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Stamco Slitter Satisfies Rolled Steel’s Precision Strip Needs

Stamco Slitter  Satisfies Rolled Steel’s Precision Strip Needs

With its eye on the future, Rolled Steel Products Corp., Los Angeles, has added a fourth Slitter to its line-up of processing equipment, which also includes two cold-reduction mills, a Tishken edger and two Herr-Voss leveling lines. The distributor’s new Stamco Slitter is just one of the higher-technology tools the service center is using or planning to use to put it ahead of the customer need and evolving marketplace.

Rolled Steel’s new Stamco Slitter is equipped with a gamma ray gauge that provides thickness readings throughout the coil. The line is computerized, and has closed-circuit cameras, giving the operator a complete view of the Slitter.

Among the high-tech tools being adopted is electronic mail, or E-mail (rolledsteel.com). Rolled Steel is also working on an internet web page; both will be used in customer communications, and to complete sales transactions. In addition, there is also a proprietary tagging system that will allow Rolled Steel to trace processed steel back to master coils, the distributor says. (Presently, the company traces slit steel back to a production order. However, by being able to trace back to the master coil, the processor will be able to identify more accurately the source of any customer problems.)

While its internet additions and tagging system are still on the horizon, Rolled Steel’s new Stamco Slitter is up and running, and already aiding customers and the day-to-day operations of the West Coast distributor. Installed this past April, the Slitter has improved width tolerance from + – 0.003 in.

The SLITTER

The advantages of the Slitter are fairly straightforward. Steve Alperson, Rolled Steel’s executive vice president, says: “We wanted a Slitter that was going to increase our speed, and increase our slitting precision and tolerances.” The new line has increased productivity from between 400 ft. per minute to 1,000 ft. per minute; gauge tolerance is now well beyond the industry standard, Alperson says. On its new Slitter, the service center can process 30% more than the largest of its three other lines. This fact prompts management to claim that the new Stamco Slitter appears to have had the improvements come from a number of factors, but mainly improved machine design and faster automatic tool change.

Rolled Steel’s new Stamco Slitter feeds directly into the facility’s packaging line; it will soon be joined by a tagging system that will offer precision strip customers complete traceability. The new system will also increase the company’s productivity. It is all part of the distributor’s game plan to take advantage of the new technology.

Slitting represents 80% of Rolled Steel’s business; about 65% of its slit material is cold-rolled. The majority of Rolled Steel’s business is in widths between 1/2 in. and 12 in. Rolled Steel receives coils between 36 in. and 48 in. wide, slits the material, then uses its cold-reduction mills to ensure gauge consistency, and to temper material.

“We are aiming for a niche market rather than the commercial market,” states George Bienefeld, Rolled Steel’s director of purchasing. “Our sheet business is relatively minimal compared to precision strip, which is the market we’re aiming for; it’s the reason we have new faster equipment.” The distributor processes cold-rolled (about 65% of its tonnage), galvanized, stainless, hot-rolled picked and oiled, and electro-galvanized precision strip. (Rolled Steel’s on-site subsidiary E&E Steel Co. Inc., which it acquired in 1982, is involved in “more commercial-grade galvanized sheet.” Though both companies remain separate operating units, they use the same equipment. However, Scott Wetton, E&E galvanized product manager, says the new Slitter will have little effect on the subsidiary’s business, because 90% of its business is in sheet product. “We use the levelers more than anything,” he adds.

Continuing on the line’s capabilities, Alperson says: “We roll a lot of our material, and we wanted to make sure that we’re able to have very close tolerance material, not only thickness, but in width tolerances as well.” Rolled Steel believes closer tolerances will give the firm a competitive edge in the precision strip market

The Alpersons: A Long-Time Service Center Presence

Rolled Steel Products Corp., Los Angeles, was founded in 1951. It was purchased in 1973 by Robert Alperson, Rolled Steel’s majority owner and president. It has been located at its present site since 1980.

According to Steve Alperson, Rolled Steel’s executive vice president, the Alperson family has been in the service center business for over 50 years. At one time, the Alpersons owned Affiliated Metals (founded in 1945), which has since evolved into Precision Specialty Metals Inc., Los Angeles. Affiliated was one of the first steel companies to install a Sendzimir mill on the West Coast, according to Steve Alperson. The family sold Affiliated to Alloys Unlimited/Plessey, an electronics conglomerate, in 1969.

