Steel Services and Allied Industries, one of the largest fabricators of steel in South Africa, has been busy modernising its operations in the past few years.
Its approach has been that of a mix of smart investment in technologically advanced equipment, acquiring additional processing equipment, upgrades on existing machinery and innovative process and materials handling changes.
Steel Services and Allied Industries began its ambition to cut overhead costs and reduce the handling of materials throughout the fabrication process about five years ago. Ron Bartlett, a boilermaker, established the company in 1987 in the town of Carletonville, a gold-mining town in western Gauteng, South Africa. It is one of the richest gold producing areas in the world. At 3 749m, Western Deep Levels holds the record as the world’s deepest gold mine.
A Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine with 8-axis capabilities has recently been installed by First Cut
Situated close to these mining operations the company has been servicing this industry since its inception with a multitude of fabrication and structural steelwork projects and components. The construction industry also ranks highly amongst Steel Services and Allied Industries clients. Through the company’s upgrades it has seen new doors open, especially within the commercial and industrial sectors. With the number of steel processes now available to the company other fabricators are now also making use of the company’s services.
For a company with a broad reach and a large production facility to manage, modernising operations has been critical in the past few years to match both the needs of today and those of the future. The company has been very busy upgrading not just machinery on the shop floor, but also the technology they require to manage the flow of the work that goes through the facility.
An additional 4 200m² has also been added to the existing 11 000m² under roof. This new processing facility will in future be dedicated to plate processing, including cutting and rolling.
“When we began phase one of our upgrade we had reached a position of such inefficiency in our processing that it was a case of either upgrade and keep up with the technological advances, or continue to disappoint our clients with late deliveries. And we all know what that leads to. There has never been a question about our quality and service, though. Coupled with rising costs and dropping productivity levels we needed to address the situation,” said Kevin Harris, who has been with the company for nine years and is a director of Steel Services and Allied Industries.
One of the first investments Steel Services and Allied Industries made on its innovation journey was installing a Peddinghaus 3-axis drill line complete with two Peddinghaus bandsaws. The machine is designed for drilling and marking structural beams, flat stock, channel, rectangular tubing and angle
A rake arm weighing up to 120 tons being fabricated
“Our approach has resulted in many changes within the company, not just those that transpire by introducing the modern equipment and extra processes, but also a whole mindset change. As a result our efficiencies are up tremendously, we have more than doubled our capacity and we are now able to track all material and view what stage components are at. But more importantly we have not reduced our staff levels. The introduction of skills training has also had an impact on productivity and quality.”
One of the first investments Steel Services and Allied Industries made on its innovation journey was installing a Peddinghaus 3-axis drill line complete with two Peddinghaus bandsaws. The machine is designed for drilling and marking structural beams, flat stock, channel, rectangular tubing and angle. The machine consists of three drilling axes, with one spindle per axis. Each drill spindle has a five-station automatic tool changer that supplies the drill spindle with the required tools. The drill spindles can be programmed for any selected drill or drill combination to produce holes or layout marks at the desired locations.
That same year the company introduced a Peddinghaus HSFDB 2 500 plate processing system with the capacity to cut plate up to 75mm. The system is also capable of high speed drilling, tapping, marking and countersinking. The thermal contour cutting is done via oxy fuel or plasma. The bed size is 13 500mm by 2 500mm.
Also purchased from Peddinghaus was an Anglemaster-HD angle processing line and an inline PeddiBlast shot-blasting machine.
The CMM plate girder/beam welding line. The T-Master is a dedicated machine designed for the continuous production of welded T and H beams, either parallel or cambered
The PeddiBlast shot-blasting machine is also strategically incorporated into the material handling system
“Before processing any plate the material is passed through the inline shot-blasting machine to clear the surface of impurities. The reason we do this is because it is an extremely effective way to prepare a surface for down the line processes such as painting, coating and welding. Identification and layout marks stay intact despite the abrasive treatment that the material has endured,” explained Harris.
“Material handling can make or break a CNC system’s throughput capacity. Elimination of manually moving section sizes is critical when labour and safety are of utmost importance.”
