If you have more work than you can handle, the ability to streamline jobs by eliminating secondary operations is a dream come true. Here’s a look at three companies who did it with the help of plasma.
Bollinger Shipyards is a 70-year-old shipbuilder whose customers include the U.S. Coast Guard. In total the company has delivered about 150 vessels to the Coast Guard during the past 30 years and is in the midst of fulfilling an order for 38 Cutters.
Keeping jobs on schedule is critical to ensuring the Bollinger symphony stays on key. Even a small hiccup can send a carefully planned project careening out of control, resulting in a missed delivery date, a ballooning budget, or both. To keep disruptions to a minimum, Bollinger employs a lean manufacturing methodology throughout its ISO-9001 facilities. At its 250-acre shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana, just one of many facilities dotting the Gulf Coast, Bollinger relies on several Hypertherm products—a HyPerformance® HPR260 plasma system, MAX200® conventional plasma, HyPrecision® 50 waterjet pump, and ProNest CAD/CAM nesting software to tie it all together. By upgrading its cutting system to Hypertherm, the company was able to eliminate secondary operations and bottlenecks, helping it stay on schedule.
“The speed of the cutting process and thru-put are very important to us. The cutting process needs to be quick, and at the same time, the cuts need to be precise and clean,” explains Dennis Fanguy, Vice President of Quality Management Systems. “The HyPerformance plasma is a real workhorse that’s allowed us to eliminate grinding and rework. Parts now come off the cutting bed ready to use and marked with part numbers.”
Houston’s Robishaw Engineering designs and manufactures modular steel pontoons or barges—called Flexifloats™—that float on top of water. These Flexifloats are made entirely out of carbon steel, steel that until recently has been cut using oxyfuel. Using a table equipped with four oxy torches, a machine operator would cut large 5 by 20 foot plate down to size two at a time. He’d then cut out holes for tube turns used to add a variety of attachments to the finished platforms, and if all went well, over the course of 11 business days, Robishaw would have 476 completed plates.
Back in the eighties when the oxy set-up was new, it worked well. But as the table aged and the cut quality of plasma improved, oxy started looking less and less attractive. Eventually increasing maintenance requirements and decreasing cut quality reached an unbearable level. The team just couldn’t get the system to cut straight anymore, and instead of cutting the round holes it needed, the oxy torches were cutting shapes that looked more like eggs.
After a quick plasma demonstration, Robishaw Engineering wound up ordering a Hypertherm HyPerformance HPR400XD system. Now work is done in half the time. In five or six days, Robishaw will cut up to 476 1/4-inch-thick 5 by 20 foot sheets. Cutting speed is one big reason for the increased productivity since Robishaw went from cutting 18 to 20 inches a minute on a good day to 200 inches a minute with plasma.
In addition to the time savings brought on by a speedier cutting process, Robishaw is saving on labor. The company no longer needs two people at the cutting table. That second person is now working downstream at a welding station helping to fabricate the increased number of plates coming off the table. Cut quality is also improved. Robishaw gets a more accurate cut with a straighter edge that makes fit up easier and faster. Holes are also more consistent thanks to Robishaw’s use of Hypertherm’s True Hole technology. The company estimates that technology alone is saving it a few days of production time every couple of weeks since a crew doesn’t have to go back and do clean-up work.
Natural Structures is an Oregon based family business that produces aquatic recreation products such as children’s water slides and splash parks. In addition, the company makes things like stainless steel fun slides, outdoor pavilions, benches, and bike racks.
As the company grew to include clients throughout the United States, Canada, and overseas, the owners were faced with the need to hold tighter tolerances. “We needed to change our process capabilities to go from a tolerance of a sixteenth of an inch to a few thousandths of an inch on a repeatable basis,” explains Jodie Hausotter.
Working through a local machinery reseller over a period of six to eight months, the Hausotter’s evaluated their cut process options and eventually settled on a HyPerformance® HPR400XD® plasma system due to its combination of speed and cut quality over a range of material types and thicknesses, along with Hypertherm’s Rotary Tube Pro software.
Now when the company processes a job, instead of measuring out tube, taking it to the saw operator, then taking it down to the fitter for layout and drilling, Natural Structures simply places the material on the machine and eliminates all those steps.
The process of cutting out holes is also much easier. Instead of using an ironworker to punch holes and then finishing them with a small hand grinder, the company uses Hypertherm’s True Hole® process so the bolts just drop right in. The company’s even been able to eliminate the need to etch layout marks, saying that one fitter can keep up with three welders.