There appears to be a good working relationship between father and sons. Robert has been in the steel industry for 43 years; Steve for twenty years; Lonnie for thirteen.- K.N

Also, quality management has been enhanced with the new Slitter via a gamma ray thickness gauge. “We wanted to ensure that the product that we were putting out was being checked constantly, and that’s why we opted for the gamma ray on the Slitter. We have constant ‘mic’ readings throughout the coil.” The gamma ray can identify if gauge correction is needed, and, if so, then coils are sent back to the in-house cold-rolling mill, explains Alperson.

Other technical features of the new Slitter include: and edge guide, and in-line shear, dual ejected Slitter heads with off-line tooling setups to minimize downtime between coils, and a PVC applicator arbor for its stainless products. (The ultra-precision Slitter tooling package for the Stamco Slitter was provided by International Knife and Saw, Inc. (IKS), which also supplied its Windows-based SLAP-Slitter Assembly Program-software, according to IKS.)

The line has shim less slitting, and a 32-ft. pit, so that we keep the coil nice and tight,” adds Alperson. “Because we put closed-circuit cameras around [the line], the operator is in constant view of the Slitter at all times, and can watch the strip through the entire process.” (Rolled Steel had an outside contractor install surveillance cameras above the Slitter, on the ceiling of the warehouse.) Also, the new Slitter is integrated with an existing packaging line which also services Rolled Steel’s other three Slitters. The four Slitter are all in a row, and each Slitter feed onto a turnstile, then onto the packaging line, which leads to the packaging station. There, coils are weighed, checked, banded, and stacked for prompt delivery.

Alperson continues: “The [Stamco] Slitter is completely computerized; very different from our other Slitters. It actually tells you when its ready, and, when the coil gets down to certain outside diameter; the machine slows itself down to a safe speed, so that the tail doesn’t flip up and damage the equipment or cause an injury. Safety was very big concern.”

Though Rolled Steel’s last Slitter installation took place in 1980, the distributor performed most of the installation of the new $1.5-million machine itself because it felt it has the necessary expertise, says Alperson. (Contractors, however, were brought in to dig the looping pit, and install high-voltage electricity at an additional cost.) The company is also very quality conscious and wanted to have control over the way in which the Slitter was installed, he says. The distributor, for example, decided to install the Slitter on the warehouse floor rather than on the stands as other steel processors have done. By having it on one level, Steve Alperson explains, the operator’s view of the machine is better; also, since operators are not required to walk up and down steps, fatigue and injury are reduced. “I don’t see any reason why we would put it up stands,” adds Dan Idzell, Rolled Steel’s maintenance supervisor.

Rolled Steel looked at a number of Slitter manufacturers before settling on Stamco. “Of all the Slitters we looked at, this was the most expensive one. So it wasn’t price. Other factors came into play-quality, value and capacity were the greatest concerns,” says Lonnie Alperson, vice president of operations.

Quality and Customers

Heavily reliant on the performance of its Slitters, Rolled Steel recognizes that need for proper training and maintenance. Intense training played a large part in the start up of the new Slitter. “Stamco was training here fro over a month,” states Lonnie Alperson. The distributor and Slitter manufacturer trained key personnel, who the trained other operators. Lonnie Alperson says most of the trainees were already Slitter operators, so the transition to the more sophisticated machine has not been a problem. It takes approximately six months to train a head operator, he adds. The company runs two shifts, five days a week.

A tour of Rolled Steel’s facility reveals a spotless warehouse; even its older equipment appears brand new though several units are nearly 30 years old. Alperson attributes this to proper maintenance. There are four people in the maintenance department; they repair and maintain Rolled Steel’s forklifts, trucks, machinery and just about everything else in the building, says Idzell. The maintenance department paints the equipment regularly, and the company pursues a proactive maintenance policy to minimize downtime, he adds.

Equipment is seen by the company as critical to its customer service commitment. With just-in-time delivery a primary focus of Rolled Steel’s business, customers clearly cannot tolerate delayed shipments due to idled machinery. “J.I.T. delivery seems to be more important than ever,” says Bienefeld. “This new equipment enables us to make quick deliveries; to service that basic function of a steel service center. Our customers don’t need to inventory material on their floor. The get it when they need it. And today, quality and service are the keys to trouble-free manufacturing.”

