Case Study: Conveying Quality and Efficiency

April 1, 2001
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A new conveyor system has solved maintenance, efficiency and dust problems for Lapp Insulator’s LeRoy, N.Y., facility.

Samples of Lapp’s insulators for varying uses and capacities.
Founded in 1916, Lapp Insulator Co., headquartered in LeRoy, N.Y., has always extended its limits. One of the most progressive porcelain manufacturing plants in North America, it boasts a workcell production flow (using modular components that provide rapid reconfiguration) and state-of-the-art pug mills and kilns. It has a long history of product innovation and improvement and is a leader in quality high voltage insulators.

Several years ago, operation managers at the LeRoy production facility realized that the plant’s manufacturing efficiencies left something to be desired. The plant manufactures station and line post insulators and porcelain housings. Within the manufacturing process, approximately 60% of the clay log in a base ceramic cylinder is lathed off the molded insulator. These clay turnings are recycled and reprocessed—but the plant’s crew pump conveyors were inefficient and maintenance-intensive. Costs for replacement parts and upkeep were running approximately $20,000 per year, not including the losses for downtime. Additionally, the company had to empty the dust collectors with forklifts, causing dusting at the origination, along the transportation route and at the destination site.

Lapp began looking for a system that provided constant, consistent recycling to keep the manufacturing line running efficiently. As the company reviewed its product flow and revised its plant layout, it also realized that it needed to eliminate manual and forklift material handling of the dust collected by the air filtration equipment.

Six of these dense phase conveyors are installed under Lapp Insulators’ dust collection hoppers.

A Pneumatic Solution

After evaluating its options, Lapp replaced two of its screw pump conveyors with seven dense-phase, gravity-filled pneumatic conveyors*. One conveyor receives the clay turnings and returns them directly into the manufacturing process, while the other six, installed under the dust-collection hoppers, convey the dust back to the inventory storage silo for recycling. The conveyors are fitted with 6-in. inlets and convey in a 2.5-in. line at a rate of 3400 lbs per hour.

Lapp was impressed with the compact size and material handling capabilities of the new conveyors, but the overriding factor in their selection was their significantly reduced maintenance requirements. “The material we transport is a very abrasive material, and it’s tough on anything with a lot of moving parts,” said Tom Heaman, director of manufacturing engineering. “Our old system required its own compressors, and we were constantly having to replace and repair parts. In the new dense-phase systems, a couple of valves are really the only parts we have to worry about.”

Heaman decided to put the new conveyor through a trial run before making a final decision. “We tested one of the dense-phase conveyors for about six months,” Heaman said. “The savings in maintenance over that time period was significant enough to convince us to purchase the additional six conveyors.”

A Continuous Cycle

Lapp Insulator’s process is now a continuous cycle from extrusion to kiln with no cue areas. The new conveyors have enabled the company to double production, filling most orders in six weeks rather than the 10-12 weeks it took before the dense phase conveyors were installed.

Additionally, the environmental concerns of manually dumping the dust collectors have been eliminated, and working conditions have significantly improved.

The new system paid for itself within 12 to 18 months, and now that the equipment has been in place for more than five years, Lapp has experienced the benefits of a reliable, well-engineered system that performs consistently. Additionally, the major concern of equipment downtime with the screw pumps has been virtually eliminated, according to Heaman.

“Sometimes, something like a cleaning pad might get left in the wrong place and get dropped in, but the system is simple to dismantle and clean. It works so well, it’s been like gaining a full-time maintenance person,” Heaman said.

For More Information

For more information about the dense-phase conveyor system, contact Cyclonaire Corp., 2922 North Division Ave., P.O. Box 366, York, NE 68467; (402) 362-2000 or (800) 445-0730; fax (402) 362-2001; e-mail sales@cyclonaire.com; or visit http://www.cyclonaire.com.

*Supplied by Cyclonaire Corp., York, Neb.

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