“With the introduction of all the new CNC equipment we could not stop the efficiencies that we wanted to achieve so we also installed a materials roller-feed handling system.”
“The roller-feed handling system has automated the handling of structural sections involving plate, beams, channels, angles, square and/or rectangular tubes and flat bar by feeding material to our plate, drilling, coping machines and band saws.”
“The system helps with achieving a streamlined material feed into the production system and with expediting the removal of completed parts after production. This is beneficial, as the need to manually move parts around is eliminated.”
“The PeddiBlast shot-blasting machine is also strategically incorporated into the material handling system.”
“All of this equipment we introduced was designed to process structural, angle, flat stock and channel in minimal time therefore reducing costs and increasing throughput while at the same time completing more processes on one machine where possible.”
Plate girder/beam welding line
“No sooner had we finished installing all of this new equipment that we decided to purchase our CMM plate girder/beam welding line. The T-Master is a dedicated machine designed for the continuous production of welded T and H beams, either parallel or cambered.”
Steel Services & Allied Industries have invested in a Kinetic K4000XMC machine, which is a combination drilling and cutting machine that also mills, taps, counter bores, marks your components and bevels your metal all in one operation without having to move your material to another machine. The machine was installed by Talmac Machine Tools
The Kinetic K4000XMC machine is powered by a Hypertherm HyPerformance Plasma HPH 400XD system
“The T-Master operates with the web in a vertical position. No tack welding is required, except at the leading edge, after the web has been aligned on the center of the flange. Initially the web and the first flange are fed into the T-Master. The welding is then carried out simultaneously from both sides of the web over the full length of the beam. After completion of the first flange welding, the section is turned through 180° and the alignment and welding operation is repeated with the second flange.”
“The big advantage is that the flange is straightened during the welding process to rectify any angular distortion caused by welding.”
“In 2015 we began planning phase two of our upgrades and investment in new equipment that would give us a wider scope of processes to complete the projects that we had won contracts for and had previously manufactured. These included headgears, shafts, buntons, guides, cages, penthouses, towers, winder house and compressor house buildings, silos steel and surface, and underground transfer conveyors. More recently we have manufactured rake arms for thickening processing on the mines as well as holding tanks in various sizes.”
Cutting Automation: The first step – a Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine with 8-axis capabilities
“One of the first investments we made was in a Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine with 8-axis capabilities. The machine makes it possible for the operator to cut any 3-D shape possible and mark all four sides of a structural steel beam. The machine has an automatic loading system and a positioning speed of 42m/min. The working width inside it is 1 250mm and the height is 500mm.”
The Kinetic K4000XMC machine has been supplied with a patented coolant collection and recycling system, and also removes chips from the top of the plate. This allows Steel Services & Allied Industries to separate the chips from the coolant and then recycle the coolant
Steel Services & Allied Industries have added a pipe profiling attachment to the Kinetic K4000XMC machine to give them flexibility in cutting various profiles
“The Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine is equipped with the agile Panasonic TL-1800G3 coping robot. Due to the fact that Voortman has added two extra axes on top of the six axes of the Panasonic robot itself the machine has a very wide reach. This new robot is lighter and has more accurate encoders for higher accuracy and better cutting quality. Furthermore the base frame of the Voortman V808 has been redesigned. The robot is no longer mounted in the back of the cabin but in the front. Besides this, the top beam where the robot is mounted is even more rigid than before, which reduces vibrations to a minimum. During cutting, the robot is now programmed to always position itself as close to the top beam as possible, this again results in better cutting quality.”
Extensive hole performance
“The Voortman V808 offers advanced integration with high definition plasma cutting and high quality bolt hole cutting with the Voortman Xtensive Hole Performance. Holes cut with Xtensive Hole Performance (thickness versus diameter 1:1 or less) comply with taper tolerances as defined in the EN 1090-2 and AISC.”
“With the Voortman V808, we can also scribe, cut holes as we require, and do all the coping. It has made a big difference in how we handle steel. We bring in more full lengths, which means we can stock steel rather than bring it in at the eleventh hour to get it processed. Using the scribing function has really helped us with up time, so overall it has had a very positive impact on our operation.”
