in Vol. 9 - September Issue - Year 2008
Turning Up Innovation In The Economic Downturn
The price of oil has doubled in price over the last year
Wheelabrator provides many surface preparation solutions to the renewable energy industry
Wheelabrator`s blasting solution has helped increase efficiency by ten times
Wheelabrator`s TITAN wheels
As the prospect of a global economic slowdown continues to dominate news headlines around the world, the knock-on effect for the surface preparation industry is forcing organisations to look to new solutions in order to remain competitive and safeguard market share.
Companies in the automotive, aerospace, steel and construction industries, amongst others, are at the sharp end of the downturn as economies around the world are placed under constant strain by the soaring price of oil, which has more than doubled to $135* a barrel in the last year alone.
With no immediate sign of a let-up, consumers and businesses alike face escalating energy and transport costs. In addition, customers in the surface preparation industry have been hit by rapidly rising steel prices, in part fuelled by high energy costs, but largely driven by unprecedented demand from China, which is forecast to consume 35%* of the world’s steel this year.
Responding to the economic gloom is a major challenge facing the industry. Companies driven by corporate social responsibility commitments to reduce environmental impact and achieve resource efficiencies, invested in energy saving measures when times were good, with the added benefit of saving costs; those that didn’t missed the opportunity that would have helped them to reap the rewards today. Increasingly, adopting a more innovative approach will be required to help organisations deal with current economic challenges.
Wheelabrator Group, which celebrates its centenary this year, has an impressive track record of continuous innovation, aimed not only at helping customers stay ahead of the game and deliver a quality service, but also maximising cost efficiencies in both the short and long term and delivering sound environmental benefits.
Innovation for efficiency
One of the company’s most recent innovations is the TITAN turbine. The TITAN was developed from an analysis of customer requirements, and is the perfect solution to reducing wheel blast machine costs. Feedback from customers using the TITAN wheel has shown that it’s installation on both new and old machines (retrofits) has brought about significant cost savings. Blast efficiency is improved from 10 to 50%, the lifetime of wear parts has been prolonged by at least 25%, spare parts and maintenance have been greatly reduced – and therefore downtime has decreased. The environmental impact of the wheel is significantly lower than any other wheel available on the market, according to Wheelabrator Group research, with vastly reduced energy usage leading to a decreased carbon footprint and a noticeable reduction in sound emissions. Success of the TITAN wheel was complimented by a comparable development of the EZEFIT® wheel, which integrated the premium features of the TITAN into an existing Autoblast wheel design for specific market segments.
Innovation to increase productivity and minimise costs
The newly introduced Vertical Roller Conveyor blast machine brings great cost savings to the workplace as well as impressive space savings. The machine holds the workpiece at an 80 degree angle, it treats both sides of the steel sheet simultaneously, the abrasive media rolls off, therefore eliminating the need for brushing or cleaning afterwards. This saves time and energy, and the machine is even more compact as there is no need for an integral cleaning station.
A leaner, greener Wheelabrator
Module8 introduces innovation for future savings for customers, whilst making Wheelabrator’s own production processes leaner and greener.
Module8 is the name of a new range of modular constructed airblast machines. The basic idea of the Module8 principle is very simple: every machine is built from a range of standard (modular) components. The machines are constructed using one size of wall and ceiling panel, so machine sizes differ by using more or less panels to create the cabinet size required. Of course, it’s not just the blast cabinet itself that comprises the same components, but standard mechanical recovery systems and blast parts are also used. This has meant a significant reduction in the standard delivery time, and has brought great cost efficiencies to Wheelabrator Group. The Module8 system has reduced production waste and cost, and has increased storage capacity.
The customer benefits from these savings, plus better availability, improved ease of maintenance, more flexibility and ergonomics and a reduction in the wear of parts. Process reliability is secured, and quality and safety is ensured. In the longer term, should the machine need to be adapted/upgraded, more or less panels/components can be added/subtracted simply – there’s no need to order a completely new machine if and when the application changes.
According to Wheelabrator Group, one effective cost saving solution being increasingly adopted by companies is to upgrade existing equipment in favour of buying a new machine.
The modernisation of existing equipment keeps that machine in production, - it doesn’t get sent to scrap, and prevents a new machine being built, which means that less steel is required.
Technology upgrades make the machine cleaner and leaner. Its impact on the environment is reduced as new technologies are introduced. New technologies (new turbines, motors, dust collectors, etc.) use less energy whilst improving productivity and the surface quality – which all lead to reduced cost and higher profitability.
Wheelabrator innovation for the Renewable Energy industry
As oil prices continue to rise and resources become scarcer, sources of renewable energy are expected to play an increasingly important role in the provision of energy across the globe. Wheelabrator Group is committed to supporting those who provide these economical and environmentally responsible sources of power. This dedicated service from Wheelabrator has been clearly demonstrated by the 60 percent increase in output being enjoyed by a leading manufacturer of wind turbine gears.
