Coil Processing
Wednesday | 30 April, 2014 | 1:32 pm

Cascadia adds coil capabilities

By J. Neiland Pennington

Above: The cut-to-length line produces dead-flat high quality sheets for numerous Cascadia customers who do laser welding.

State-of-the-art equipment is integral to growth of a regional service center in the Pacific Northwest

April 2014 - Options. That’s what new equipment in an expanding facility brings to the geographically diverse operations of Cascadia Metals. Its headquarters are in Delta, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver, but it has nine other distribution centers in central and western Canada and the U.S. Pacific Northwest, including British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, plus Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Its service center in Brandon, Manitoba, is the most recently expanded, with the intent to bring processed metal closer to its customers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and also the Upper Midwest in the U.S. Brandon supplies Cascadia’s branch network in Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Winnipeg.

“In our business, you make money by being more efficient,” says Jim Ritchie, Cascadia CEO. “We chose Brandon rather than building further into Alberta because we didn’t want to ship metal that far west and then ship it back. Brandon is a central location.

“Business is all about options,” Ritchie continues. “Brandon gives us an option to buy metal from eastern Canadian mills and U.S. mills in the Midwest.”

Brandon has two new processing lines, both by Herr-Voss Stamco, Callery, Pa. In 2013 a 72-inch cut-to-length line was commissioned, and most recently, a strand extensioner slitting line—also 72-inch—became operational. Both use Herr-Voss Stamco leveling technology, including a 19-roll five-high precision corrective leveler on the CTL line and a strand extensioner on the slitting line. The slitting line incorporates packaging equipment from Pomacon in Brunswick, Ohio. The Brandon facility also has a 5-year-old CTL line for hot-rolled pickled & oiled steel that Herr-Voss Stamco upgraded with a new precision corrective leveler.

Initially Cascadia was focusing on lighter gauge material, but the company chose to expand the slitting line from a 10 gauge strand extensioner line to a 1⁄4-inch line. With this change, Cascadia can run heavier gauges with the option of processing higher-strength steels. 

“The benefits of the strand extensioner revolve around the quality of the end product. What makes the strand extensioner process unique is that it allows the end user to improve the quality of the slit mults beyond that of the master coil,” says Tom Smrekar, customer solutions manager at Herr-Voss Stamco. “The strand extensioner also helps reduce burr edge from the slitting process, it provides even back tension across all the slit mults and produces even side walls.”


An efficient location demands efficient operation

In keeping with its emphasis on efficiency, the Brandon service center is located on a main line of the Canadian National Railway. All incoming metal is shipped by rail for unloading from a spur line that terminates inside the plant. Trucking metal in would double freight costs, company officials estimate. Outgoing shipments travel by rail and also by truck, both in Cascadia’s own fleet and by common carriers.

To take the most advantage of Brandon’s location and enhance its efficiency, Cascadia Metals gave Herr-Voss Stamco three requirements for the CTL and slitting lines. They must be accurate, consistent and easy to operate. Herr-Voss Stamco’s solution was two lines that, while performing distinctly different processes, are designed in a similar fashion. With the operating systems, operator interface and drive systems the same between both lines, operators could be easily trained on both in just a matter of days within commission.

“The precision leveler and strand extensioner are the heart of these lines,” says Smrekar. “They both include the very latest version of our Punch-N-Go leveler operating system. Without going into proprietary detail, this system allows the operators to set either machine with the punch of a button.”

Staging coils on the fly

A benefit of the CTL control system is the ability to remove and set up coils while the shear is still running.

“If you don’t want to run an entire coil, the line will rewind the coil and the operator can stage a new coil while the shear is still firing,” explains Phil Ritchie, general manager of the Brandon facility and a cousin of Jim Ritchie. He added that there is a 10-foot-deep looping pit in front of the shear, and the distance between the leveler and the shear is 75 to 100 feet. The pit supplies metal to the shear during the coil changeover. The shear slows as required to keep pace, but doesn’t stop.

Another advantage of the CTL line is the ability to inspect and rework metal. Phil Ritchie relates, “We have an inspection table following the leveler. We can stop the metal on the table, and if there are problems, we can run the strip back into the leveler and make corrections.”

The precision corrective leveler is a benefit to the numerous Cascadia Metals customers that perform laser welding. Jim Ritchie reports no problems with heat-related distortion with his company’s sheet products.

The control systems for all three Brandon lines are joined to Herr-Voss Stamco by an ethernet link that allows troubleshooting by long distance. Instead of dispatching engineers to Canada, Herr-Voss Stamco technicians can dial in adjustments to the Brandon lines from Callery, Pa.

“Where we have our other, larger hubs and large processing centers, we have lots of talented people who can work on our machinery,” says Jim Ritchie. “But not in Brandon. We like the immediate technical support, and we like the fact that Herr-Voss Stamco was willing to make turnkey installations, and be responsible for troubleshooting and diagnostics after the lines were installed and running.”

Both lines are easy to maintain and troubleshoot. All the line permissives are displayed at the main operator console, meaning the operator is not required to go to the drive cabinets. “Our philosophy is to provide the operator with the tools necessary to keep the line operating at all times,” says Smrekar.

The electrical system includes the latest PLCs and drive components. “Herr-Voss Stamco engineers designed and built the complete electrical and drive system, including all the software,” says Smrekar. “This gives our customers the best system and allows us to troubleshoot if necessary, without the need of a third party.”


Two-minute slitter changeovers

The recently commissioned slitting line employs shimless tooling from International Knife & Saw, Florence, S.C., along with the Herr-Voss Stamco quick-change injector slitter system. This system allows for offline head building quickly—with exchange times under 2 minutes. “The software package for the slitter knives gives the operator a print diagram for building the heads,” Phil Ritchie reports. “It’s a manual setup, but better suited to our needs than automated setup.”

Although the strand extensioner has eliminated the need for a deep looping pit for light gauge material, Cascadia has the option of running heavy gauge material into a 20-foot-deep pit. The maximum thickness capacity of the strand extensioner is 10-gauge, or 0.135 inches. The looping pit allows running strip up to 0.250-inch thickness using drag pads alone.

The Brandon facility is not the only one adding capacity. Cascadia is doubling the size of its operation in Longview, Wash., (north of Portland, Ore.) and enlarging the Delta headquarters. The new equipment in Brandon is a major factor in maintaining the company’s commitment to its customers.

“Cascadia Metals is a business that emphasizes service,” Jim Ritchie declares. “We have good machinery and we carry large inventories. Our goals are to improve quality, service and efficiency.

“In distribution, you want to be big, because if you’re not big, you’re not important. If you’re not important, people don’t call you. On the other hand, you don’t want to be so big that customers feel that they are dealing with a company that isn’t local, who doesn’t understand them and who isn’t tuned in to their needs. In our geographic markets, we’re a player; we’re important.” MM


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