“We have not taken out the 3-axis drilling machine as some clients still prefer not to have the possibility of thermal distortion.”
Kinetic K4000XMC – A heavy duty combination machine for performing machining operations and precision plasma or flame cutting. This enables parts to be finished in one set-up with no jigging or work holding devices necessary
“In the machining industry the emphasis has been on manufacturing and developing machines that offer more than one process in one operation, which eliminates the need to move WIP from machine to machine. It is no different in the structural steel processing industry and OEMs of this type of equipment have been offering these solutions for some time as well.”
“But to find a combination machine that does machining operations and precision plasma or flame cutting and drilling operations as well, is unique.”
The Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine is equipped with the agile Panasonic TL-1800G3 coping robot
The new Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine with 8-axis capabilities allows the operator to cut any 3-D shape possible and mark all four sides of a structural steel beam. The machine has an automatic loading system and a positioning speed of 42m/min. The working width inside it is 1 250mm and the height is 500mm
“We have invested in a Kinetic K4000XMC machine, which is a combination drilling and cutting machine that also mills, taps, counter bores, marks your components and bevels your metal all in one operation without having to move your material to another machine. Additionally we have added a pipe profiling attachment to the machine, which will give us even more flexibility.”
“Having duel plasma/oxy cutting and CNC operations all in one machine will allow us to significantly improve our process savings in terms of the delivery time. During normal processing you would cut your parts and then send them to a machining center for secondary operations. With our machine, we start with a sheet of steel, machine all the holes first and then we burn the profiles. It’s finished in one operation.”
“The high-pressure through tool coolant function on the machining side allows us to drill holes up to 50mm, and with a 20kW motor and 24 station tool carousel we have the flexibility. The bed size is 26m by 2.5m so we can load large sheets. We have also incorporated the Hypertherm True Hole Technology for superior hole quality.”
Wet and dry cutting table with automatic cleaning
“The machine also features a unique wet and dry cutting table with automatic cleaning. This system allows high-pressure through tool coolant to be used with the spindle, and dry fume extraction for thermal cutting. The system collects dross in drawers under the table. Through spindle coolant is essential for drilling and allows for faster speeds and longer tool life.”
Some examples of various components that can now be cut on the Voortman V808 robotic thermal cutting machine
A Voortman V550, specially designed for punching and shearing both flat and angle profiles, has recently been installed
“Kinetic has a patented coolant collection and recycling system, and also removes chips from the top of the plate. This allows us to separate the chips from the coolant and then recycle the coolant. It is another unique feature of the machine that also results in savings for us.”
“The Kinetic K4000XMC, which is only the second machine to be installed in South Africa, has been setup in the new facility, which as we have said will be dedicated to plate processing. We have also acquired a plate roller that can roll plate up to 25mm.”
World’s tallest steel headgear
“We have a varied client base and in our type of business you have to work very closely with the customer’s architects, engineers, designers and project teams.”
“One recent project that we were very proud of was the manufacture and erection of a headgear at Gold Fields’ South Deep Twin Shafts complex, near Westonaria.”
The Peddinghaus Anglemaster-HD angle processing line
At 87 metres high, the steel headgear was at the time the tallest in the southern hemisphere. The new A-Frame headgear has been installed over the existing ventilation shaft at South Deep, in the Witwatersrand Basin. The steel headgear weighs in at 1 900 tons
“The headgear – the hoisting mechanism on top of a mineshaft – won the Mining and Industrials category of the national Southern African Institute of Steel Construction (SAISC) Awards. At the time the 1 900-ton structure was the world’s tallest steel headgear, standing at 87 metres tall.”
“We are currently manufacturing another headgear, our third for the same copper mining client in Zambia, and the 70 metre tall, 1 400-ton structure will take us a year to complete.”
“Our aim is to be able to process all of the steel and plate work that is used to manufacture a complete structure, before assembly or erection on site. This includes detailing, fabrication, welding, cleaning, procurement, sandblasting, painting, galvanising, pre-assembly and delivery of the various steel products and structures,” concluded Harris.
For further details contact Steel Services and Allied Industries on TEL: 018 787 2059 or visit www.steelservices.co.za