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Coil Processing
Friday | 31 January, 2020 | 12:25 pm

Rock steady

Written by By Corinna Petry

Above: Calstrip Industries specializes in processing surface-critical applications.

Slitting, blanking and packaging lines built to supply high-strength materials efficiently and safely

January 2020 - “Automatic for the People,” released by REM in 1992, was one of the most worn-out CDs I ever owned. There is not a bad song on that record. Calstrip Industries, likewise, is humming along with its extensively automated new coil processing plant in Blytheville, Arkansas.

Calstrip was founded in 1939 near Los Angeles as a strip producer with narrow rolling mills and annealing furnaces. In 1999, the company entered a new era by building a new slitting and sheeting facility in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, which is near both El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico, says Calstrip Chief Operating Officer Ed Camden.

Calstrip expanded its Santa Teresa operation twice (in 2012 and 2014), adding new processing capacity each time. In 2016, the company extended its reach to cover the entire U.S.-Mexico border when it built a facility with slitting, sheeting and oscillate slitting capacity in Mission, Texas.

Most recently, Calstrip opened a new plant in November in Blytheville, Arkansas, adjacent to Nucor Steel.

At all its plants, Calstrip Industries handles carbon and stainless steel and aluminum from 0.008-inch through 0.25-inch thick, up to 72 inch wide. “Calstrip excels with surface-critical applications, including prepainted steel and aluminum,” Camden says.

The materials are shipped to manufacturers of HVAC, appliance and electrical equipment, lighting fixtures, industrial cabinetry, automotive and other industries.

“Calstrip is a particularly strong service partner where inventory management is required to support large programs with multiple parts. More than 90 percent of Calstrip’s shipments are made from JIT pre-cut inventory,” says Camden. 

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Braner/Loopco’s slitting line at Calstrip Blytheville processes high-strength bare, prepainted and galvanized steel.

Equipment specs

Calstrip Blytheville’s new Braner/Loopco slitting line is designed to process 30-ton high-strength bare, prepainted and galvanized steel as well as aluminum and stainless coils to 72 inches wide in gauges from 0.015 through 0.25 inch thick at 1,000 feet per minute, according to Braner President Chuck Damore.

Slit coils are packaged on an automatic packaging line able to handle slit coils from 1 inch through 24 inches wide, weighing up to 5 tons. Coils are automatically down-laid, strapped, sorted, packaged, weighed and stretch wrapped for shipment.     

The precision blanking line at Blytheville is designed to convert 30-ton bare, prepainted and galvanized steel coil as well as aluminum and stainless steel in gauges from 0.024 inch through 0.135 inch thick into sheet and multi-blanks to 72 inches wide, in lengths up to 144 inches. The blanking line consists of a Braner/Loopco CNC cassette leveler, quick-set multi-blank slitter, servo flying shear, PVC and paper interleaving, and a 5-ton automatic blank stacker.

Phase 1 of Calstrip’s Blytheville project includes 105,000 square feet of processing and warehouse space, “but future expansions will take the facility to 315,000 square feet on 23 acres,” says Camden.

“Rail siding with inside loading and unloading is available for both inbound and outbound shipments. Located near two large flat-rolled mills, the plant allows Calstrip to minimize inbound freight, providing the best possible value for our customers,” he says.

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KEVIN software prepares slitter tooling setups and verifies that actual gauge and slit width tolerances are within customer order specifications.

Machine control

A big get for Calstrip is automation, especially being able to link functions.

“Calstrip requested that the blanking, slitting and packaging lines be equipped with automation features that ensure product quality and enhance production efficiency and safety,” says Damore.

The slitting line was supplied with Braner/Loopco’s new KEVIN computer automation software, which receives production orders directly from Calstrip’s ERP system (Invera’s Stratix software). Based upon specific production orders, KEVIN software prepares slitter tooling setups, and verifies that actual gauge and slit width tolerances are within customer order specifications.

The automation includes: setting slitter knife clearance, setting line operating parameters, threading slit strips through the line, stopping the line at specified coil footage or coil diameter, programming slit coil dimensions and coil queue at the packaging line, and sorting coils onto shipping skids.

In addition, KEVIN prepares production reports that identify daily tons, footage, number of master coils and number of slit coils produced; that data is remotely available via cell phone or tablet, according to Damore.

The blanking line is similarly equipped with computer automation to minimize machine setup decisions such as leveler setup, line tension, operating speeds and parts per skid. 

“Calstrip requested that its blank inspection be accomplished on the fly with safe, hands-off removal of questionable quality blanks prior to stacking. The blanking line has no looping pits, no trenches and no elevated pads that can compromise safety and operating efficiency,” he notes.

Goals for Arkansas

The equipment at Calstrip Arkansas is designed to “meet all requirements of specific target customers and industries throughout the mid-South that purchase light-gauge, surface-critical AHSS products,” says Camden. “Linking the slitter, packaging line and multi-blanking line directly to our ERP system provides a level of accuracy, quality and efficiency” that he deems unprecedented.

The Arkansas plant is the result of due diligence and cooperation. “Immediately after completing a market study of mid-South prospective customers, Calstrip and Braner met to review equipment requirements. Three goals were established: 1. Meet as many customer requirements as possible with the first two pieces of equipment. 2. Identify inefficiencies in all Calstrip’s current operations and improve them with the design of the new equipment. 3. Employ the highest levels of technology and automation possible while keeping the machines simple to operate and maintain.” 

Braner visited Calstrip’s other operations “and we all talked about the challenges and opportunities for the new equipment at Calstrip Arkansas. The outcome of the collaborate effort is an equipment package that is second to none in the industry,” says Camden.

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Coils are automatically down-laid, strapped, sorted, packaged, weighed and stretch wrapped for shipment.

Training and support

In addition to Calstrip’s own extensive in-house safety and hazard awareness training, Braner technicians provide specialized individual operational, maintenance and safety training, employing a 300-point checklist specifically developed for slitting, packaging and blanking line crew training, according to Damore.

“Because coil equipment is commonly unique in equipment arrangement and capacities, much of the training is conducted hands-on over an extended period while referencing manuals provided with the equipment,” he says. 

When a client invests so much capital and effort in a new plant, the client expects wall-to-wall support. “Braner’s field service team comprises technicians and engineers that conduct on-site trouble-shooting, repair, modification and training to address any operational issues,” says Damore. 

“Factory technical support is also provided via machine internet connection that allows Braner technicians to remotely tune, diagnose and correct a machine problem.” In addition, Braner provides virtual in-plant support that employs audio and visual internet communication so that Braner technicians can remotely see and hear what might be occurring to instantly address an operational issue without time lost awaiting a service visit.

Regarding the return on investment, Camden predicts, “Calstrip’s customers will recognize the benefits for years to come.” MM

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