Custom sideloader handles tube, pipe, obstacles
April 16, 2012
When Tioga Pipe Supply Co. Inc. built a new facility in Easton, Penn., it leveraged its 60 years in business to design its new building. It planned the new facility, 150,000 sq. ft. under roof and 10 acres of outdoor storage area, around the use of side-loading lift trucks. The only drawback was occasional damage to the fork trucks' guide rollers, which Combilift eliminated when it designed a set of adjustable guide rollers specifically for Tioga.
Long gone are the days when a service center could buy in bulk from a mill, sell in small quantities to fabricators and OEMs, and make enough money to stay in business. These days survival hinges on value-added services, and the more a company can offer, the better. Tioga Pipe Supply Co. Inc., Easton, Pa., knows this, so it also offers blasting, cutting, beveling, and threading.
Quality testing, either on-site or by outside testing services, includes positive material identification (PMI), chemical analysis, and metallography; ultrasonic testing (UT), magnetic particle (MP) testing, liquid penetrant (LP) testing, X-ray, and photomicrographs; and mechanical tests—hydrostatic, impact, and hardness testing, as well as bending and flattening evaluations. When the order is ready to be packaged, Tioga provides end-capping, wrapping, shrink wrapping; boxing, crating, and palletizing; military-specification packaging and preservation; and export packaging. It also offers same-day shipping via ground, air, or ocean.
It serves many industries, providing tube and pipe that run the gamut from common carbon steel and stainless steels to increasingly specialized items such as nickel alloys, power boiler tube, tubular products that meet military specifications (MIL-P, MIL-T, and MIL-DTL), and tube for nuclear power specifications for U.S. and international customers (ASME Section III, U.S. NRC 10 CFR 50 Appendix B, ANSI N45.2, ASME NQA-1, and CSA CAN3-Z299).
The company has 150,000 sq. ft. of indoor space and 10 acres of outdoor space, with 25,000 sq. ft. for value-added capabilities. Inevitably, it moves many products several times, from one of its storage areas to its value-added area to its testing area to its shipping dock.
“When you’re in the service center business, you’re in the material handling business,” said Operations Manager Richard Crowley.
Moving material from place to place doesn’t add value to a product, so it must be done as quickly and efficiently as possible. For Tioga, this is more critical now than ever; anticipating a busy year, the company has been adding inventory for months.
“We’re doing a large inventory build right now, to make sure we can support our customers,” Crowley said.
The bigger the product, the bigger the challenge, so when the company built a new location, it gave careful consideration to moving its biggest products, lengths up to 45 ft. and diameters up to 48 in. Using a narrow-aisle concept, it designed the aisles between the outdoor storage racks to be 9 ft. wide; indoors they are even narrower at 8 ft. 6 in. wide. The narrow aisles leave little room for error.
“We have less than 1 inch to play with on either side,” Crowley said.
The organization of the inventory was factored into the facility’s design.
“We set this up so that the large-diameter pipe, anything larger than 6 in., primarily is outside,” Crowley said. “The small-diameter material is inside, and in addition to that, all the stainless steel pipe is inside.” The company also planned the facility around the use of its sideloading lift trucks.
“We have five Combilifts, two with 8,000 lbs. of lift capacity, and three with 14,000 lbs. of capacity,” Crowley said. While the larger trucks are used mainly outdoors, handling the pipe with the largest diameters and thickest walls, the company designed the facility so both models are used indoors and outdoors.
The only problem Tioga encountered was occasional damage to the large truck’s guide rollers.
Because the indoor aisles are so narrow, Tioga’s trucks are equipped with guide rollers, and the indoor aisles are fitted out with metal guiderails to help keep the trucks centered as they travel down the aisles. The outdoor storage area doesn’t have guiderails, and on occasion the driver would veer slightly away from the center of the aisle and have a collision, often resulting in damage to one of the guide rollers. This resulted in two problems: Until the roller could be repaired, the truck was not available for indoor use, and when it was being repaired, it was out of service altogether.
When the truck manufacturer learned about the problem, it designed an adjustable guide roller. It developed a system that requires just a few seconds to move the guide roller up high enough that the driver doesn’t risk damaging it.
“The roller uses a cotter pin, which allows the driver to raise the guide roller about 3 inches,” Crowley said. The resolution eliminated damage to the guide rollers, increasing the truck’s uptime.