Project foreman Paul Michels (L) and demolition expert Jason Ryan of O’Reilly Fabrication, Goodhue, Minn., work on the clean up of the Spectro Alloys furnace.
Timing is crucial in any successful business.
Spectro Alloys Corp., a low-cost and high-volume produced of aluminum, based in Rosemont, Minn., is no exception. When a breakdown occurs, a quick fix becomes vital.
Such was the case when one of the firm’s furnaces used to melt scrap became badly damaged. O’Reilly Fabrication and Welding Service was quickly tapped to clear the damaged furnace. Then timing became critical for the Goodhue, Minn.,-based contractor.
“Because of the loss of aluminum production,” said O’Reilly Fabrication and Welding Services CEO Jake O’Reilly, “we were required to get this done in the fastest time possible.”
That isn’t unusual for your average project, but the situation O’Reilly was facing was a little different.
The refractory lining of the furnace used to melt aluminum in the recycling process had failed, creating a molten mass that had solidified and needed to be removed before a new furnace could be built.
And that’s where things got tricky.
According to O’Reilly, during the recycling process a pump keeps liquid aluminum moving through the furnace and a hole in the furnace’s side allows the molten metal to flow into a mold. When the refractory inside the furnace failed, the aluminum got in contact with the steel plate on the floor.
“It ended up burning a hole through the floor, and all that aluminum leaked out,” O’Reilly said.
According to O’Reilly, a cavity underneath the floor, designed to provide cooling air to the area, then filled with the melted aluminum. The heat also melted the I-beams across the floor. Once it cooled, the aluminum was a solid mass.
Thrice Not Nice
In taking on the project, O’Reilly was faced with a triple challenge —removing the furnace, removing the hardened aluminum between the floor beams and removing the hardened aluminum in the air cavity.
“The only way to get that aluminum out was to rip the whole furnace out,” he said.
Again, something easier said than done. Trying to accomplish the task a traditional way with torches and manpower would use up costly time.
O’Reilly knew he needed a shear strong enough to cut through the furnace metal but small enough to fit into the tight workspace inside the furnace building.
With those conditions in mind, O’Reilly approached Brian Durfee, sales manager of Road Machinery and Supplies Co. (RMS), a Savage, Minn., company that rents and sells construction equipment, and asked how he might handle the situation.
“He came to me looking for ways we might have to help him get it [the furnace and the aluminum] cut and out of the building,” Durfee said. “He wasn’t sure how he was going to get it out.”
Durfee realized from the beginning that O’Reilly needed a special piece of equipment that could cut thick steel as well as rotate to get into tight corners.
He immediately thought of the new Genesis GXP440R shear, already dubbed the “440.” The shear, which has the cutting abilities usually found on a much larger machine, was introduced earlier this year, not long before O’Reilly took on the Spectro project.
The 440 was attached to a Komatsu PC300LC-08 excavator that provided the power and hydraulics for the Genesis to work.
“We represent both Komatsu and Genesis scrap and shearing equipment,” said Durfee. “We married the 300 with the Genesis to come up with the perfect tool for that particular application. Otherwise, it was just going to be with men and torches.”
The Genesis turned out to be an ideal piece of equipment for the job.
“O’Reilly told me, ’This thing is a beast!’” Durfee said. “He said it just grabbed everything he touched and cut it or pulled it apart. He was very impressed.”
“We just went in with that shear and started chopping,” said O’Reilly, who has 16 employees working on the project. “That shear was amazing. It would take you a day to cut that with a torch and you would have had spatters and sparks blowing back in your face.
“With that shear we went in and actually peeled the (furnace) steel off the aluminum, sheared that up and then we could shear the aluminum bars up. It has a very, very strong cutting ability for its size. Usually you need to have a machine almost double the size to get a shear that will generate the force that the 440 will.”
Using the shear, O’Reilly was able to remove the melted aluminum in between the beams in about three days.
