Spanco Gantry Crane with Nylacron™ Casters Streamlines Operations at Metal Fabrication Facility


Bassett Industries is a large-scale metal fabrication company located in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. The 80,000 square-foot facility houses state-of-the-art tube bending, laser cutting, robotic welding, CNC machining, sheet metal forming, and water jet cutting machines.

Bassett Industries produces precision machined and fabricated parts and components for many industries, from windmill construction to health care products and everything in between. One specific job they have taken on is cutting components for nuclear waste containment units. The parts are cut out of 5-¼-inch stainless-steel plates using the water jet machine.

These stainless-steel plates, which weigh up to 19,000 pounds, are delivered to Bassett’s loading area near the water jet machine. From the loading area, they have to be lifted, moved into place, and lowered into the machine for cutting. However, none of Bassett’s existing overhead lifting systems could handle that much weight, so Bassett had to find a different solution.


At first, workers tried using several forklifts together to move the steel from the loading area to the water jet machine. The problem with this method was that the loading area is frequently filled with other materials and components, so they would have to clear the area completely to create a path wide enough for a team of forklifts. The forklifts also had to reach far over the water jet machine, and they couldn’t effectively lower the plate into the cutting area.

To find a more efficient solution, Bassett turned to a local Spanco dealer, who recommended a Spanco A-Series Mobile Gantry Crane with a 10-ton capacity and a two-directional electric hoist. Workers could position the gantry crane in the loading area, lift one of the plates, move the crane over the water jet machine, and lower the plate into the machine.

To make movement easier while the crane is loaded, Spanco also recommended replacing the standard polyurethane casters with Nylacron™ wheels from Acorn Industrial Products Co. The standard polyurethane casters normally equipped on Spanco Mobile Gantry Cranes allow loaded systems to be moved with approximately five percent of the maximum rated capacity. However, with a capacity of 10 tons, the force required to move the system is still up to 1,000 pounds, making it difficult to move even with a team of four workers.

On the other hand, Nylacron wheels allow a system to be moved with a force less than one percent of the maximum rated capacity. With a 10-ton system, Nylacron wheels allow workers to move these stainless-steel plates with just 200 pounds of force—potentially small enough for a single worker to move the system alone.


David Milks, the President of Bassett Industries, explained how the Spanco system was the best solution for this need: “We needed a system that could lift the capacity of 20,000 pounds, and this is the only system that we found that could do that. We also had an issue with the . . . low ceiling height.”

The Spanco Gantry Crane is able to lift the heaviest loads that Bassett handles, including loads that are over the capacity of their overhead bridge cranes. Additionally, the ceiling over the water jet machine is lower than the ceiling in other parts of the facility, and the Spanco crane fits easily into the limited space available. This limited space also prohibited to the use of motorization, which is why they chose to use a manual system with an electric hoist.

Because the application required a manual system, the Nylacron wheels make the Spanco Gantry Crane the best system for their needs. Workers at the facility had the opportunity to test the crane with both the Nylacron and the standard polyurethane wheels. “With the old-style wheels, we had four guys on it to push it, and it was very difficult. With the new [Nylacron™] wheels, we were able to move it with just two guys,” David told us.

The difference between the two types of wheels is important to Bassett Industries’ operations. Without the Nylacron wheels, four workers would have to be taken from other tasks any time the system needed to be moved. The Nylacron wheels save time and improve workflow by reducing the amount of personnel it takes to move the system. David estimated that the new system would cut the water jet machine’s load and unload time in half.

Bassett Industries also has four other Spanco systems in use throughout the fabrication facility, and each one is tailored for each specific application. With a full range of Spanco material handling systems, Bassett is prepared to handle any job­.