January 2011 - One hundred-plus years in business requires a company to adapt to customers’ changing needs. Founded by John Robinson in 1908, Norfolk Iron & Metal Co., Norfolk, Neb., is built upon quality and quantity of inventory. The company started as Norfolk Hide & Metal Co., distributing animal hides, coal, tires and scrap metal. After World War II, the company eliminated nonmetal commodities from its inventory, and today, third-generation president Richard Robinson continues to emphasize technology and service.
"We’re a general-line service center," Robinson says. "We deliver from Canada through Oklahoma from the Rocky Mountains to the center of Illinois."
The company offers a full line of carbon steel that meets ISO and ASTM standards. It has more than a half-million square feet of warehouse space that houses beams, tubing, squares, bar products, structural steel, sheet and plate--ready and waiting for customer orders.
Fast, flat steel
Meeting customers’ requirements is a top priority at Norfolk Iron. As a result, this summer the company expanded its processing capabilities by commissioning a 3/4-inch-by-96-inch by 100,000-pounds-per-square-inch temper pass cut-to-length line from Delta Brands Inc., Irving, Texas, a company that has specialized in the design and manufacture of flat-rolled metal processing equipment for more than 40 years.
Norfolk Iron’s new line handles increasing customer requests for laser-quality flat sheet steel. It can process ultra-high-strength steel and produce flat laser-quality steel plate, incorporating DBI’s rotary shear, which can cut material on the fly.
According to a press release from DBI, "The temper mill cut-to-length line with rotary shear meets tight length, thickness and flatness tolerances while reducing the maintenance costs associated with other types of moving shears. The temper mill cut-to-length process provides a uniform, near-perfect flatness due to its continuous process. The line’s rotary shear can produce up to five coils per hour, increasing production by as much as 50 percent."
"We identified an industry need for a rotary shear that could cut heavy-gauge steel and recognized what an advantage it would be to our customers," says Joseph Savariego, DBI vice president. "At the time, the equipment didn’t exist, and the majority of manufacturers around the world felt it was simply not possible to use a rotary shear to cut 0.25 inch or 6 millimeter thick, much less thicker material. DBI’s team developed, designed and manufactured a rotary shear with the capability to cut 0.375-inch or 8-millimeter heavy plate. Since the introduction of our rotary shear in 1998, DBI has perfected its design and today is the only manufacturer to successfully install its rotary shears at facilities around the world. Eighteen rotary shears are operational in new lines and as retrofits. The equipment can cut materials up to 1 inch thick and 102 inches wide."
The shear also has the benefit of minimal maintenance, which is a must when working under strict customer timelines.
"With 18 rotary shears in operation, DBI’s rotary shear has not contributed to any significant downtime on the line," Savariego says. "Unlike traditional dynamic shears, such as flying or rocking shears, which require regular maintenance and parts replacement, the DBI rotary shear was designed without flywheels, clutches or brakes. As a result, maintenance is minimal, requiring little more than a change of blades."
A complete package
DBI is capable of designing and manufacturing processing solutions tailored to customers’ individual requirements, combining innovation, application engineering and integrated automation.
"The first step is to listen to the customer," Savariego says. "It’s critical to understand not only what the customer needs but also what they want. We don’t sell packaged solutions. Once we have a good understanding of the customer’s requirements and the market they’re targeting, our team designs a line that can achieve the necessary results."
"Unlike other lines in the industry, which typically use components from different manufacturers, DBI designed and manufactured the entire Norfolk line," Savariego says. "This gives customers sole-source responsibility, which facilitates integration of components, installation and operation of the line as well as aftermarket support."
"We designed the line based on our current and future leveling needs," Robinson says. "We wanted to be able to process more high-strength steels and heavier steels and to keep the precision on the whole spectrum. A very wide operating envelope was important to us."
Norfolk researched several types of processes and ultimately decided on temper pass leveling because of its stress-reduction capabilities. "We think temper pass leveling is the future of ultra-flat steel," Robinson says. "Everybody wants ultra-flat. This is the only process that alters the grain structure of the steel."
According to Robinson, Norfolk Iron’s DBI line includes a "four-high temper mill with outboard roll bending, which allows for extreme precision when shaping the rolls to get the proper flatness based on the coil needs. We’ve coupled that with two levelers: a heavy plate leveler and a lighter leveler. As a result, we have a huge window that we can operate within. By having two levelers in conjunction with our four-high mill, we can do everything through 3/4-inch, high-strength, 8-foot-wide material, down to much lighter gauges. We want to be able to deal with as many customers as possible."
"Due to the steady increase in the use of lasers and other downstream processes like shearing and forming, users of steel sheets and plates have become very stringent in their specifications for high-quality, ultra-flat steel," Savariego says. "If steel is cut and doesn’t retain flatness, it has to be reprocessed or scrapped. This is a very competitive business. Norfolk was looking for an equipment solution that would give them an edge in the marketplace and allow them to provide high-quality, ultra-flat ‘stay flat’ steel in a variety of gauges. The ability to provide the flattest products facilitates downstream fabrication and helps reduce the costs associated with secondary processes."
"The product is coming out very flat," Robinson says. "On some levelers, the material springs back after adding the heat of processing, but we’re not having that problem. We’re very responsive to our customers’ needs, and they’re quite happy so far."
Norfolk Iron also is satisfied with the line. "The line has over-performed our expectations," Robinson says. "We’re turning out more steel per hour than we thought we could." MM