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MCN Case Study: PVS Metals

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One-of-a-Kind Heavy-Gauge Line PVS sees its future in processing heavy-gauge, high-strength steel. By Tim Triplett, Editor-in-Chief Paxton & Vierling Steel, Carter Lake, Iowa, sees new opportunities in new markets thanks to its investment in a one-of-a-kind processing line that began production in October. Last year, PVS built a 200,000-square-foot processing center at its headquarters just outside of Omaha, Neb., specifically designed to house a massive heavy-gauge coil line with some unusual features, built by Red Bud Industries, Red Bud, Ill. The line blends the latest in coil leveling and blanking technology with a fully automated storage and retrieval system that feeds three sophisticated fiber lasers—a combination found nowhere else in the country, says Keith Siebels, senior vice president of sales for PVS. PVS Metals and sister company PVS Structures are divisions of Owen Industries, which has three other divisions: NPS Metals (formerly Northern Plains Steel) in Fargo, N.D.; MVS Metals (formerly Missouri Valley Steel) in Sioux City, Iowa; and NPF Finishing in Casselton, N.D. PVS Metals processes and distributes steel sheet and plate, as well as other products, throughout the Midwest. The new Red Bud line is rated for 1-inch material at 77 inches wide and has an 80,000-pound coil capacity, with a maximum speed of 200 FPM. It can handle high-strength, 72-inch-wide coils from 22 gauge up to three-fourths of an inch thick at 80,000 psi yield. Steel first passes through a Bradbury eDrive roller leveler. The patented eDrive is equipped with a split gearbox that both pushes the material through and pulls it out of the rollers, preventing “bunching” and optimizing the plunge that works the material to the point of plastification, says its manufacturer. Next, the strip enters Red Bud’s 3,000-ton stretcher leveler, which applies enormous forces to grip and stretch each section in either a start/stop or looping mode. Stretching the steel by up to 2 percent exceeds its yield point, relieving all the internal stresses, claims Red Bud. The leveled sheet is then sheared into blanks in various sizes up to 64 feet long. The combination of roller and stretcher leveling leaves each sheet perfectly flat, says Siebels. Following the leveling and blanking process is where the setup really becomes unusual. The end of the line is equipped with a shuttle table that moves the blanks perpendicularly into an automated storage and retrieval system made by Germany’s STOPA. The automated racking system can store up to 1.4 million pounds of steel. Cassettes holding up to 6,000 pounds each deliver material to three TRUMPF Tru-Laser 5030 6000-watt fiber lasers, which cut parts at high quality and high speeds. Once the parts are cut, they are moved by magnetic lifters to sorting tables for packaging and shipment. The company also has installed a new 18-foot, 750-ton press brake, which has the capability to bend the new high-strength steels it now processes. Owen Industries invested about $40 million in the project, including $15 million for the processing line, $10 million for the lasers, and the balance for the structure and facilities. Despite the timing of the investment, which coincided with steep declines in the price of steel, PVS is confident of its success. The company takes a long-term view. “We had to do it in order to grow and maintain our foothold in the marketplace,” Siebels says. Owen Industries is its own best customer. Its service center operation supplies material to its fabricating divisions. Siebels estimates about 40 percent of the company’s volume is captive business, while 60 percent goes to outside customers. PVS Metals is also a toll processor. About 10 percent of its sales are toll related, a part of the business the company hopes to grow now that it has additional processing capacity. The new line is not just another piece of equipment, it promises to transform the business, Siebels says. “The line takes us into a whole new marketplace where we can do higher strength, thicker material. Now we can handle the entire process from sheet all the way to laser-cut, bent and formed parts.”