Rolled Steel’s Offshore Supply Base

Rolled Steel Products Corp.’s inventory is typically between 10,000 and 12,000 tons of material, according to George Bienefeld, director of purchasing. But, in early August, inventory levels were below normal because of delayed shipments from offshore sources, he adds. Rolled Steel buys nearly all of its material (including stainless) from suppliers; a tour of its warehouse reveals that the service center procures its product from the leading offshore suppliers. However, the distributor also buys domestically from a number of California-based steel makers.

With most mills located in the Midwest, Bienefeld says, geography-to some extend-drives Rolled Steel to offshore sources. But, quality is another key consideration, he says. “We need quality material to feed the lines. It’s just not the question of price. If we bought cheap material, we’d have a lot of down time. In the precision-strip market, it is necessary to begin with good, uniform primary material. That is mostly guaranteed with the Japanese and Korean mills.

Does purchasing material from foreign mills adversely affect Rolled Steel’s ability to service its customers in a timely fashion? Bienefeld says no, adding that on-time delivery can be a problem for either offshore or domestic mills. As for the service center’s subsidiary, E&E Steel Co. Inc., it buys from domestic supplies.-K.N

Rolled Steel customers include computer cabinet manufacturers and companies in the hardware, door-lock, and lighting industries, just to name a few, says Bienefeld. Also, in stainless, the company participates in the kitchen appliance area. (E&E customers are primarily in the HVAC market.)

The service center ships material as far north as El Paso, Tex., using common carrier. It uses its own fleet to ship material as far south as San Diego, Calif., and as far north as Santa Barbara, Calif. But, says Steve Alperson, “We’re not limited to those areas. It it our primary [geographical service area.] But, we’ve shipped as far as the East Coast.”

Rolled Steel sells almost exclusively to the domestic market. Says Bienefeld: “Construction is a big factor for Rolled Steel and E&E. Most of our customers’ product ends up in a building–a door lock, a door hinge, air conditioning, duct work, etc. The California real estate market is rebounding. That is the reason for being optimistic, and we hope that [trend] continues.”

Rolled Steel’s Future

With loads of extra slitting capacity, toll processing may play a larger role in Rolled Steel’s future. “At this time, we’re doing very little toll processing,” says Alperson. “But we’re looking at possibly doing more. We never want to sacrifice our [service center] customers for toll processing, but it is something that we are looking at. Production [capacity] has increased so much, it’s almost as if we put in two Slitters.”

There are plenty of other things in the offing for this forward-thinking distributor. The company owns its 125,000 sq-ft. warehouse, but is steadily outgrowing it. The plan is to add a warehouse just for inventory storage in the near future. (The company, which considers itself fiscally conservative, owns surrounding property, and has 93,000 sq. ft. available expansion.)

Other than a warehouse addition, Rolled Steel is very aggressive in using burgeoning technology such as electronic mail, internet, and innovative computer software programs. With a web page, a labeling system, further automation and order processing done via internet, Rolled Steel will continue to make it easier for companies to do business with it, says Alperson.

As stated earlier, Rolled Steel’s web page is presently under construction; E-mail is available. The internet site will give prospective customers a “tour” through Rolled Steel’s facility as well as information on the company’s operations and capabilities, he says. Through the internet you will be able to send purchase orders, digital information, complaints, comments, and inquiries, he adds; security devices will be in place. “The internet will be a big part of the Rolled Steel’s future.” The company is also planning to integrate its processing with its computer system in order to enable sales personnel to offer customers real-time information. With its tagging system, the distributor will be able via telephone, to tell customers exactly where their order is in the processing operation, he adds.

George Bienefeld: “Our sheet business is relatively minimal compared to precision strip, which is the market we’re aiming for; it’s the reason we have new and faster equipment.”

Lonnie Alperson says the new Slitter gamma ray and the new tagging system will eventually allow the company to document most processes performed by the service center. “Of course, this all aligns us for ISO 9000,” he states. The company is taking steps internally to move toward ISO 9000 and QS 9000 certification. The more steps it takes, the easier the transition will be when it chooses to apply for certification; that could come by the end of this year. he says. Though the service center industry is often viewed by outsiders as stagnant and unsophisticated, Rolled Steel is one distributor that is embracing newer technology as a means of offering customers alternative ways in which to do business. Its new Stamco Slitter has improved tolerances; however, Rolled Steel expects to improve service continuously by using various high-tech tools.

Rolled Steel Products’ new $1.5-million Stamco slitting line incorporates a 32-ft. looping pit to keep coils “nice and tight”.