Material Handling
Friday | 25 October, 2013 | 8:07 am

Moving material in severe environments

By Modern Metals' staff

Built-to-last, severe duty front end loaders can increase reliability, reduce capital costs, and improve production

October 2013 - Wheel loaders and forklifts that work in severe environments typically have short life cycles. From mining to metal smelters to glass plants to fertilizer operations, extreme temperatures and corrosive elements take a heavy toll on machinery. In these types of facilities, especially those that run continuous multi-shift schedules, light-duty, commercial-grade material handling equipment wears out prematurely.

“If you need material handling equipment that will last and don’t want to keep taking it out of service to repair or replace it, look to severe-duty industrial equipment,” says Bill Barns, project manager at Langeloth Metallurgical Co., a large ferromolybdenum producer, “If it’s built to last like our severe-duty wheel loaders, you’ll put it to work and not worry about much other than routine maintenance.”

Durable equipment reduces costs

Lengthening the life of material handling equipment and increasing its reliability with severe-duty designs specifically intended for industrial use can reduce capital costs and improve production, eliminate premature equipment repair and replacement costs and minimize production downtime due to unscheduled equipment breakdown. 

“When a vendor brought some light-duty commercial loaders for us to try out, our operators looked at them and said, ‘They won’t last a week,’” Barns says. “The minute we saw them, we knew they would require excessive repair, and we can’t afford the downtime or early replacement.

The company relies on front-end loaders from Waldon Equipment “because they can take abuse and keep performing,” adds Barns. “We typically get about five to seven years of continuous 24/7 use out of them before we resell them for light-duty commercial work. They’re virtually indestructible and require little other than routine maintenance.”

At LMC’s Langeloth, Pa., facility, six multi-hearth furnaces called “roasters” can operate at temperatures up to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit to provide flexibility in processing various metal-bearing materials. To keep the plant operating, a fleet of wheel loaders must continuously scoop up concentrated mine ore and dump it into the feed hopper of the roasters.

Ordinary soil weights about 60 to 80 pounds per cubic foot. LMC’s ore weighs about 150 pounds per cubic foot, according to Barns. “With our heavy loads and continuous use, we’re putting more stress on the frames,” he says. “If we used light-duty commercial equipment, we would be breaking a lot of lift cylinders and main frames.”

“Our Waldon 4500B loaders have to feed the roasters continuously without fail,” says Barns. “Light-duty commercial equipment cannot reliably do that because they’re not intended for hard, 24/7 industrial use in confined areas.”

According to Barns, compared to typical commercial loaders, the equipment from Waldon has extra heavy-duty frames, 2-inch-thick articulating frame plates and a simple drive train—all which contribute to their longevity in tough environments.

“Our fleet of seven severe-duty loaders does the work of at least 10 to 12 light-duty commercial loaders,” Barns says.

In addition, space restrictions within the building, which was built almost a century ago, make it necessary to use compact, low-profile loaders that are capable of tight turns and able to fit into a maintenance elevator. 

“Since light-duty commercial loaders are typically made for outdoor use with higher cabs, bigger tires and bodies, many wouldn’t clear our fifth-floor ceiling or fit in a maintenance elevator without lengthy disassembly,” Barns says. “With our roasters’ feed bins in different positions, there’s also a need for better maneuverability than they can provide.”

Because the severe-duty loaders are low profile with articulated frames, they have more ceiling clearance and a lower center of gravity than typical light-duty commercial loaders or skid steers, which improves their turning radius and maneuverability, according to Barns. “The Waldon loaders put operators closer to what they’re scooping,” he says. “Since they steer like a car, they can articulate around corners and between columns with greater control and safety than typical joystick-style controls allow.”

Barns concludes that the choice between light-duty commercial equipment and severe-duty industrial equipment should be easy for production or operations managers to make because it all comes down to longevity and reliability. MM

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