Printer Friendly Version


Blackmer® is the leading global manufacturer of sliding vane and positive displacement pumps. Their pumps and compressors provide product transfer solutions for multiple applications in the process, energy, transport, and marine markets. Blackmer operates a 170,000 square foot manufacturing plant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they build all of their pumps. Their manufacturing facility is divided into several sections including the foundry, machining center, vane pump assembly, and compressor assembly.

In 2012, Blackmer needed to upgrade their production process to optimize output and meet the increasing demands of the global marketplace. They began to shift their manufacturing process away from the traditional production line to incorporate a cell-based plant design. This design helped Blackmer to address the structural issues in the manufacturing system, but they still needed to find an effective material handling solution to accommodate the new process. Blackmer’s production team reached out to Kone Cranes, Inc., a local Spanco distributor, to discuss the best material handling solution to meet their evolving needs.

For twenty years, workers at Blackmer used more than a dozen jib cranes in their work cells to lift and transfer materials from one cell to another. The jib cranes were used to load castings, steel fixtures, and externals in the foundry area and then transfer them to the machining center where they were prepared for assembly. They also used jib cranes to transfer seals, plates, and vanes made from cast iron and carbon graphite to their assembly areas. The use of multiple jib cranes in each work cell required maximum floor space and manpower. As the company expanded, their need for a more comprehensive material handling solution grew. After a careful assessment of their manufacturing operation, Kone Cranes, Inc. suggested workstation bridge cranes from Spanco.


Blackmer installed a total of eight Spanco Workstation Bridge Cranes in their manufacturing facility, which has increased productivity and improved ease of use in their facility. According to production manager Alex Lambert, Spanco’s Workstation Bridge Cranes are the perfect solution to supplement their workspace for a safe and consistent design. All eight systems are ceiling mounted to conserve floor space and provide maximum coverage for multiple applications. Each system is customized to meet the unique size and space specifications for a specific work cell. The workstation bridge cranes range in capacity from 1,000 pounds to 4,000 pounds, with runways ranging from 24 feet to 48 feet in length with cantilevers on both ends. While most of the systems include one bridge spanning anywhere from 19 feet to 25 feet, two of the systems are fully customized with multiple bridges. In fact, one of the systems includes eight 500-pound capacity bridges spanning 21 feet each. Six of those bridges run through the inside of the building, while two move outdoors. Once all eight systems were installed, Blackmer was able to expand their functionality by linking each system together. Their new setup provides the durability and flexibility necessary in a variety of complex work-cell applications where multiple areas of lifting are required.


The most important part of the integration of an effective material handling solution is finding the right system for a particular application. For Blackmer, it was important to find a solution that complements their lean manufacturing process. Replacing their jib cranes with Spanco Ceiling-Mounted Workstation Bridge Cranes not only conserved ample floor space, but it also helped to streamline their manufacturing process. Their new setup allows workers to be multi-functional within each individual work-cell and in their operation as a whole. As a result, material flow is significantly improved, which reduces distance travelled by materials, inventory, and cumulative lead times.