Ceramic Industry

Improving the Daily Grind

September 1, 2004
Endicott Clay has significantly reduced the maintenance requirements in its grinding operation with the help of a unique system designed by Innovative Processing Solutions, LLC



Like most successful companies, Endicott Clay Products Co. of Fairbury, Neb., doesn't take anything for granted. The company continually strives to make improvements-in products, quality and processes-that help it maintain a competitive edge. Endicott produces residential and commercial brick-about 75 million standard brick equivalents per year-and also manufactures extruded split floor and wall tile through Endicott Tile Ltd. When the company started noticing increased maintenance issues in its grinding room, it decided to take action to alleviate those problems and improve the overall grinding process.

The First Step

By the late 1990s, Endicott's 30-year-old hammer mill was requiring an ever-increasing amount of maintenance, says Dean Cerny, production manager. While its performance in operation was still acceptable, the unit's hammers needed to be replaced more frequently, which caused increased downtime. Instead of just replacing the hammer mill, Cerny realized Endicott had the opportunity to update its entire grinding operation. "We wanted to be able to grind our crushed brick separately, and we wanted a scalping screen to take off any clay that was the right consistency before it went through the impactor," he says.

With those two goals in mind, Endicott built a new grinding plant in 2000. The company purchased a new Grand SlamTM impactor from Stedman; a Simplicity scalping screen, which removes the fines before the material goes to the Grand Slam; and Deister screens that grade the material down to the 8-mesh size Endicott uses for its brick production. According to Cerny, the new operation benefited from increased productivity in addition to greatly reduced maintenance. "Since we could grind brick chips separately and scalp off the fines that were already there, that increased the speed at which we could grind. Plus, we get a lot more life out of the bars in the Grand Slam than we were getting from the hammers," he says.

The previous grinding facility, including the old hammer mill, is still used in tile production and as a backup for brick. "We use the old grinding plant every day in grinding clay and grog for our tile production," Cerny says. "It isn't used much in brick anymore, but it's a backup system so we can use it if we have a maintenance problem. We have two systems so we can be sure we always have clay."

Additional Obstacles

The new plant wasn't without its problems, however. Endicott had purchased the equipment for its new facility from another company that was going out of business. The production staff installed the system by themselves, and some of the pieces of the puzzle didn't quite fit. "When we were feeding the clay to the three Deister screens, the clay was dropping probably about five feet from the conveyor to the screen deck, and that was quite a drop," explains Cerny. "The clay was getting a lot of speed up and the screens weren't doing an acceptable job of screening the clay because the material was going so fast over them and hitting them so hard."

In addition, the material landed on the screens in one spot, instead of being spread out over the four-foot width of each screen. As a result of these problems, screen efficiency and maintenance were becoming an increasing concern. "We were wearing the screens very, very rapidly-we'd have to change them every two to three weeks, something we'd never had to do before," says Cerny.

The company also used a plow system to push the clay off of the conveyor belt. "That's a terribly high-maintenance item," says Cerny. "We were having to replace the rubber edge on the plows about every week."

Figure 1. The new system incorporates a stationary trip feeder and three roller belt feeders.

A New Approach

Cerny recently turned to Innovative Processing Solutions, LLC, of Louisville, Ky., for help. Innovative designed a solution that incorporates a stationary trip conveyor (patent pending) and three roller belt feeders (Figure 1). The stationary tripper features multiple conveyor bends in combination with splitter chutes. Material fed to the tripper climbs to the first bend and is split by a sweep-style splitter gate, which has the capability to direct any portion or all of the material entering the chute either back onto the next leg of the tripper or off to the side for screen feeding. Each subsequent leg of the tripper performs the same function above each screen, with the final leg feeding all of the remaining material to the last screen.

By adjusting the gates at each bend, Endicott can balance the feed to each screen. Since the gates are made of steel and split the material while it's falling through the chute, the constant adjustment and belt damage associated with belt plows is completely eliminated.

The system also incorporates a roller belt feeder for each of the three screens. Material directed from the tripper's splitter chute is fed onto a 48-in.-wide roller belt feeder above each screen, running significantly slower than the tripper itself. The momentum that had been so damaging to the screen cloth in the previous system is deadened, and the slower-moving belt, in combination with a radial gate, spreads the material across the feeder and introduces the material in a slow cascade almost the entire width of the screen.

