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Material Handling

Shuffling along

By Lynn Stanley

Above: Mayfran’s 24 in. wide by 18 in. deep shuffle conveyor systems move hardened steel scrap across 235 ft. of Berg’s mill.

Conveyor technology removes pipe mill scrap while supplier service shines by doing the heavy lifting

May 2017 - When Berg Steel Pipe Corp. needed a new scrap removal system, Supervisor for Mechanical Maintenance Steve Cobb put the pedal to the metal into the project with just two weeks to install three new Mayfran shuffle conveyors stretching across 235 ft. of the plant. The load? Large hunks of hardened steel.

The Panama City, Florida, mill has an annual manufacturing capacity of 240,000 tons of line pipe for the oil and gas market. The company also has pipe mills in Mobile, Alabama, Germany and France. At Panama City, Berg first planes the edges of plate, then it undergoes a three-roll bending (3RB) process, followed by edge crimping, pipe identification marking, tack welding, inside seam welding, end beveling, sizing, testing and inspection, outside seam welding, additional rigorous testing, weighing, stenciling and certification. Made from grades B up to X80 hardened steel, the line pipe is shipped for use in extreme environments.

Pipe weight depends on length and thickness, Cobb explains. A 1 ft. by 1 ft. piece of 1⁄2-in.-thick metal weighs 20 lbs. Pipe that is 40 ft. long with a diameter of 48 in. and a wall thickness of 1⁄2 in. weighs about 5 tons. Berg can produce pipe with walls from 1⁄4 in. to 11⁄2 in. thick. “Most of the pipe we process is 40 ft. long with an outer diameter of 24 in. or 60 in.,” he says. “The majority of line pipe for the oil industry doesn’t exceed 3⁄4 in. thick.”

Berg uses beveling machines to prepare pipe ends for a welded seam by cutting a slope at an angle on the edges. A 24-in. diameter pipe produces 6 ft. of scrap with every revolution. A 48-in. diameter pipe generates 12 ft. of scrap. The mill runs about 20 lengths of pipe per hour and the volume is growing.

FFJ 0517 material image1

Berg bevels grades B to X80 hardened steel pipe up to 40 ft. long, made for harsh environments.

Avoiding damage

“Scrap comes off [the pipe ends] in chips or long stringers, depending on the bevel that is being cut,” Cobb says. “Chips falling onto a conveyor in one spot can be damaging. We had a 10-year-old vibratory conveyor system. It could move material quickly but its design contributed to the conveyor’s failure. We had to work on it a lot and downtime was a major problem.”

A market search led Berg to Mayfran International Corp., Cleveland. Mayfran engineers equipment for scrap and coolant management and material handling in metalworking, recycling, solid waste processing and other applications. The simplicity and dependability of MayFran’s shuffle conveyor technology caught the mill’s attention. 

“We noticed how reliable the design was,” Cobb says. “The Mayfran shuffle conveyor system was more cost effective than conventional models we looked at, but price really wasn’t a factor for us. We were looking for repeatability and dependability.”

Due to Berg’s workload, a year passed before installation on the new shuffle conveyors could begin. The mill issued a purchase order in December 2015 but requested a delayed delivery date due to its heavy production schedule. “We were so busy we couldn’t shut the plant down,” Cobb explains. 

The mill was coming off an intense two-year production program of 20 hours a day, six days a week, to meet delivery deadlines. Maintenance personnel worked seven days a week. Berg’s two-week shutdown over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays in 2016 was identified as the optimum window to accept delivery of the Mayfran machines. 

A star is born

“It was my first experience installing a new system from scratch without an equipment representative on site,” says Cobb. “There was a lot to do. We had two shifts of maintenance personnel working on this project.”

Snowy weather along the northern portion of the equipment’s delivery route nearly put a kink in the job before it got started, but that’s when Cobb found out just how good Mayfran really was. 

“One truck slid off the road and damaged a conveyor,” he recalls. “Mayfran turned the truck around and returned the conveyor to their factory, repaired it and still delivered the unit to us within the timeframe we needed. When we unloaded the second truck, we found one of the large boxes had been mangled during transport. When the driver handed me a bag of bolts, I knew we had a problem. But Mayfran immediately overnighted the parts we needed. I thought then, ‘These guys are good.’”

FFJ 0517 material image2

Berg’s beveling machines are able to process 20 lengths of pipe per hour.

Mayfran had to design the conveyor systems to fit the mill’s existing pit, carry scrap beneath Berg’s floor and circumvent conduit and other obstacles. “Our shuffle conveyors include robust torsion elements, require minimal maintenance, and are particularly suited to fit in tight pits,” says Mayfran Shuffle Drive Conveyor System Product Manager Paul Tamlin. 

The first shuffle conveyor was fitted under Berg’s end beveling machine to receive scrap via a chute. The 72-ft.-long unit moved material away from the equipment along a 3-degree incline before making a 90-degree turn to dump material onto a second 59-ft.-long shuffle conveyor that hoisted scrap up a 2.6-degree incline to a third conveyor. This last, 104-ft. segment ferried scrap outside the building to a container. 

“Mayfran’s support made the job go extremely well,” says Cobb. “If I had a question, I could take a photo, send it to Paul and get instant feedback.” Berg’s end beveling machine has a face plate that allows it to move back and forth to accommodate various pipe lengths. This left a 10-ft. section that could not support a strut on the conveyor’s exterior for clearance.

“It was a very close fit,” says Cobb. “I took a picture and showed the area in question to Paul. After running load calculations we were able to remove one set of struts.

“People have a tendency to be your best friend Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., until after hours—then they don’t know you. I have to take my hat off to Mayfran. They really impressed me. I had factory support no matter what time of the day or evening I called.”

Following assembly, Cobb was responsible for making the shuffle conveyor system operational. Each conveyor had to be properly set and its electrical current checked with an amp gauge. “Mayfran’s guidance throughout the setup was so good we didn’t have to make any adjustments.”

Mayfran also provided crucial advice that ensured a successful first run. Upon starting the system, Cobb noticed that chips were clumping together but not moving. “I thought, ‘Uh-oh,’” recalls Cobb. 

“I told Steve that, because his system was new, it had a coating on it for shipping purposes,” Tamlin explains. “We design our shuffle conveyor systems to move loads. At the same time, scrap material polishes the pan. Once enough chips cluster together, the mass will begin to move.”

Cobb moved 2 tons of metal, five buckets at a time, to the new system from a machine that collected scrap in a large container. “All of a sudden, the conveyor system began to move, 2 ft. a minute, then 6 ft. a minute, before reaching its operational speed of 12 ft. a minute. It works so well that people forget about it.”

Cobb recalls that he could hear the old conveyor system from his office. It was loud enough that he “could tell the moment the bushings needed to be changed. The Mayfran shuffle conveyors just keep going. We got the dependability we were looking for and we saved money. It’s been a win-win.” FFJ

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