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Fast Track – Alberta structural steel fabricator aims high with automation

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The Problem: Small shop, lack of skilled workers

The Solution: Build an automated beam processing facility

Fourteen years ago, Glenmore Fabricators Ltd. was a small job shop in southeast Calgary making handrails for buildings. Sales were around one million a year. By 2012, revenue was thirty times that amount, and the company was now a full-fledged fabricator with a reputation for structural steel. There was one problem: Glenmore had outgrown its facility. Faced with exponential growth, management decided to build the most technologically advanced shop the company could afford. “We were turning work away, so it was easy to justify the new facility,” says general manager Jason Gillen.

This wasn’t going to be the typical steel-framed box sitting on a massive slab of concrete. The people at Glenmore wanted what Gillen terms a high-flow shop, one with a high degree of automation. Where many companies put up a building and then fill it with equipment, Glenmore chose the equipment first and designed the structure to go around it. Gillen knew this would maximize throughput while minimizing material handling, and give Glenmore the ability to keep up with increasing customer demand in Calgary’s challenging labour market.

After months of equipment shopping, spec comparisons and a trip to a small town east of Amsterdam, Glenmore chose the MSI (Multi System Integration) beam processing system from Voortman Steel Machinery. Based in Rijssen, the Netherlands-based company offers a wide range of system options, but Glenmore settled on a 40 in. saw, a three-spindle drill line and a robotic coper, all linked together by a series of automated material handling units. Giles Young, sales manager for All Fabrication Machinery J.V., the Western Canada distributor for Voortman, says this is the first system of its kind in this area.

“The Voortman VB1050 saw and V630 drill sit in one bay; downstream from that area is the V808 coper,” Young explains. “All the machines are fed by a series of material rollers and cross feed drag dogs. There are two cross transfer loading zones on the in-feed side of the system, so the beams can go through the saw/drill or straight to the coper. From the out-feed side, work is sent to a pair of staging areas inside the shop, for pick up by a side load forklift or crane for transport to the welding stations. It can also go to a third cross transfer area for loading onto trucks if welding isn’t required. All in all, it’s pretty awesome machinery.”

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