Cerny has been extremely pleased with the results. "The saved maintenance time is the biggest benefit," he says. "We can get triple the life out of the screens. Changing the screens is a four-hour job. Having to do that only once every two to three months is quite a savings in time."

Future Improvements

What's next for this company that tirelessly seeks perfection? Endicott is currently working with Innovative Processing to upgrade its clay distribution system. "After we move the clay from our grinding facility, we have to distribute it to eight different silos," says Cerny. "We're utilizing the same plow system, so of course we have high maintenance, and it's limiting the speed at which we can grind."

Cerny expects that the two additional stationary tripper systems Innovative is supplying will enable Endicott to increase its clay distribution speed from 60 to around 75-80 tons per hour. "We'll be able to process the same amount of material faster," he says.

For more information about Endicott Clay, contact the company at P.O. Box 17, Fairbury, NE 68352; (402) 729-3315; e-mail endicott@endicott.com ; or visit http://www.endicott.com .

For more information about the Grand Slam impactor, contact Stedman at 129 Franklin St., P.O. Box 299, Aurora, IN 47001; (800) 262-5401 or (812) 926-0038; fax (812) 926-3482; e-mail sales@stedman-machine.com ; or visit http://www.stedman-machine.com .

For more information about stationary trip conveyors and roller belt feeders, contact Innovative Processing Solutions, LLC, 2108 Plantside Dr., Suite 100, Louisville, KY 40299; (877) 926-0040, fax (502) 499-6818; or visit http://www.innovative-processing.com .

Learning & Networking Opportunities

Industry exhibitions and conferences provide a great opportunity to expand our knowledge, find solutions to manufacturing problems, and meet new people who can provide insights into our materials and processes-or connect us to future opportunities. Following are the highlights of two upcoming events geared specifically toward the brick and structural clay industry.

The Claytech Exhibit, Tecnargilla 2004

Claytech, an exhibit focused exclusively on technologies for the brick and structural clay industry, will be a major new component of Tecnargilla 2004 in Rimini, Italy, October 1-5. Although the brick and tile sector has always been present at Tecnargilla, it will enjoy even greater visibility and emphasis this year in a separate 10,000-square meter (~2.5 acres) space in the new halls A7-C7. More than 100 suppliers from around the world will take part in the exhibition.

A number of special events have also been scheduled specifically for brick and tile producers. A conference on "Clay Products in Europe: The Brick and Tile Industry and European Process, Product and Project Standards," organized by ANDIL-Assolaterizi (the Italian brick and tile manufacturers' association) and ACIMAC (the Italian ceramic machinery manufacturers' association), will be held on Friday, October 1, and will discuss updates in environmental standards that affect brick and tile as a finished product. The seminar will address EC marking of clay products, the IPPC Directive and BAT, as well as seismic standards and energy savings.

A conference on "Edge-Ground Wall Blocks: An Advanced Product," also organized by ANDIL-Assolaterizi, will be held Monday, October 4, and will discuss a new construction system for load-bearing masonry. The system, which is based on the use of pre-ground, vertically engaging blocks with thinset mortar or adhesive installation, is designed to drastically reduce mortar usage and masonry installation times. Over the past few years, the technique has been successfully adopted in several countries, including Germany, Austria, France and the UK, where it reportedly has quickly won large shares of the market.

Guided tours of five clay product factories have also been organized and will depart from the exhibition center during the show. A pre-registration form is available on the Tecnargilla website, and visitors can also register at the information desks at the exhibition. For more information, visit http://www.tecnargilla.it .

International Brick Plant Operator's Forum

Every year, brick and structural clay plant managers, supervisors and other industry personnel gather in Clemson, S.C., to share ideas and information at the International Brick Plant Operator's Forum. This year, the forum will be held October 3-6 and will celebrate its 50th anniversary with the theme "Productivity Improvements in Brick Manufacturing."

A special session on Monday, October 4, will celebrate the forum's history. The remainder of the meeting will feature sessions on "Innovation, Productivity and Improvements," "BIA and Best Practices," "New Plants and Innovation" and "Manufacturing."

As at past forums, a variety of activities will be held each evening to promote networking. The hospitality suites will begin with registration at The Conference Center on Sunday, October 3; the Steak Cookout will be held at the Owen Pavilion of The Conference Center on Monday, October 4; and the Reception and Buffet Dinner will be held at the Owen Pavilion on Tuesday, October 5. For more information, visit http://www.brickandtile.org .