Taking a load off

By Gretchen Salois

Above: The HydMech M-20A-120, with a standard single-stroke 10-ft. material bar feed, can saw cut mill size bundles up to 30 in. wide and 20 in. tall and make programmable miter cuts up to 60 degrees.

Cutting large bundles with an unmanned bar feed saves time and removes hassle

March 2015 - Human error is less likely if a machine operator isn’t handling material multiple times. With an infeed system that couldn’t accommodate mill-ready lengths, workers at Keith Mfg. Co. had to spend significant amounts of time measuring out long lengths of bar, channel and tube by hand because their existing saw did not index information. 

This past summer, Keith Mfg. installed a M-20A-120 saw from HydMech, Woodstock, Ontario, for its Walking Floor System, a conveyor that self-unloads bulk materials. The systems are used in recycling and biomass facilities and by packaged ice manufacturers, to name a few. Now, Keith Mfg. is “able to take on projects we couldn’t before,” says Jim Drago, value stream operations manager.

Keith Mfg., based in Madras, Ore., cuts high volumes of mild steel. With the new HydMech, which features a larger opening, the fabricator cuts more material per pass. “We were at full capacity with our previous saw,” Drago says. Apart from that, the reasons for purchasing a new saw included a desire to reduce overtime and achieve a high-quality cut. The HydMech M-20A-120 has delivered, he says, by eliminating virtually all overtime for its saw operators. 


Fighting frustration

Previously, Keith Mfg. was forced to break apart mill bundles into smaller bundles before cutting, a very time-consuming and costly process. “Now they can band saw standard mill-sized bundles and run it through the HydMech M-20A-120 with standard full capacity material bundling,” HydMech Regional Sales Manager Leston Trueblood says. “Keith Mfg. can cut bundles as large as 20 in. high by 30 in. wide. It also allows operators to make programmable miter cuts up to 60 degrees.”HYDMECH-3

The 10-ft. bar feed was a major selling point for Keith Mfg. The bar feed can pull up to 10 ft. of material to be cut in a single stroke before automatically indexing for longer programmable lengths. Previously the company’s sawing machine could only pull in 16 in. of material. “Not only can we cut larger bundles of material at one time, the bar feed is unmanned and indexes the material as it cuts,” Drago says. “The machine knows what to do.” 

Automating the process has changed the sawyers’ responsibilities, as they no longer need to continually measure, cut and saw. Instead, that operator spends his or her time preparing more material to load into the saw, cleaning up the area and planning subsequent cuts.

Previously, when cutting longer lengths of material or mill bundles, operators manually measured out material with tape and placed a mark indicating where to make a cut. This frustrating and time-consuming process always left a possibility that the measure was inaccurate, the mark could be misread and the wrong length cut. 


On its older band saws, Keith Mfg. operators had to lower the sawing head to get the blade close enough to the material to match it up to the line where the blade tooth would penetrate the metal. “Occasionally operators would bring down the saw head and break a tooth on the blade,” says Trueblood. With its new saw, “that problem disappeared because a laser beam light [illuminates] the cut path of the saw blade onto the material and there’s no damage to an expensive band saw blade.”

The HydMech M-20A-120 automatic band saw, with a standard single-stroke 10 ft. material bar feed, allows operators to enter any desired cut length and get an automatic, consistent and accurate finished length every time.

The HydMech M-20A-120 saw uses full-height capacity material vises as part of its bundling package. “You have to be careful,” warns Trueblood. “Most builders of band saws use low profile material vises that only hold the material to a limited height. So if the bundle you’re working with goes beyond a certain height, you have to find another means to support it from the sides when sawing. HydMech offers vises to support that material.” 

Cleaner process

Another feature Keith Mfg. finds beneficial with the HydMech saw is a different method for lubricating cutting blades. Instead of flood coolant, HydMech offers the choice of using a Mist Blade Lubricant. “When you’re working with flood coolant on things flat or tubular, be it square or round, there are voids where flood coolant spills out onto the shop floor. You can end up with a safety hazard and a terrible mess on each end of the saw,” requiring use of a suitable substance to soak up the liquid, Trueblood says. 

Another drawback to flood coolant is if it is oil-based, then it must be drained and properly disposed. “The mist lube system is just a much cleaner and productive process overall,” according to Trueblood.


More with less

Using the HydMech, Keith Mfg. experienced a 50 percent increase for its Stationary Systems product line during the last year and doesn’t foresee things slowing down any time soon. “We try to build as lean as possible and by improving cutting speed and taking less time to complete a cut job, we end up holding less inventory,” Drago says. “We have also reduced our lead time and spend less time preparing a cutting job than before.” 

Since installation, Keith Mfg. has also brought some jobs over to the HydMech M-20A-120 from other saws in the shop. “We are able to do more with virtually no overtime,” he adds.

Customer service was a considerable factor as “for a shop like ours, we run pretty lean so if there is a problem, we can’t afford to be down for several days,” Drago says. “We needed a vendor that was going to give us good follow-through.”

The timing was right for Keith Mfg. to upgrade its capabilities. “The saw we had was at least 15 years old and it was wearing out and not keeping up. We looked up several brands and visited several places to examine different saws. Aside from seeing it for ourselves, everyone we spoke to was very happy with how their HydMech saws worked for them as well as the customer service they received.”

With 10 band saws in operation at Keith Mfg.’s facility, Drago says the company plans to consider HydMech again as it phases out older machines. “I’d definitely think of HydMech for any replacement saws.” FFJ



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