This case history about Sjoberg Tool & Manufacturing Corp. comes courtesy of Rite-Hite Corporation. It has been selected and edited by the MHM editorial staff for clarity, content and style.
During an average week, machine operators at Sjoberg Tool & Manufacturing Corp. process nearly 120,000 pounds of steel at this metal fabricating facility in Hartland, Wis.
Sjoberg’s machine operators manage demanding jobs as they strive to achieve a high level of service and exceed the standards of customers in high-tech, precision-based industries. Add to that a heat-intensive environment – with minimal air circulation in some production areas – and you have a hard day’s work. However, workdays are now much more comfortable – and productive – thanks to the installation of three technically advanced high-volume/low speed (HV/LS) fans.
Air circulation challenges
The 32-year-old company employing 50 people runs operations in a 125,000-square-foot facility – half allocated to production, the other half to warehousing and shipping. The production shop is further divided into a laser cutting area, a metal forming area, and a turret punch press area. Due to the heat generated from the machines, the production area is always balmy, sometimes reaching up to 110 F during summer peak. The heat was especially troublesome in the laser production area – usually a sweltering environment with minimal air movement due to safety barriers that restrict circulation, according to Ken Lane, Sjoberg Tool Maintenance Supervisor.
“It gets warmest in laser production where we have two shifts of eight employees working six laser machines. These machines have water chillers that pump hot air out of the top – each one is like having a 175,000 BTU furnace running all the time,” Lane explains. “In addition, the laser machines themselves obstruct air movement, so those operators didn’t have much air circulation at all.”
Until recently, Lane found it a challenge to cool the facility using traditional floor fans and older model HV/LS fans, which were located directly above the laser production machinery in each of the production areas. The HV/LS fans simply didn’t move the air very well, according to Lane.
“We had those fans up there for three years, and they moved the air around, but they didn’t move it around much,” he recalls. “We tended to wonder why we had them.”
Unsatisfied with the floor and HV/LS fans’ performance in circulating air and the lack of air circulation directly under the fan, Lane reconsidered his options, especially for the laser cutting area. A new or upgraded HVAC system was out of the question due to the great expense, and he was concerned that high speed or additional floor fans would disrupt the production area with breezy conditions. Additionally, not all employees benefit from the fans.
“Unfortunately, floor fans just cause disputes about who benefits from the floor fan, while high-speed fans hinder production if paperwork isn’t constantly weighted down. We lived with that, though, just to get air movement,” Lane says.
Change is in the air
In 2006, Lane replaced the existing HV/LS fan in the same location in the laser production area with the Revolution™ Fan from Rite-Hite Corporation to help deal with the intense heat and lack of air circulation.
Lane says when he opened the box and saw the Revolution Fan, he was impressed with its sleek look and unique design.
“When I saw the blades in the box, I was amazed. I thought they were big airplane wings – I thought it was a really radical design,” he says. The advanced design of the Revolution Fan features four aluminum Propell-Aire™ blades, which vary in width and pitch angle along their entire length. The shape is impossible to produce with extruded blades used on other HV/LS fans.
Lane said he was also surprised at how easy it was to install the Revolution Fan, which uses steel universal mounting brackets. The simplified mounting system includes a beam clamp, motor housing, stabilization cables and a three-way motor-to-hub safety connection. A robust motor and extruded, precision-milled aluminum hub provide reliable operation with virtually no maintenance.
“It was a very simple installation. Within a few hours, it was installed and ready to go. On this fan, there are only four blades and one bolt for each blade, versus the older model that has 10 blades and two bolts each,” Lane explains. “That compares with one full day to install the older-generation HV/LS fan.”
Gaining immediate results
After installation, Lane switched on the fan and said it didn’t take long before Sjoberg employees experienced a significant change in the work environment.
“When we turned it on, the immediate response from the laser operators was that the air movement was 100 percent better than what we had before,” Lane reports. He adds that the fan delivers air with more “authority.”
“Unlike the previous fan, this unit definitely moves more air throughout the whole facility, even eliminating the dead space directly underneath the fan,” Lane says. “It’s made an instant difference for us. The amount of air it moves and its reach is just phenomenal – especially since it’s operating at the same speed as the previous fan and doing it with fewer blades.”
The Revolution Fan moves more air with just four blades because it’s unique Propell-Aire blade design moves air consistently across the whole blade, creating an industry-high airflow of more than 360,000 actual cubic feet per minute. The fan also creates greater thrust to move more air volume from floor to ceiling, wall-to-wall, and corner-to-corner throughout the building.
Since the first fan was installed, Lane added two more Revolution fans with one in the metal forming area and another in turret punch press location. He also plans to install a fourth in the shipping dock area to help keep it warm next winter when the doors are open.
“We decided to put the benefits of the Revolution Fan to work for us in the other production areas, and they are making quite an improvement in movement of the heat in the facility,” he reports.
“Since I’ve installed them, I’ve gotten rid of my floor fans, which is a huge positive.”
Lane says the biggest positive of the Revolution Fan is its ability to provide consistent and balanced circulation, so the people working in the shop are more comfortable and much happier.
“As a result, we’re seeing productivity going up,” Lane says. “I definitely recommend this fan to similar shops because of the increased employee comfort level, the ease of installation and the fan’s efficiency. It’s really made a big difference for us.”
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