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MCN Case Study: Triad Metals International

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‘We're Not in the Steel Business, We're in the Moving Business’ This long products distributor achieved “consolidation of motion” by designing a combination sawing and material-handling system at its new Indiana processing center. By Dan Markham, Senior Editor As a supplier of minimill long products, Triad Metals International needs only a few specialized pieces of equipment. But when the service center was laying the groundwork for its expansion into Columbia City, Ind., management didn’t see the new 180,000-square-foot facility as simply a place to house some saws. The Pittsburgh-based service center company envisioned an operation where its sawing capabilities would be blended with a material-handling system designed to optimize every pound of steel that moves through the place. “I learned in 1994 with our first warehouse that you’re not in the steel business, you’re in the moving business,” says Ron Hammond, Triad’s co-owner and CEO. “If I can’t take material and unload it so somebody else can pick it up and reload it, I’m out of business.” Triad, ranked the 31st largest service center company in North America in the Metal Center News Top 50, is definitely in business. Its new warehouse in Columbia City, opened last year, was its third service center and fifth processing location, in addition to other divisions outside steel distribution. Designing the facility from the ground up, Triad had the opportunity to put its emphasis on moving material to optimal effect. Rather than hiring separate companies to install the cutting equipment and the material-handling lines, Triad contracted with Behringer Saws Inc., Morgantown, Pa., to design both. Behringer’s task was to develop a material-handling system that would minimize the manual handling of bars and beams while maximizing the production of the band saws. “Like most companies nowadays, we are always looking for higher throughput rates. We looked at what we were trying to accomplish and designed our processing setup around that. We weren’t going to buy the equipment first and just see how it fit into our new building,” says Mike Benlock, operations manager for Triad Metals. Triad’s custom-fabricated material-handling system includes more than 400 feet of conveyors and 23 specialized cross-transfer legs, supplied by Steel Storage Systems Inc., Commerce City, Colo. This allows material to be loaded a single time, with limited, crane-free handling throughout the processing stage. The system incorporates three Behringer band saws. The 800/1204 saw can be used to cut beams up to 70 feet long and 44 inches wide. It is equipped with a special long-length measuring system to facilitate the extra-long beams being cut. A cambering machine and an L.L. Brown T-splitting machine also are integrated into the system. Triad is able to move the beams on transfer arms from the saw directly to the T-splitter without using any of the company’s four cranes. Across the floor, and working in the opposite direction, is Behringer’s 540A band saw and 310/403GA miter saw. The 540A is a fully automated machine with a 3-meter shuttle vice, which Triad uses to bundle-cut various minimill products such as angles, channels, flat bars and rounds. One of the primary uses for the 310/403GA miter saw is to bundle cut tubing. The saw incorporates automatic feeding and automatic mitering angles in two directions. Each of the two lines feed toward 210-foot trucking bays on opposite ends of the facility. Triad’s production schedule calls for virtually all of the processing to be done during the company’s third shift. Most of the material is shipped out the next day. In fact, floor personnel will frequently leave cut material right on the saws so it can be moved directly to trucks for shipping, rather than transferring it to a staging area first. “We take it right off the saws instead of a laydown area. That gives us more area to put inventory down, instead of staging cut orders,” Benlock says. Hammond says a smooth running system is imperative for Triad’s incentive-based model for employee compensation. He tells all new hires that they, rather than he, will determine how much money they make. It depends on how much material they move out the door. “You can’t ask someone to do something better and not give them the tools,” he adds. “I don’t want them to work 16 hours a day, I want them to work eight efficient hours a day.” When Triad reaches its efficiency apex, Hammond believes the Columbia City facility will be able to move 20,000 to 25,000 tons per month with only a handful of workers. Lessons learned from the Columbia City expansion will inform Triad’s decisions on its next major undertaking, a second facility in Pittsburgh. The company will follow the Columbia City footprint, though with slightly different saws to meet its distinct customer base in western Pennsylvania. At a Glance Triad Metals International Address: 5755 East Rail Connect Dr. Columbia City, IN 46725 Phone: 260-244-9500 Fax: 260-244-2786 Web site: Key Personnel: Ron Hammond and Fred White, co-owners; Aaron Hornaday, warehouse manager; Tony Adkins, sales manager Facility: 180,000 square feet, two bays with rail access. Employees: 30 Products: Carbon structural steel, H-pile, pipe and tube. Services: Band sawing, cambering, T-splitting, welded pile points. Equipment: Behringer band saw and material handling equipment, Steel Storage System conveyors, L.L. Brown beam splitter, Bay-lynx Camber Cat cambering machine, Zenar overhead cranes, Taylor fork trucks.