Coil Processing
Tuesday | 04 October, 2011 | 1:14 pm

A thriving partnership

By Nick Wright

Red Bud installs a second high-speed multiblanking line for Steel Technologies

June 2011 - Navigating the nuances of international commerce while sustaining a customer base is a challenge for any business. Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, Ill., has provided its coil processing equipment overseas for decades. However, the company can't sit on its past laurels. Red Bud's attention to customer service is crucial for repeat business, says Dean Linders, vice president of sales and marketing at Red Bud. "You want to do everything you can to make sure that they are happy. Make sure the machine does what you say it is supposed to do," he says. "You do that so you hopefully reap the future benefits and become more of a partner with that customer."

In 2010, Red Bud affirmed its relationship with Steel Technologies de Mexico, which installed a Red Bud precision multiblanking line at its Ciudad Juarez processing center after noticing stronger demand for more blanks and sheets. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steel Technologiesprocesses flat-rolled steel to specific dimensions, tempers and finishes for metal applications such as appliances, automobiles, construction and agriculture. Such applications require high-quality tight tolerances and sheets free of scratches, marks or other inconsistencies, Linders says.

Prior to adding the line, Steel Technologies de Mexico had been supplying its Ciudad Juarez customer base from its Matamoros plant, more than 800 miles away, according to Carlos von Rossum G., president at Steel Technologies de Mexico. The company knew the advantages from a similar Red Bud multiblanking line at its Murfreesboro, Tenn., facility that had been producing similar materials. "We were aware of the capability of Red Bud to design and produce a multiblanking line with our requirements, as they have been a leader in this type of equipment in the industry," he says. "Our logistics are perfect to fit in with the steel supply chain of flat-rolled steel in the area."

A multiblanking line had been in the pipeline for both Tennessee and Ciudad Juarez, "it was just that the Tennessee plant came up with the requirement earlier," notes von Rossum.

Complementing the high-speed slitting line Red Bud installed three years before, the multiblanking line is capable of processing mild steel up to 0.135 in. (3.43 mm) thick or stainless up to 0.105 in. (2.7 mm) thick. Steel Technologies can turn out blanks with tolerances of +/- 0.005 in.

Watch a video of a similar Red Bud multiblanking line in action.

Red Bud kept efficiency at the forefront of the planning and installation, says Linders. Steel Technologies was "looking for a lot of efficiency in terms of a quick setup" and ease of integration at the 109,000-sq.-ft. service center in Juarez. The facility is slated for expansion to 218,000 sq.ft.

Just sixty days after the equipment arrived in Ciudad Juarez, the line was up and running, says Gabriel Rivera, general plant manager for Steel Technologies. "Red Bud designs are easy to install as they come pre-wired and pre-piped." For the operators, learning the multiblanking line translated over well from the slitting line, as the two overlapped some operations like feed leveling. "It was fairly easy to train the personnel to run this line, as we had experienced operators running our slitting line," says Rivera.

The slitting line features a dual turret recoiler, which allows slit coils to be removed while the line is recoiling on the other mandrel, as well as Red Bud's Tension Trac System and Camber Trac System, which adjust coil tension and slitter head position during slitting, respectively. Both the multiblanking and slitting lines are specified to process coils up to 60,000 lbs. (27,216 kg).

An expansive labyrinth that can move 275 ft. per minute of steel sheets 72 in. wide, Red Bud's multiblanking line features its Precision Grip Feed System and CNC Programmable Slitter, which is the key component behind the tight tolerances. Diminishing downtime, the CNC slitter can be set up in less than two minutes per cut. While the operator prepares the slitting head, the automatic strip divider positioning system sets up dividers in the strip stacker so it's ready to run blanks. The line also features a 6 Hi Cartridge Leveler, Red Bud's system that adjusts the proper flight position to produce flat strip as well as automatically adjusts its position if the material shape changes during the course of processing.

International presence Steel Technologies de Mexico's order for the line came in late 2009 amid poor economic conditions into which much business evaporated, Linders says. However, "this was the beginning of a nice steady stream of new orders," he says, pointing out that Mexico's industrial activity was picking up when it was slow in the United States. Even though Red Bud had an established relationship with Steel Technologies, "you don't ever take any order for granted whatsoever," Linders says. "But we were optimistic that we would come to an agreement on this line."

In 2010, between 70 and 80 percent of Red Bud's business came from international companies, up from about 50 percent in a normal year. With a global footprint-including clients in Russia, Australia and Germany-Red Bud encounters each country's own set of rules and logistical hurdles. "Regardless of where you go, everybody has their own rules," says Linders. Because of nuances in trucking laws, the U.S.-based trucking companies Red Bud contracts sometimes have to switch trailers or hand off equipment to another truck line at the Mexico border, he says.

There were no major hurdles when it came to purchasing and installing the line, according to Rivera. Equipment importation is virtually duty free under NAFTA, and the proximity to the United States allows quick installation and back-up support.

It's such support that sustains the confidence between Red Bud and Steel Technologies. Delivering customer service is crucial for cultivating further business. "Sometimes, it's not what a company does when things are going well," says Linders. "It's how you react when things sometimes don't go perfectly as you expect. They said, 'We know you guys step up to the plate if there is a problem and you are going to take care of us.'" MM



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