Blast machines last 20, 30 years or more – a long time to wait for product innovation if your production needs change or operational challenges occur.
So, are we leaving you behind the curve for 20 years until you need a new machine? Of course not.
A fix for an old machine to address a specific customer’s issue can often lead to innovative new solutions that find their way into other customers’ machines via upgrades or the more comprehensive Equipment Modernization Programs (EMPs) offered by Wheelabrator. These interactions mean we have constant contact with your equipment and operating environment. EMPs provide you with the components and engineering support to upgrade your machines – to reduce blast cycle times, make processes more efficient, limit downtime or address specific requirements. They are usually triggered by an acute customer challenge – often the best condition for innovation.
With blast equipment lasting for many years, innovation through product upgrades can happen at a much faster pace than complete machine changes ever could. It’s a highly effective way of keeping our customers at the forefront of technology – particularly when their challenges can emerge and change at break-neck speed. The many moving equipment parts (such as blast wheels and reclaims) with a shorter lifespan mean we can keep your machines right at the state-of-the-art – by installing the latest components available and learning from your challenges.
That’s why upgrades play a fundamental role in innovation – both for us and for you. In fact, they are an underestimated, but highly effective, driver of innovation. Here’s why.
From custom built to production
More often than not, custom solutions developed for individual challenges make their way into standard products.
A good example of this is our new HD rotary screen, which started out as a custom solution for one of our foundry customers. The company, which produces various types of iron castings, came to Wheelabrator to request a custom-built rotary screen to fit into the separator section of its blast machines. The fitted screens were not durable enough, so tougher versions were needed.
The team at Wheelabrator came up with a new design for a heavy duty (HD) rotary screen that uses more hard-wearing, abrasive-resistant material to improve durability, bringing it in line with the toughness of the rest of the machine. The new screens were designed to fit both the customer’s Wheelabrator machines and competitor equipment.
The introduction of the new HD rotary screen has resulted in significantly reduced downtime for the foundry, as rotary screens now need to be replaced less often. Following this project, we have added the new spec rotary screen to our standard offering. For the original customer, this means we have their ‘custom-made’ screen in stock at all times. For other customers, it means they benefit from what we’ve learned.
Accessing innovation early
As the above example shows, an EMP allowed the customer to benefit from Wheelabrator product innovation in real time. In fact, it is probably the fastest route there is to get the latest innovations in blast technology, considering the lead times of an EMP versus a new machine (not to mention that one is classed as opex, while the other is capex).
While whole new machine concepts remain a key part of our R&D efforts, it’s the seemingly little things we figure out in partnership with you – the improvements on components and their interaction – that can have the most immediate impact on your operations. Tell us about your latest headaches, pet peeves or challenges so we can keep reinventing your equipment by stealth. Keep ‘em coming!