree rotation. The entire system weighs less than 400 pounds, which made it easy to install and more cost-effective than larger, heavier-duty systems.

Impact

The Spanco Wall-Mounted Articulating Jib Crane provides a safe and effective method for moving raw materials in and out of machinery—which can be very difficult, time-consuming, and dangerous for workers. The jib is mounted directly over the furnace, which frees up larger overhead lift systems and preserves factory floor space. The production team was so impressed with the system’s ease of use and overall flexibility that they ordered several more articulating jib cranes from Spanco within the same year.

In 2012, the same facility reached out to their local distributor once again—this time to inquire about a medium-duty Spanco Freestanding Articulating Jib Crane for skin-pass and mechanical steel processing. The skin-pass phase of the steel production process is important to the overall finished product. That’s because inline skin-pass mills are used for adjusting the final mechanical properties, including strip elongation tolerances, flatness, and the surface quality of rolled strips. The company needed a system with the same level of flexibility and precision, but one that could reach over, in, and around the inline skin-pass mills, which are rather large in size.

The production team purchased and installed a Spanco Freestanding Articulating Jib Crane, which was foundation-mounted for full 360-degree rotation of both the inner and outer arm. The crane’s 500-pound capacity allows workers to move (almost) finished products through the production line with out bottlenecking or safety issues. The crane is flexible enough to reach into the skin-pass mills and hand-off flat rolled strips to the next station in their production process. Although the jib crane isn’t heavy-duty, it can certainly span the length of the skin-pass mill, and it provides articulating coverage of a circular area, allowing workers to reach any part of the machine if it needs maintenance or for everyday processes. The entire crane spans 16 feet, with a hook height of 14 feet for optimal reach and excellent overall coverage.

According to the production manager at the Wisconsin facility, his workers use the Spanco Articulating Jib Cranes from the raw materials stage all the way to the final part of the production process—and even for machine maintenance. They’ve been really impressed with the overall versatility of both systems and how easy they are to operate.

Since the team invested in their new material handling systems, they’ve seen far less bottlenecking and more consistency in the final product. Not to mention that overall production has improved drastically. And, it’s a good thing, because as customer demand consistently increases, so too does their need for custom lift systems specifically designed for their (multiple) workstations. The steel manufacturing company has even installed multiple Spanco Freestanding and Wall-Mounted Jib Cranes in their Cleveland rolling mill facility and their Fostoria, Ohio processing and distribution facility.