Prepping Your Plant

Consider these factors before making an equipment purchase
Stacey Freed
June 28, 2014
FEATURE ARTICLE | Methods & Techniques

Thinking of acquiring new machinery or equipment? Assuming you’ve determined the right piece of equipment that fits your productivity and manpower needs (see sidebar), the following list is a good starting point for determining the physical plant characteristics you should take into account before making your purchase.

Space Limitations

Work with your supplier to determine where you want your piece of equipment to go. Will the machinery fit in the space you hope to put it? Will there be ample room around it for maintenance? Will there be enough space to accommodate your machinery operators?
 

Docking

Can an enclosed van or truck back up to your receiving dock, if you have one? Are your bay doors high and wide enough to accommodate the machine upon delivery? Can you get a forklift to pull the machine through?
 
“We’ve had to unload in a parking lot because [there wasn’t] a proper dock level,” says Rob Macaulay, vice president of operations at Urban Machinery in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.
 
Once you know the equipment can make it inside the building, make sure there are no obstacles in its path and there is room between structural supports to get the machine to its final location on the floor.
 
Be prepared for the installation and make sure you can handle it, i.e., “When the equipment is brought in and staged, there will be crating, skids, packaging materials,” says Kevin Felix, vice president of operations for GED Integrated Solutions in Twinsburg, Ohio. “How will you handle that? Is there a Dumpster on site? Is there enough room to store everything in one location or to spread out all the pieces before [the equipment is] put together?”
 

Flooring

Pay attention to the condition of the floor. “We’ve installed machines in buildings with wooden floors, which can deteriorate over time,” Macaulay says. “Watch for un-level concrete floors, where under one of the leveling pads you’ve got three- or four-inch- thick steel plate and under the other one you’ve got almost nothing.”
 
The floor can be smooth or it might be pitted, Felix points out. “Will the equipment need to be leveled, and will you be able to level it over its span? You may need longer or shorter leveling screws,” he says. Think, too, about whether you can anchor into the floor in the chosen spot. “You may need to drill into the floor, and it makes a difference if it’s a three-inch or six-inch poured concrete pad.”
 
In addition, be aware of whether there is water, wet lines or radiant heat piping in the floor before drilling, and take into consideration if the piece of equipment needs to be near a drain.
 

Utilities

Know where your air and electrical connections are, says Macaulay. “Are you replacing a piece of equipment and using the existing service? If you’re running new lines, what’s your capacity? Do you have enough current supply? Is your compressor large enough to supply air?”
 
Make sure there is network availability if the system has to tie into that, Felix advises. “Our equipment generally ties into the existing IT infrastructure, and we give [the buyers] a location for a wire drop—for things like the Ethernet—where we’d need it on the equipment.”
 

Temperature

The factory temperature overall is important for the profile, the machinery, the final product and the workers, says Joe Sigmund, president of Rotox USA in Stow, Ohio. “Let’s say you cut pieces when they’re cold and weld when they’re warm; they won’t necessarily be the right size. It’s the same for sawing. The temperature is important for the vinyl and for the machinery, which can overheat in the summer and turn itself off.”
 
But be wary of where you place fans. “If you’re going to place a welder directly below a giant ceiling fan,” Macaulay points out, “you’ll have trouble keeping the plates hot all day long. It’s like putting a fan over your stove; you’re blowing the air off it and not allowing the element to heat properly.”
 

Flow/Layout

Consider the space around the machinery, Felix says. “Will there be enough space for the personnel needed to run it, space for the scrap generated? Think about how the coil coming in to roll a forming piece is going to get into the system, about the raw material coming in and the glass coming out. Is there cart space? Is it a safe environment with enough space for associates to move around? Is there space for maintenance, enough clearance for doors to open for servicing?”
 
The general layout of the line and the product flow is important, Macaulay says. “How do you have to load and unload the equipment? Is there enough room in front and behind it for access to bins and operators?”
 
In many instances, your considerations have to be common sense; e.g., ceiling height may dictate that you purchase a horizontal machine rather than a vertical one. And, although OSHA doesn’t have specific guidelines for the physical space in your plant, safety should be part of the equation for the type of equipment you purchase and where you place it on the plant floor.
 
      Model SMI-LP-V-Cut Automated Fabrication Saw from Stürtz Machinery
   
 GED’s Automated Tri-Lite Assembly System (ATLAS)
   
 AKS1900H Horizontal 4-Point Welder from Urban Machinery
   
 Multi-Head Welding Machine SMH from Rotox
 

 

Freed is a contributing writer for Window & Door.