“Without it, it would have taken an extra three to four weeks for sure,” said O’Reilly.
The Genesis shear O’Reilly used was the first dealer model “put into action” beyond demonstrations. On top of its power, size and maneuverability, the Genesis shear is a user-friendly piece of equipment, Durfee said.
“I was in awe watching O’Reilly just grab stuff and just pull it apart as if there was no effort,” he said. “You could tell it wasn’t his first rodeo.”
Not Done Yet
Cleaning the aluminum out of the pit was another big challenge, O’Reilly said.
“Basically that pit was 20 feet wide and about 50 feet long with about 24 inches of aluminum that solidified across that whole floor,” he said.
According to O’Reilly, the cavity was “completely full of aluminum” with solid bars of aluminum 34-feet (10.4 m) long, 10 in. (25.4 cm) thick and 18 in. (45.7 cm) wide.
“When we went in there was no way to get that aluminum out. I had a number of different people come out and look at it and they didn’t even want to touch the job,” he said. “That’s when we got in contact with ESAB.”
Jon Mench, territory sales manager of ESAB Welding and Cutting Products, recommended a special powder-cutting torch that he said could cut through the two-to-three feet of aluminum in the pit.
“The torch injects metal powder as it works,” O’Reilly said. “That oxides the aluminum as you cut it. It was well worth the money.
“We have done a great deal of work in a short amount of time with a number of companies coming together to make this project possible. Under normal circumstances this project would take eight months to a year to do.”
O’Reilly expects the project, which was begun in February, to wrap up early this month.
Cavalcade of Equipment
Other equipment used by O’Reilly Fabrication and Welding Services on the project includes a 53-ft. (16.1 m) step deck trailer, a Cobra end-dump, Freightliner semi-tractors, a Terex RT 665, a Gehl Dyna lift, a John Deere 325 skid steer, a Skytrack 8042, two Miller Big Blue 400P diesel welders, a Thermal Dynamics “Hog” diesel welder, a Miller 350 electric welder, a Thermal Dynamics Cutmaster 152 plasma cutter, a Terex light tower, ESAB torch, four ESAB miggy tracks and four Miller SuitCase feeders. O’Reilly used one Miggy Track to weld a 40-ft. (12.2 m) long weld and others on the floor and retrofitted another to use the plasma cutter on site.
Road Machinery & Supplies Co. was founded in Duluth, Minn., in 1926 by Michael M. Sill, a former salesman for Minneapolis Steel and Machinery Company.
Twin sons, Michael R. Sill and Mitchell J. Sill, entered the business in 1955 and the company expanded dramatically. RMS courted heavy equipment suppliers and by 1960 took on statewide representation of Clark wheel loaders, Blaw Knox asphalt pavers, and Link-Belt cranes and excavators.
RMS entered the truck equipment business in 1972 and expanded that operation in 1979 when they became the Midwest distributor for Telelect Products and other lines of truck mounted equipment in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa.
In 1980, Road Machinery took on representation of Komatsu, the second largest manufacturer of construction equipment in the world. Six years later, RMS started Aspen Equipment Co., following its acquisition of Airpower Equipment Corp. Aspen’s focus was on general equipment such as air compressors, light towers, chippers, and truck cranes.
The company entered the crushing and screening products through the acquisition of Lambert Machinery in 1995. The following year, RMS acquired the Bucyrus International and Demag accounts from Dom Ex, Inc. In 1997, RMS acquired Herman M. Brown Company, one of Iowa’s oldest and largest construction equipment distributor.
RMS serves the used parts needs of its customers through its Polar Parts division and the light and general equipment segment through its RMS Rentals subsidiary.
In 2003, RMS purchased a national trench shield marketing company called Atlanta Equipment. RMS also started a company focused in Florida and Dallas, Texas called U.S. Shoring & Equipment Co.
RMS has grown to become one of the largest Komatsu dealers in the U.S., with three offices in Minnesota and four offices serving the Iowa and Western Illinois markets.