Due to expansion, the Finnish based manufacturer required a new solution to treat turbine components and keep up with growing business demands.
During manufacture, the wind turbine gearboxes and systems pick up scale through the heat treatment process. The rotary table wheelblast machines supplied by Wheelabrator Group are used to descale components up to two metres in diameter and length.
Due to its suitability in cleaning large, heavy and awkward to handle components, the table type wheel blast machine was the ideal solution. Easy access to the machine allows the parts to be loaded onto the table within the blast chamber with minimal effort. The table then rotates under the blast stream from one or two blast wheels allowing maximum exposure and a high production efficiency.
Chris Beaumont, Scandinavian Regional Manager at Wheelabrator Group said: “Our longstanding relationship with such a major player in the wind energy market is a testament to the quality and effectiveness of Wheelabrator’s designs and processes. The two new machines will increase output by 60 percent and fully support the company’s expansion plans, due to the strong demand in the wind energy market.”
Wheelabrator Group provides a variety of solutions to the renewable energy market, and has designed and manufactured systems to clean, peen or provide corrosion resistance to components including wind turbine gears, hubs, column plates and structures.
Celebrating 100 years of Innovation
With 100 years at the forefront of innovation, Wheelabrator Group is perfectly placed to respond to the industry’s current demands and pressures. An unrivalled track record in adapting to continual changes in surface preparation and coating requirements, whilst meeting the need to reduce costs and energy usage and improve quality and efficiency, means Wheelabrator Group can confidently look forward to continued innovation in the search for perfect solutions for its customers.
Wheelabrator Group owns, designs, manufactures and provides wheelblast, airblast and vibratory mass finishing equipment for surface preparation, peening and cleaning, and serves a variety of industry sectors. Further information can be found at www.wheelabratorgroup.com
Customer-focused Innovation: case study 1
Wheelabrator Group prides itself on the solutions it provides for its customers, realising that every customer is different and has different requirements.
When the group was approached by Weatherford, a global provider of mechanical solutions and services for oil and gas developments, to find a solution to clean its tools for oil rigs, Wheelabrator Group provided a system that has increased the cleaning efficiency by ten times, and has increased the company’s production output and environmental responsibility.
The two stage cleaning solution included a table wheel blast machine and an aqueous degreasing machine. The system brought the added benefits of eliminating the need to use corrosive and hazardous chemicals, so the production line is much safer and handling has been reduced to a minimum creating further safety advantages and labour savings.
Transportation costs for the tools to be inspected off-site have also been removed.
Jim Liebnitz, Consultant at Weatherford said: "Our existing process was extremely time consuming, first the tools were soaked in an acid dip tank, then it would take two workers at least three attempts to clean each component with a high pressure wash gun, before it could even go to the next stage of processing."
"We are delighted with the service we have received from Wheelabrator, their knowledge and customer service levels have been invaluable. Our efficiency and output has increased ten-fold, hazardous chemicals have been eliminated from operations, and any stray residue is collected in the dust hopper and disposed of in the general waste. The outcome has been superb and I would have no hesitation recommending Wheelabrator to other companies."
Cost saving ‘green’ solutions to reduce waste: case study 2
The increased pressure on companies to reduce environmental impact can also produce significant cost savings. Wheelabrator Group worked closely with Renold, the international engineering group and leading manufacturer of Roller Chain, to bring about annual cost savings of $65,000 through the installation of a new Centrifugal Recirculatory Process Water System (Walther Trowal ZA06 machine).
Renold’s currently uses a number of Wheelabrator Group vibratory finishing machines from the Walther Trowal range for deburring and finishing Chain Side Plates and Rollers. However, the discharge from these machines includes a combination of abrasive media, an industrial liquid cleaning compound and a powder degreasant,.
Following an evaluation of Renold’s needs and a series of extensive trials, Wheelabrator suggested the Centrifugal Recirculatory Process Water System, which can effectively clean up to 2m3 of effluent per hour, removing solids and oils.
The installation of the machine has resulted in major savings for Renold across a number of key areas. Annual water usage has been significantly cut by approximately 3,882m3, together with a reduction in chemical usage leading to a decrease in site effluent treatment and discharge. It is predicted that the company will make an annual saving of $65,000 based on data from the first three months of use.
Chris Rogers, Production Engineer, Renold Chain, said: "This installation has enabled us to reduce our impact on the environment, as well as allowing us to make significant cost savings, which will increase the sustainability of the business in the long term."
* figures correct at the time of writing; Wheelabrator is a registered trademark of Wheelabrator Technologies, Inc.