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Stamping

Firm foundation

By Lynn Stanley

Above: E&E’s new servo press is built to produce parts for automotive OEMs within very close tolerances—precision that depends on a sound foundation for optimal performance.

Manufacturer puts press production on good footing

December 2014 - When a smaller company achieves big business status, most see it as a merit badge for success earned with sweat, sacrifice and more than a few sleepless nights. Growth is healthy, but it can sometimes challenge an organization to hold on to the very attributes that fueled its expansion. In particular, the personal touch customers crave. 

Not so with 24-year-old Delta Industrial. When the Chesterfield, Michigan, contractor wins an installation job, owner and President Bob Grucz and his son, Vice President Matt Grucz, are boots on the ground, equipped with yardstick and tape measure. 

“Bob and Matt are very careful about meeting with you face-to-face. They make sure you feel you have the company’s attention from the top down,” says Dan Scherle, General Manager for E&E Manufacturing of TN LLC. The Athens, Tennessee-based tier one supplier provides stamped and welded components to global automakers along with series production and tooling solutions. 

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E&E’s parent in Plymouth, Michigan, produces stamped structures and welded assemblies, especially engineered fastening and joining solutions for tier one, tier two and original equipment manufacturers in the automotive, heavy truck, military and other industries.

Earlier this year E&E commissioned the first fully integrated Schuler servo press to be delivered in North America. The company turned to Delta Industrial for the foundation, press pit and installation work. 

Experience matters

“It really was an easy decision because of the long history between E&E and Delta Industrial,” says Scherle. “I’ve worked with Bob and Matt for more than a decade on multiple large press foundations. They provide a turnkey installation that goes well beyond just setting up the press.”

Delta Industrial’s tailored design/build plans for machine foundations and press pits, steel design fabrication and construction, concrete flatwork and industrial contracting, are supported by a staff of skilled engineers and certified welders and a full complement of construction equipment. 

Taking on E&E’s 1,405-ton Schuler press installation required meticulous attention to detail before the first protective curtain was hung or the first section of flooring removed. Delta Industrial prepared CAD drawings based on its executives’ walk-through, E&E’s plant layout schematics and its workflow to give the manufacturer multiple options, each balancing project cost with optimal parts production. 

“Their field experience and knowledge helps us avoid making a bad decision,” says Scherle. “That’s what makes the relationship a partnership.”

Determining what it takes to complete a multimillion dollar foundation on time is also part of Delta Industrial’s preplanning activity. In E&E’s case, one key consideration was the nearby presence of limestone. “Limestone is prevalent in Tennessee, along with the presence of underground mountains,” explains Matt Grucz. “When we located the limestone on E&E’s property, we found it was encroaching on our projected foundation location and final pit depth. We knew some demolition would be required. 

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“We brought in a geologist to determine if there was an underground river or caverns to ensure that once we dug the pit, the foundation would hold and remain stable,” he continues. “Those calculations had to be included in the initial planning to ensure the project came in on time.”

For E&E, the capital equipment investment is part of a strategic growth plan it developed with transplant German carmakers and “the identification those OEMs have with Schuler [press equipment],” Scherle says. “Timing was critical for us from a production standpoint. That’s another reason we chose Delta Industrial. They get the fact that when you say it has to be finished in April—it’s finished in April. It’s not like a highway project that has a completion date, but just goes on and on. They protected the overall scope of the project and got it done without any cost creep. That’s a huge value.”

Redesign

To accommodate the new press, Delta Industrial had to eliminate certain building and crane support columns, then engineer and install a completely different support system to create an opening for the machine. The contractor had 12 weeks to complete the job, and had to perform the work without disrupting E&E’s production schedule. 

E&E had to crate and ship finished orders adjacent to the construction zone, says Matt Grucz. “Construction isn’t always clean but we’ve refined our methods to keep customers’ parts contamination free.” Delta Industrial hung protective curtains to seal off E&E’s production floor from the project. “Details like these may not seem important to other construction companies, but we take great pains to ensure every aspect of a project is addressed,” he adds.

Site preparation began with removing flooring. Because ground soil is not conducive to supporting the foundation and the press, Delta Industrial excavated a 20-ft.-deep pit, and then mechanically drove steel I-beams another 40 ft. down until the beams hit bedrock. 

Delta Industrial then poured foundation piers and walls. Once the concrete cured, the contractor machined hardened steel soleplates and set them in place. 

“Schuler technicians were amazed, remarking several times on the quality of the foundation,” Scherle says. “Press fitment was precise. Nothing had to be modified. Everything fit exactly as required. The soleplates support the weight of the press, which is in excess of 750,000 lbs. Schuler was able to position the press without the need for balancing stock to make up for uneven height. That’s pretty incredible.”

Before foundation piers or walls are poured, measurements are checked with a total station, an optical instrument that is accurate to within 3 mm. “It’s part of the check and balance system we use throughout a project,” Matt Grucz says. “We also pay a lot of attention to fit and finish, making sure everything looks nice.”

The foundation, installed with such a high degree of accuracy, “saved us a lot of time when it came to total assembly of the press.”

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Solid start

Production on the new servo press began in July. Built to produce parts with very close tolerances, the press stamps upper body structural components from hot-rolled and cold-rolled steel sheet. It uses progressive and transfer tooling and can shear. Yet optimal press production ultimately depends on a sound foundation.

“As a manufacturer, everything starts with a good foundation,” Scherle says. “It sounds cliché but it’s the best indication of the type of work Delta Industrial does.”

Matt Grucz, who started pouring concrete when he was just 7 years old, says the family-owned company’s mantra hasn’t changed. “The customer always comes first,” he says. “Dan [Scherle] has my cell number and he knows he can call me at 1 a.m. if there is a problem.”

The big company with the personal touch carries that commitment into each job. “We understand that what we do isn’t easy for customers,” Grucz notes. “We’re entering their normal work environment to take a challenging project from beginning to end without interfering in their daily activities. The end product is a happy customer and on-time delivery. Our foundations aren’t just foundations. Each one carries our family name. Whether the customer notices it or not, we make sure the fit and finish is there.”

The new Schuler press occupies E&E’s high bay area. “Our next move would be an expansion into another building section and that would include Delta Industrial,” says Scherle. FFJ

Sources

  • Delta Industrial
    Chesterfield, Mich.
    phone: 586/598-1390
    fax: 586/598-3725
    www.deltaconcrete.com
  • E&E Mfg of Tennessee LLC
    Athens, Tenn.
    phone: 423/649-1700
    fax: 423/649-1701
    www.eemfg.com
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